’Anniversary Day’ :: Kristine Kathryn Rusch Talks 9/11 and the Far Future
Art Reflecting Life?
EDGE: "Anniversary Day" deals with terrorism, and its release comes only a few months after the 10th anniversary of 9/11. I’m guessing this isn’t just a coincidence?
Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Actually, it is a coincidence. The timing of the book had more to do with publishing schedules than the 10th anniversary. However, "Consequences," an earlier Retrieval Artist book is about 9/11, and "Anniversary Day" moves from the events in "Consequences." That’s one of the ways fiction takes a life of its own, I think.
EDGE: There’s quite a resonance with 9/11 all through the book, with a sense of uncertainty and impending panic in the air--not to mention that line near the end of the novel, "Nothing would ever be the same again." Do you think that it’s true in our post-9/11 world? Are things still significantly different, outside of the permanent new hassles associated with getting anywhere via air travel?
Kristine Kathryn Rusch: I do think that’s true in our post 9/11 world. A few years ago, I got invited into an anthology of alternate history stories and I decided to write about what would have happened if Bush v. Gore [the Supreme Court case that suspended recounts in Florida in 2000 and resulted in George W. Bush’s first term] went the other way. I had a three-page single-spaced list of the things that would be different before I forced myself to quit.
I know that Gore--who was VP when the first World Trade bombing happened, and knew what a threat Bin Laden was--wouldn’t have ignored that memo [warning of Al Qaeda preparing to hijack airplanes and provided to the White House a month prior to the terrorist attacks of 9/11]. I don’t know if 9/11 wouldn’t have happened because some of the destruction was an unintended result of where the planes hit and [the fact that they were fully tanked up with] jet fuel. But it would have been different.
I’m answering your questions three days after December 7, 2011, and I thought throughout that day how different the news coverage is now that the WWII generation is passing on. When I was kid, Pearl Harbor Day was a Big Deal. Now it’s a passing mention. But the 9/11 anniversaries are a big deal for the same reason. One event, from the outside, changed life in the U.S. "Anniversary Day," in the Retrieval Artist universe, will change everything forever, whether following generations know it or not. (I mean, imagine our world without WWII. It’s tough, isn’t it?)
EDGE: You’ve expanded the Retrieval Artist universe quite a bit, showing us more of the fictional future world you’ve developed. As you write the books, does your imagination (or the requirements of the story) reveal more to you about the world you’re inventing? Or did you start out with all the details already worked out?
Kristine Kathryn Rusch: My imagination is stingy. I never know what will happen next. So it all happens to me, just like it happens to the characters.
That said, my subconscious is tricky. It knows what’s going on. So it’ll set up something five books in that will impact something in book eight. And it is a set-up. I, the clueless writer, just don’t know it when I write it.
EDGE: The series has progressed to the point of introducing all sorts of characters and giving them large roles, especially in the new book, where we don’t even see Miles Flint until about halfway through. Why the shift in focus from Flint, who is the main character of the series?
Kristine Kathryn Rusch: I’ve always said that this is my 87th Precinct series. For those non-mystery readers in the crowd, Ed McBain wrote the 87th Precinct [novels] starting in the early 1960s. The books were (are) highly influential. They had a huge impact on everything from police procedurals to "Hill Street Blues" and what’s being written now.
More than that, though, McBain followed a group of characters in the 87th Precinct, focusing on one most of the time, but every second or third book, he’d bring someone else front and center. I remember when "Fat Ollie’s Book" came out, because Fat Ollie is an obnoxious character, and I didn’t think McBain could pull off making him the protagonist. He did, though.
I also told my Roc editor that I admired what Elizabeth George is doing in her mysteries. She writes British police procedurals that started with Inspector Lynley, but have moved into other characters taking point. I always meant for the Retrieval Artist to do the same.
Miles is the point character, but right now in the series, he just wants to raise his daughter. He is effectively retired. So others must do the dirty work. And besides, sometimes the dirty work has to be done with someone who has more authority than he does. So they get the story.
He will go back to being a Retrieval Artist, however. My stingy subconscious wrote a story near the end as the very first tale in the series, and I’m heading toward that. I think. That story, "The Retrieval Artist," was a Hugo finalist, and got it all started in my brain.
EDGE: In addition to this expansion of characters and their roles, you have also set up a compelling storyline in "Anniversary Day" that could carry the series for quite a few installments. Do you have a whole saga mapped out? Or are you allowing the story to unfold as you go?
Kristine Kathryn Rusch: I suspect there are three books. I have been surprised before. But the story is too big for one book. I got freaked when I realized that I had 100K [words] done and I had just finished the first day of the saga. This has happened to me before, and I can’t cut. So I sighed and wrote the book the way it wanted to be written. What do I know?
I do know that all of this will incorporate subplots from many past books. And you’ll see a few characters you haven’t seen since "The Recovery Man."
EDGE: These new developments also hint at plans to take your reader to new places around the solar system and the galaxy. Or do you intend to keep things pretty much local and concentrate on crafting a detailed image of life in the Moon’s domed cities? (That subject alone could generate and serve as backdrop to the whole series, after all!)
Kristine Kathryn Rusch: Oh, no. We’re heading out to other places, while remaining Moon centric. If you think of [comparing this to a story set on] Earth, this is a story taking place in New York, but with international ramifications. So you do need to show the places where the problems are unfolding or began.
Next page: A Universe of Possibilities