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Harry Turtledove
conducted by Toni Weisskopf
 
May 2005

The muse called early on Harry Turtledove, one of our modern masters of alternate history, as well as the author of many SF and fantasy novels for a variety of publishers including Baen--and a "Chicks in Chainmail" stalwart. "I've been writing since I was a kid. Biggest influences were Sprague de Camp and Poul Anderson, which probably isn't surprising to those who've read me. I wanted to do a volume honoring Sprague for a long time. Heaven knows he deserves it. Tried to sell it in the early '90s, when he was still alive, and couldn't then. I'm just delighted Baen decided to pick it up." [See The Enchanter Completed, May 2005]

For Harry, the perks of being an SF writer start off at home: "Not commuting 40 miles each way through downtown L.A. every day immediately springs to mind. :-) Being able to make a living at this means I've been able to watch my kids grow up, which is nice. Writing off travel and books for research has its advantages, too. And I've been able to meet or correspond with, sometimes to make friends with, most of the people I admired for so many years, from de Camp and Anderson to Theodore Sturgeon and John Brunner."

Of his first encounters with SF, Harry tells me: "I think I found the Miss Pickerel stories and the Mushroom Planet books when I was in about the third grade. Miss Pickerel was crap, but close to 50 years ago I didn't know it. Then a couple of years later I discovered Norton and Heinlein, and that was that. I was hooked forever."

I asked Harry if he was a morning writer, an evening writer or a catch-as-catch-can writer and he laughingly tells me: "Catch-as-catch can--sometimes feels more like tag-team

Harry's favorite non-SF authors cover a variety of fields and include "Mary Renault, Bill James, Stephen Jay Gould, Herodotus--a mixed bag." Among his own characters, he does have a few favorites: "Sam Yeager in the Worldwar books springs to mind. So does Otto of Schlepsig, a thorough rogue who stars in the forthcoming Every Inch a King." And if were playing casting director he'd "love to see Sean Connery play Robert E. Lee in Guns of the South."

Harry has a Ph.D. in Byzantine history. Given that, I wondered how much of his bestselling Videssos series is based on real world history and how much not. "Almost all is based on the genuine stuff. Gotta use the degree somewhere. I've occasionally mixed and matched a bit--I'm writing fantasy, after all, not monographs. But the material is real. Having a command of arcane events and languages does have its uses, even if not the ones my profs expected of me."

Despite his background in Byzantine history, if Harry could go back to one incident in all of history to watch as a spectator, he'd go to Egypt: "It would be nice to know if people were wild for Cleopatra for her own sake or for Egypt through her. I'm rooting for the former."

Looking ahead, if Harry could pick one invention or scientific leap in understanding he'd most like to see made in his lifetime, he'd go with energy first, then travel. "They've been saying controlled fusion was 20 years away ever since I was 10. It's been a lot longer than 20 years since then, worse luck. Wouldn't break my heart to see the Arabs on the street corner with sunglasses and a tin cup, nope. But I'm not holding my breath. An FTL drive would be nice, too, but that seems even more unlikely, dammit."

For more information please go to: http://www.sfsite.com/~silverag/turtledove.html".

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