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 author Cory Doctorow and illustrator Jen Wang! Cory is a science fiction author, activist, journalist and blogger. He’s the co-editor of Boing Boing and the author of many books, including the award-winning novel Little Brother and the upcoming non-fiction book Information Doesn’t Want to be Free. Jen is an cartoonist and illustrator currently living in Los Angeles, whose work includes the 2010 graphic novel Koko Be Good. Her works have also appeared in the Adventure Time comics and LA Magazine.
Cory and Jen collaborated on the graphic novel In Real Life, available now from First Second! Based on Cory’s short story “Anda’s Game,” In Real Life is a sensitive, thoughtful look at adolescence, gaming, poverty, and culture-clash. Read an excerpt from the graphic novel and check out the Tor.com original comic Con/Game, set in the same universe.
Describe your favorite place to read or write.
Jen Wang: I live in Los Angeles and my apartment doesn’t have AC. During the late summer heat waves I like working at this little ice cream/desserts shop near my house. I feel like a genius because every other “real” coffeeshop in LA is filled to the brim with screenwriters but nobody ever works here. They make great coffee, it’s clean and chilly inside, and if I’m reeeeally really good I can get myself a cookie.
Cory Doctorow: I just write wherever I am, regardless of noise, environment, hangover, etc. 1000 words every day when I’m working on a novel (as I am now), 5 days/week. I never miss a day.
If you have preferences for writing, then you have dispreferences. I spent a decade while working a very demanding dayjob and writing, learning to write wherever and whenever. I’m terrified of the idea of becoming someone who has a favorite place to write.
Strangest thing you’ve learned while researching a book?
JW: I’ve been doing research about snakes recently and I read about a case in China where a woman had a bottle of medicinal wine with a snake that had been pickling in it for 3 months. When she opened up the bottle the snake turned out to be alive and jumped out and bit her.
How not cool is that?
Do you have a favorite underrated author?
CD: DANIEL PINKWATER—he made the mutant I am today!
If you could name a planet after anyone (other than yourself), who would you choose and why?
JW: I would name a planet after my cat Stella. I think she’s got a pretty constellation-ready name. Also, she’s my cat.
Do you have a favorite phrase?
CD: This week I’m all over a Newfoundland phrase: “teetotal capsizement”—a very large upset.
JW: This might be cheating, but I read a lot of true crime and Charles Manson is probably the closest thing to a real monster I can think of right now. I just read Helter Skelter and I didn’t open my windows for a week. It’s been 90 degrees out.
CD: Sarah Palin.
If you could open a new shop in Diagon Alley, what would you sell?
JW: Can I open a karaoke joint?
What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?
CD: One of the Haunted Mansion stretch-portrait guys—the guy standing on the barrel of gunpowder in a morning coat and striped boxer-shorts. I was working for Imagineering at the time and they all loved it at work!
What is your ideal pet (real or fictional)?
JW: Honestly, I just want a really really big dog. Like a Burmese mountain dog or Great Pryenees. Bonus: dog sled team.
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
CD: Living in the same city as Bakka Books, where Tanya Huff worked, and the Spaced Out Library, where Judith Merril was writer in residence (that city being Toronto). Both were incredibly kind to a young and hopeful me.
Please relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the Internet.
JW: I had a brain tumor removed when I was 6 years old. While I was in the hospital I drew a little illustrated book about my experience for my surgeon and they put the story on the local news!