The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe

The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe: Mallory Ortberg

Welcome back to The Pop Quiz at the End of the Universe, a recurring series here on featuring some of our favorite science fiction and fantasy authors, artists, and others!

Today we’re joined by Mallory Ortberg, co-creator of The Toast, a general-interest website geared toward women. She has written for Gawker, New York Magazine, The Hairpin, and The Atlantic. Her new book, Texts from Jane Eyre (available now from Henry Holt), is a collection of hilariously imagined text conversations—the passive aggressive, the clever, and the strange—featuring classic and modern literary figures, from Scarlett O’Hara to Jessica Wakefield.

Join us for a tale of dentistry that is equal parts horrifying and hilarious!

Please relate one fact about yourself that has never appeared anywhere else in print or on the Internet.

When I was twenty years old I had gum grafts put in. My dentist told me I had the gums of a seventy-year-old, and they offered me two options: they could remove skin from the roof of my mouth and graft it on (but there was no guarantee the roof of my mouth would ever heal, which seemed like it was just…moving the problem from one place to another), or they could use cadaver gums. I opted for cadaver gums.

It’s my favorite story to tell someone after I’ve started dating them.

What is your favorite short story?

“The Summer People,” by Shirley Jackson.

Mallory Ortberg Texts from Jane EyreDescribe your favorite place to write.

In bed! It’s so, so awful for my entire body, and my spine, and my hands, and I have a perfectly good desk to write at, but I don’t care. I love writing in

Do you have a favorite under-read author?

Walter M. Miller, hands down. A Canticle for Leibowitz is one of the greatest books of the twentieth century.

What’s the best Halloween costume you’ve ever worn?

In 2007 I went as Old Gregg from the Mighty Boosh episode of the same name. It took hours to get out of the green face paint.

What was your gateway to SF/Fantasy, as a child or young adult?

Probably the Enchanted Forest Chronicles by Patricia C. Wrede, the Dark is Rising series by Susan Cooper, and the Chronicles of Prydain series by Lloyd Alexander.

If you were secretly going to write fanfic (or, even better, slashfic) about any two characters, who would they be?

Oh man, probably Inara and Kaylee, or Buffy and Faith. Fred and Willow, if I was in the mood for a crossover (which I never am, but I might make an exception for them). And it wouldn’t be a secret, I promise you that.


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