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 Elizabeth Bradley, a Brooklyn-based historian and journalist who has written widely on the literature and history of New York. She also provides the introduction to a new Penguin Classics edition of Washington Irving’s The Legend of Sleepy Hollow and Other Stories. Told true to the original, the tale of the Headless Horseman and his effect on Ichabod Crane is enhanced by brooding, fitting folk-art illustrations.
Please relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the Internet.
I am terrified of wax museums, a fear that dates back to a fifth-grade trip to the American Civil War Wax Museum in Gettysburg, PA. Some of the battle scenes were mechanized—so they moved!—and others were not, and after a while, there was no way to tell which waxwork was moving and which was just messing with your head. Of course, my phobia did not stop me from reading every page of the auction catalog when the museum was liquidated last spring. Shudder.
What is your favorite short story?
Toss-up between “The Landlady” (Roald Dahl) and “The Enormous Radio” (John Cheever). Sinister magical realism.
Do you have a favorite phrase?
“A snowball’s chance in hell,” except that when I visualize it, the snowball is of the pink coconut-covered Hostess variety.
Describe your favorite place to write.
In my dreams, I get to write in Washington Irving’s Sunnyside study, which overlooks the Hudson River.
Name your favorite monster from fiction, film, TV, or any other pop culture source.
I am particularly fond of the Headless Horseman, for obvious reasons, but I don’t think he’s been done to my satisfaction yet. Disney’s version was too goofy (sorry), Christopher Walken was too…toothy, and the Apocalyptic Horseman of the Fox show “Sleepy Hollow” is too dependent on his artillery. No one has tapped into the psychological terror of Irving’s text yet, which is free from gore and yet singularly disturbing—I’d say there’s room for interpretation yet. And why does the Horseman necessarily have to be a man?
What’s your favorite sandwich?
Honestly? A Fluffernutter from Peanut Butter and Company, in Greenwich Village. They pack it up with carrot sticks and potato chips, like lunch on a school field trip, and no one judges you for your thoroughly non-artisanal choice.
Do you have a favorite underrated author?
David Hyde Costello. He’s an amazing polymath: a children’s book author and illustrator who also composes and performs songs, and makes puppets (and films about his puppets). His ode to Halloween, Here They Come, is even more delicious for adults than it is for kids.
What literary or film science fiction technology do you wish existed in our world right now?
Jet packs, of course.
What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?
The spectacular “Dark is Rising” series by Susan Cooper, particularly Greenwitch. Family lore has it that the Bradleys are a little bit Welsh, so I was certain I could have found the Grail, if only someone would materialize and ask for my help! Regardless, all my favorite kidlit books have female protagonists, which is why The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, in which Lucy plays a major role, was the Narnia book I reread until it fell to pieces. I read E. Nesbit’s time-traveling Five Children and It to shreds, too.
If you could find one previously undiscovered book by a non-living author, who would it be? Why?
How about more Richard Hughes? The contemporary dystopian teen juggernaut owes a lot to the wild children of A High Wind in Jamaica.