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Spider Robinson
conducted by Toni Weisskopf
 
November 2004

TW: How did you get started writing? Any specific influences?

SR: I've told this story so many times in so many places I'm going to hold it down here to, a) I got stranded without a book one time, and b) the first dozen books I read in my life, at age six, were all by Robert A. Heinlein
TW: What are some of the best perks of being a science fiction writer?
SR: People pay your airfare to interesting places, introduce you to hundreds of interesting people, throw you a hell of a party, and in return insist that you have a good time. Several times a year. Also, when you ask somebody much smarter a dumb question, they often answer. Also, just about anything imaginable is deductible, as research.
TW: Do you have any favorites among your characters?
SR: All of them, so far. With the exception of the villain ofVery Bad Deaths. He creeps me out.
TW: What was the first sf story you ever read?
SR: Rocket Ship Galileo.
TW: Who are some of your favorite non-sf authors?
SR: Donald E. Westlake, Lawrence Block, John D. MacDonald, Thomas Perry, Robert Crais, Lee Child, William Goldman, Patrick O'Brian, Don Winslow, Richard Stark, Marge Piercy, Ross Thomas, Michael Connelly, Dennis Lehane, John McPhee, Randy Wayne White, Tom Clancy, Martin Cruz Smith, Tim Dorsey, Robert B. Parker, Vincent Patrick, Stephen J. Cannell and a few dozen more I'm overlooking.
TW: Are you a morning writer, an evening writer or a catch-as-catch-can writer?
SR: I usually get my best work done sometime between midnight and dawn or a little later when there's nothing on TV, nobody comes to the door or rings the phone, the telepathic waveband is quiet, and my favorite distraction is asleep. But if the impulse (a good idea, usually) should come two hours after I've gone to bed, I'll get up and start typing again.
TW: Who would you like to see play your series hero (if app.) in a movie?
SR: I've always thought Brian Dennehy would make a terrific Mike Callahan. I tried sending copies of the books to him via his agents, but never heard a splash.

As for the new series I'm beginning with Very Bad Deaths, the casting of Russell defeats me. Offhand, I can't think of any American or Canadian actor who can play skinny and frail and fifty-something not a lot of call for that. For the young, ‘60s Russell, maybe the geeky kid from The O.C.?

Similarly, there ain't a lot of name actors who can (or could much want to) play Smelly Zudenigo, who looks like Comic Book Guy from The Simpsons, sounds like Tweety Bird after speech therapy controlled the lisp, and reeks. The only one I can think of who has a shot at it, and may actually be good enough to really play it, is David Anthony Higgins, who plays Craig Feldspar in Malcolm in the Middle. I could also see James Gandolfini doing a terrific job, but hey, let's be serious, here. Fuhgeddaboudit.

As for Constable Nika Mandic, I could see either Venus Terzo or Camille Sullivan, both of them in Chris Haddock's superb CBC-TV series Da Vinci's Inquest, playing the hell out of her. So could Amy Carlson, who played Alec Taylor for a few seasons of Third Watch. And so could Kim Raver, who's still in that series.

If anybody ever filmed The Free Lunch, the only person I can imagine in the part of Annie is Linda Hunt.
TW: What invention or scientific leap in understanding would you most like to see made in your lifetime?
SR: I'd like a volume switch, or at least a mute, on pain. There just has to be some reliable way to remind me not to try walking on that broken leg, that doesn't cause me constant misery and severe stress every second of the day while I'm lying down and trying to recover. There has to be a reliable way to control chronic pain that doesn't destroy something else crucial, or become ineffective and addictive. I've read that half of all humans who die, die in agony. That is fucking preposterous. That is unacceptable. That is disgraceful. And it also might turn out to be nice if we all didn't have to enter the world while in telepathic communion with someone who's either in total agony or whacked out, for a change.
TW: If you could go back to one incident in all of history to watch as a spectator what would it be?
SR: I'd like to be at Nikola Tesla's installation in Shoreham, L.I., on June 29, 1906, to see for myself just what, if anything, he was doing there when half a million acres of pine forest in Tunguska, Siberia blew up.

I welcome visitors, and e-mail from patient people, at www.spiderrobinson.com.

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