Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on Tor.com featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!
Today we’re joined by Sylvia Izzo Hunter, whose various job titles have included a slinger of tacos, a filer of patient charts and answerer of phones, a freelance looker-up of unconsidered trifles, an Orff-singing stage monk, and an exam tutor, but mostly she’s worked in the not-for-profit scholarly publishing industry.
Sylvia’s debut novel, The Midnight Queen, is available now from Ace Books! The first book in the Noctis Magicae series, The Midnight Queen is a fantasy set in an alternate Regency England. Read an excerpt here on Tor.com!
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
I think the first fantasy I ever read, strictly speaking, was probably the Narnia series, and I certainly read those books ragged (all but The Last Battle, which I read once before deciding to pretend it didn’t exist), but I came to Narnia via parental bedtime reading; the first fantasy novel I remember consciously picking up on my own was Andre Norton’s Gray Magic (aka Steel Magic), in which three ordinary kids—one of whom, importantly, is a girl, a girl with short hair who wears jeans—stumble into a magical Arthurian realm and have to Save the Day using only the cutlery from their picnic hamper. It’s hard to articulate how awesome I thought this book was. Best of all, I re-read it as an adult and found that it had suffered remarkably little from the depredations of the Suck Fairy. My imagination was also shaped by watching Star Trek and Doctor Who at an impressionable age (and, in fact, throughout my life to this point).
What is your ideal pet (real or fictional)?
This is pretty boring, but I would just really like to have a cat. (My husband has serious pet allergies.) Cats are sort of pleasingly half wild animal and half slightly irresponsible flatmate; I like dogs, but getting a dog is like signing up to parent a toddler for about a decade, whereas cats are more like grown-ups. They may love you a lot, but they do their own thing. Also, of course, they are perfectly aware that they are the boss of you, which many people don’t like but I find it kind of freeing.
What would your Patronus/familiar be?
I’d like to say that my Patronus would be something really sleek and bad-ass, like an Amur tiger or an orca, but honestly? I think the most likely scenario is a burrowing owl.
Would you rather discover the fountain of youth or proof of life on Mars?
OMG sign me up for proof of life on Mars!! And also to go there and look at it! How amazing would that be?! Whereas living forever just seems like it can’t possibly end well…
If you had to choose one band or artist to provide the official soundtrack to your new book, who would it be?
I have actually already done this, sort of: I had a writing playlist for this book (and the next one), and it consists mostly of albums by Magpie Lane, a folk group in the UK. One of my secret daydreams is to jam with Magpie Lane one day.
If you regenerated as a new Doctor, what would your signature outfit/accessory be?
Fashion is not really my area (just ask my daughter…), but I just got this really great hat…
Also, glasses. Because I’ve been wearing glasses for a quarter of a century now and I think I’m too old to change!
If you could name a planet after anyone (other than yourself), who would you choose and why?
Alan Turing. Because his work changed the world in a number of ways—from the contribution of the Bletchley Park codebreaking operation to the outcome of the Second World War to, you know, the existence of the laptop on which I am typing these words right now—and then something horrifically unfair and cruel… I was going to say happened to him, but, no, it was done to him. People did it. And it took decades for an official apology to be made. The naming of Planet Turing wouldn’t change any of that stuff, but it seems like it would be a fitting tribute to someone who, well, had the proverbial brain the size of a planet.
What literary or film SF technology do you wish existed in our world right now?
I enjoy walking and biking and being out in the world, but I’ll be honest, some days I leave my office smack in the middle rush hour, with no bus in sight, and all I can think is, WHERE IS MY TELEPORTATION DEVICE??
If you could choose your own personal theme music to play every time you enter a room, what would you pick?
I think I’d go for the second movement of the Beethoven Seventh Symphony. The Seventh is my very favourite, even though the Ninth is the one where you get to sing, and the second movement is my favourite bit of it; it’s the music I most often listen to in my head when I need comfort or calm. It’s like the tide coming in and going out again, beautiful and gradual but absolutely relentless. (Which is not to say that I am either beautiful or relentless.)