Today our Feature Pennwriters Member is Sue Lange of Area 6. Sue Lange is the author of We, Robots, and Tritcheon Hash. She’s also a regular contributor here at the Pennwriters Area 6 HQ blog.
Sue, thank you for joining us today and sharing a little about yourself! After reading your bio, I have to start ask: how does the “litany of low-level, mundane, mind-numbing day jobs” contribute to your writing interests? (More to the point – tell us about the disco dance instructor role, and whether you’re still teaching.)
I’m always glad when people read that bio. It’s so much more interesting than listings of where to buy my books or read my stuff. Thanks for doing your homework!
I think the answer to your question is obvious. Experience provides depth to writing. What kind of interesting stuff can you come up with facing your messy office and your cranky computer every day? Especially considering the disconnected way you feel in the writer’s chair. How inspirational can that be? But go back to your college life, your high school days, Van Houten’s potato field, and the edgy world of extension coursework and you’ll find all kinds of deep-well experience. As to your final query: No I don’t still teach dance. Do people still do disco dancing? I could do a column about my experience as an instructor. Not much more than one 500 word column, though, because there isn’t much to tell. In short, I wasn’t a disco dancer, but the extension course program has never been very picky in who they hire, so there you go.
You’ve mentioned before that you like to write because “[you] just keep getting ideas.” What are your key sources of inspiration? What are your favorite ways to get “unstuck” if you hit a block when you write?
Much of my inspiration comes in my dreams. I have vivid dreams, colorful and frightening sometimes. I love it. When I wake up I rethink my dreams. What’s the plot? What’s the theme? I can usually come up with something. I’m also inspired with current events, which is probably the same thing as being inspired by my dreams. I mean, where do the dreams come from? They’re a mishmash of personal experience and prime time TV probably. Current political events provide a lot of material for someone who writes satirical science fiction. There’s just so much going on. And a lot of it is just plain silly. I’m not even talking about the political process in the U.S. You could have two or three careers lampooning that.
I don’t usually get stuck, mostly because I don’t make my living as a writer. I don’t have deadlines when it comes to being creative. Right now I’m working on a project where I’m reworking a very long and detailed science fiction novel that never got published. It was terribly over written and painful to slog through. I’m turning it into a soap opera type Internet only book and adding multimedia content as I go. Working on this has been the closest I’ve gotten to getting stuck. There’s a lot of non-writing stuff that I have to do and so my usual inspiration tap has not been flowing. I think it’s just that I don’t have time to follow through on any ideas I come up with so my brain is not working on anything like that. When I’m finally done with all the kookiness that goes with this project, I suspect I’ll be flooded with ideas again. We’ll see. If I truly got stuck, I would simply not write. No one has to write, but it does feel better psychologically to do it. But I wouldn’t panic or feel like I was losing part of myself. I’d just go do something else. There’s tons in the world to do.
I understand that you enjoy writing sci-fi. Tell us a little about what you write, and why.
My first book Tritcheon Hash is considered feminist science fiction. I hesitated calling it that because at the time I had not studied feminist theory. But enough reviewers considered it feminist science fiction so that now I can actually cop to it. Mostly what I satirize in that book are the stereotypes we labor under in regards to gender. The biggest theme I worked with was this blame game that men seem to have towards women. Our culture developed from the belief that womankind caused the fall of man. We never stop to realize that the story of Adam & Eve is allegorical and written by men without women’s input (as far as I know, anyway, but who knows what Miriam and Moses discussed in the wee). As a result much of our culture is permeated by the underlying belief that women are naturally evil.
My second book, We, Robots, is about our obsession with technology and how an undying faith in progress will lead us somewhere we may not want to go. It has nothing to do with robots taking over the world, but it does allude to that theme that one finds in a lot of science fiction. I got bored with that theme so I wrote an anti-robots-taking-over-the-world story. We writers need to mix it up once in a while.
Most of my writing is along those lines: preaching on subjects I don’t know a whole lot about, laughing at stuff that I do.
Who/what are your greatest literary influences?
John Steinbeck, Kurt Vonnegut Jr., Fay Weldon, Joanna Russ, Joyce Carol Oates, Douglas Adams, the billions of bloggers out there that have a sense of humor, and all the self-effacing, honest people I’ve ever met.
What are your goals as a writer?
I’d like to finish this god damn Textile Planet project. I’d like to have a bimonthly column in the local rag. I’d like to be able to call up a bookstore and have them recognize my name so I don’t have to continuously reassure them that, yes, I am an actual author and someone has edited my books so they are not full of bad grammar and, no, you won’t be embarrassed if you put them on your shelves.
Give us the sound bites for your books, We, Robots, and Tritcheon Hash.
Uh oh, I already over wrote the sound bites up above.
We, Robots: A lot can happen on the way to The Singularity.
Tritcheon Hash: What would Earth be like if there were no women living there?
I’d like to hear more about The Textile Planet… what’s this work about, and when will it be available?
It is about an obsessive employee of a textile mill on the Textile Planet. She has too much to do at her day job and too little time to do it. On one particularly fateful day she loses it and winds up in a strange psychiatric hospital. She uncovers a plot to perpetrate a weird-ass type of mind control on the workers at the Mill she works at. The Mill discovers her discovery and she barely escapes from the Planet with her life and sanity. Running from her pursuers takes her to the very edge of the galaxy to an uninhabited planet. Her days in the desert there change her. She grows confident knowledgeable about her role in life. She also has enormous guilt about her unfinished business on the Textile Planet. She could save the others at the Mill if she only faced her tormentors. She returns home to set things right. Everyone lives happily ever after.
In the book I make fun of our-over-the top paranoia and our habit of assigning good and evil to just about everything.
Besides fiction, what other kinds of writing do you enjoy, or want to try?
I’d like to write a bimonthly column for the local rag on any topic that has absolutely nothing to do with the Internet. I’d like to do research for this column by tramping all over the world to follow up on the strange things I’ve read or heard about throughout my life. For instance, I’ve never seen a manatee. I’ve never seen a truffle in the wild. How do they make microfiber? What is Oktoberfest in Germany like? What’s it like at high tide at the Bay of Fundy? Where do spaceships in Russia take off from? That sort of thing.
We’re glad to have you as a Pennwriters member. Could you tell us, why did you join, and what are some of your favorite benefits from the organization?
I joined because I was spending too much time networking with people over the Internet. I wanted to network with people that I could actually go and have a beer with without having to board a plane. The main benefit of Pennwriters is the discount for the Conference. But I’ve also found a good many Pennwriters have a lot of energy when it comes to doing promotion and setting up things. Carol Haile and Jack Hillman come to mind but there are a lot more. I’ve been able to participate in a number of events already and I’ve only been a member for about a year. Lots of stuff going on and a lot of resources.
And now, the words of wisdom: what advice would you give other writers?
2. Read what you like.
3. Read authors that write the way you’d like to write and steal their riffs.
4. Buy my books (Tritcheon Hash, We, Robots, and coming soon The Textile Planet)
Thank you again for joining us Sue, we wish you the very best in all your writing endeavors!
Thanks, Jade, for just being you! Don’t go changing!
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