For the San Francisco stop on his LeVar Burton Reads LIVE! tour, LeVar Burton read a story by local author Charlie Jane Anders: “As Good As New,” originally published on Tor.com and collected with some of her other short fiction in Six Months, Three Days, Five Others. “As Good As New” is a new wrinkle on the old story of three wishes, set after the end of the world.
Typical for Burton’s podcast, the former Reading Rainbow host infuses his reading with engaging inflections and varying voices, plus the added dimension of musical accompaniment by keyboardist Anthony Ferraro of Astronauts, etc. The extra appeal of the live show is that Anders herself took the stage after the story concluded to talk about her inspiration to write a new take on the three wishes story, not making her characters the butt of a joke, and almost flunking out of first grade.
A sample from their conversation:
Burton: You have said about your writing that science fiction is a tool to discover who we are and how to lead a good life. When I read this story the first time, and probably the second time… It wasn’t until about the third time I read this story that I really began to fall in love with Marisol; I thought she was fairly callow at the beginning of my journey with this story. And then I came to really embrace her and really see her as someone of substance.
Anders: Listening to you read it was really interesting because it definitely made me think about it in a different way. And that’s it’s magical when you get to hear one of your stories that way. You know, I mean I think that Marisol–I really wanted her to actually grow and change over the course of the story, which means she had to start out being a little naïve. Her first play that she describes is clearly not as good as the one she writes later, it’s clearly much more surface and clever. It’s a clever play rather than a deep play.
Burton: About something, that has meaning.
Anders: It’s a play with a clever twist.
Burton: A postmodern Cyrano de Bergerac.
Anders: I guess that’s part of what I was getting at, just this idea of cleverness and how cleverness is not a substitute for saying something real, or talking about real stuff.
LeVar Burton Reads has wrapped its live tour, with the remaining episodes to be released soon. Listen to Charlie Jane Anders’ episode here: