Monday, November 20, 2017

Tim Pratt

Tim Pratt is a Hugo Award-winning SF and fantasy author, and has been a finalist for World Fantasy, Sturgeon, Stoker, Mythopoeic, and Nebula Awards, among others. He is the author of over twenty novels, and his work has been reprinted in The Best American Short Stories, The Year’s Best Fantasy, The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror, and other nice places.

His new novel is The Wrong Stars.

Recently I asked Pratt about what he was reading. His reply:
I'm writing a sequel to my space opera novel The Wrong Stars right now, and it's better for me to read things outside the sub-genre I'm writing to avoid thematic and stylistic cross-contamination.

I've been re-reading a triumvirate of old favorite books lately: Connie Willis's time-travel middle ages black death novel Doomsday Book, Jerome K. Jerome's 1890s fictionalized travelogue humor classic Three Men In a Boat (To Say Nothing of the Dog), and Willis's quasi-sequel to Doomsday Book, To Say Nothing of the Dog, a much funnier and less bleak time-travel novel set in the Victorian era, in which Jerome K. Jerome and his friends make a cameo appearance. You can see why they had to be read together.

Doomsday Book is Willis's second-most emotionally devastating book (Lincoln's Dreams is the first most devastating), a book about pandemics and death and sorrow, but also about the importance of helping your fellow humans even when there's no real hope of success, or even survival. While reading that book, about a flu pandemic in the future and the black plague in the past, everyone around me came down with a cold and I saw way more rats down by the railroad tracks than usual.

After that, Three Men in a Boat was a lovely palate cleanser: a book where the stakes are much lower, where the worst thing that happens is people falling into the river and losing their hats, and where the humor still feels as fresh as if it were written yesterday instead of over a century ago. It's been one of my favorite books for over twenty years and it never fails to delight me, and you can go grab a free ebook of it over at Project Gutenburg. (Be warned: like many books of its era, it's got some sexism and racism issues.)

I'm about halfway through Willis's To Say Nothing of the Dog right now. It's one of my favorite of her novels in her romantic comedy mode, hilarious and refreshing and sweet and absurd, with subtle jokes and overt slapstick both, and I laugh aloud every few pages. I haven't read it in over a decade, so I've forgotten enough details for it to all be fresh again. You could do worse than to follow my reading order here; you might also add Willis's collection Fire Watch, which includes some stories set in the same time-travel universe. Her later duology Blackout/All Clear is set in that milieu too.
Visit Tim Pratt's website.

--Marshal Zeringue