Conversations with interesting people

Vikram Chandra on the search problem, twisting patterns, Lawrence of Arabia, and working at a higher level through AI

“What we crave, I think, from poetry or fiction or drama is a replication or an echo of our existence. And pleasure that comes out of that, entertainment that comes out of that, but also a kind of human connection. Knowing that there is another human back there who is writing about pain or joy and you’re communicating with a human through the text. I think that’s inevitably going to stay.“

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Victoria Goddard on stories as waves, being an independent author, and how goodness is underrated

“I feel like that’s a good thing to explore. I just want to say that that to me, it’s really important to keep exploring goodness, while not ignoring that there’s bad things in the world. Sometimes I reflect, wow, I’ve given all my characters these horribly tragic backstories. But at the same time, I think that’s pretty true to life, too. A lot of people have a lot of bad things in their background, but that doesn’t mean you can’t try and live well. And I like exploring that.“

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Fiona Collins on Japanese fans and textiles, collectors, and the materiality of art

“When you go to see it in person, you can see that there are finger marks, fingerprints on the faces, on the hands. You can see where people had been pointing over time – even if you had greasy hands, this is covered in fingerprints. When you see it, it’s kind of gross and kind of chauvinistic, but when the students saw it in person, they went ‘that’s so cool’. That kind of physical proximity tells you much more than historians ever could know just looking at slides.“

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Kat Howard on convoluted roads, writing in layers, and the cost of magic

“You could be a very righteous person, a very justice-seeking person, and that would be a very difficult job. That would be hard, and there would be consequences for magic, there would be consequences for being that kind of chosen person. I think that in fantasy literature we play with the idea of the Chosen One all the time. We don’t often look at the more difficult side of being the Chosen One. What that can do to you. So I really wanted to look at that idea of what actually happens when you make that choice.“

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Lisa Tang Liu

Lisa Tang Liu on photography, motherhood, and mapping her world through art

“It was such, such a good feeling, being out there. So I tried to do more of that and I became more curious about plants. In the past I would just photograph something and go, it’s a bird, it’s a flower. But then I got more into like, ‘what is this flower, what special personality that does it have?’ So it opened up a new world to me. And it’s amazing, just looking at nature, they find a way to survive and how long they’ve been around.”

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Nathan Ashman on noir and ecological crime

“I think we’re going to see a lot of ecological crime novels in the coming years. Historically, it’s been the dystopian novel or the science fiction novel proper that’s been the space in which these questions are examined. But I think the crime novel is starting to move into that territory more and more, I think that’s going to pick up, and I think noir will certainly be the mode through which a lot of that kind of fear and scepticism and hostility is perhaps expressed. Yeah, I think those two are kind of perfect bedfellows.“

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Julia Crouch, Queen of Domestic Noir

“What I have ended up writing about is mostly women behaving appallingly. Because I love that. I love transgressive women. I’m actually quite well behaved as a person, but I wish I could behave like some of my characters: not doing what you’re supposed to do, not being neat and tidy, not sitting with your legs crossed, not washing. All of those things. I wish sometimes I didn’t comply like that – as I get older, I am more in danger of going that way!”

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