Fellow Travelers

In which I talk to my favorite authors about craft, big ideas, and lessons learned. Culture is a single extended conversation about the meaning of life, and we wander its forking paths in search of insight, however fleeting.

Follow the links below to read the full interviews and subscribe to my newsletter to find out when new interviews drop. May they aid you on your own journeys as much as they have me on mine.


“Imaginative fiction—mythic, speculative, genre, fantastical, or science fiction, whatever you want to call it—is the prism through which we aim the white light of our current ‘reality’ and see the full array of colorful possibilities projected on the wall, that are all contained within the original light.”
-Monica Byrne on The Actual Star

“Each book demands to be written in its own way, on its timeline. Even after ten or twelve books, I still feel like a novice going into a new idea. And I have to be at peace with that. It’s supposed to be scary or you aren’t stretching.”
-Blake Crouch on Upgrade

“Maintainers are scholars of causation. They have to figure out why something stopped working, and it can be maddening. Each success is a compelling detective story. Once they understand the problem, they have to figure out what to do. Each of those successes is a caper story.”
-Stewart Brand on The Maintenance Race
“Heroes are whoever’s left when everyone else runs away.”
“Books are letters in bottles, cast into the waves of time, from one person trying to save the world to another.”
“Science fiction is really just the story of humanity. The story of us. It shows us possible futures and asks, sometimes as a warning, sometimes as a beautiful promise: ‘Are we sure this is the direction we want to be heading?’”
“Technology and politics are inseparable. There’s a kind of nerd determinism that denies politics (‘Our superior technology makes your inferior laws irrelevant’). But just as pernicious is the inverse, the politicos who insist that technology is irrelevant to struggle, sneering about ‘clicktivism’ and ‘solutionism.’”
“The moment we’re living through now is a kind of interregnum, the space between two moments with their respective structures of feeling. The in-between can be acutely uncomfortable but also a space of freedom as old habits have ended but new ones not yet been settled. Proust called this the moment of exfoliation, when you shed one skin and grow another. It’s not comfortable, but it is interesting.”
-Kim Stanley Robinson on The Ministry for the Future

“I’m interested in the way some stories persist; why they continue to be relevant. The deep human patterns that they contain.”
-Paul McAuley on Austral

“What makes adventure great is more about what isn’t on the page than what is—it’s ships sailing toward unknown horizons, horses galloping into sunsets, the promise of something even grander and stranger off the margins of the map, unwritten.”
-Alix E. Harrow on The Ten Thousand Doors of January

“Don’t see yourself as a conduit. You face one way—towards the source—when you are learning what you want to say, and the other way—towards the reader—when you are saying it. You are not a window between the reader and the source; you are drawing a picture of the source for the reader, and it is your picture.”
-Oliver Morton on The Moon

“Even before we became as aware as some of us now are of climate change, and of the fact that our species has inadvertently caused it, we seemed to be losing our sense of a capital-F Future. Few phrases were as common throughout the 20th century as ‘the 21st century,’ yet how often do we see ‘the 22nd century’? Effectively, never.”
-William Gibson on Agency

“Narratives are compressed expressions of identity, cross-sectional slices. They can tell you things you need to know, but like any section or map, they do not tell you everything.”
-Nick Harkaway on Gnomon

“I had to find the heart of the story, which was really my transformation from someone who was loved but couldn’t feel it, into someone who could feel it. And once that became the central catharsis, everything else—eventually, with tremendous rewriting and editing—fell into place.”
-Eva Hagberg Fisher on How To Be Loved

“History is full of dead, failed heroes. We tend to forget that when we climb up on our metaphorical horses.”
-Robert Jackson Bennett on Foundryside

“Despite all the mythology around American exceptionalism, the recipe for avoiding ruin in this country is no different than in any other country. It contains only two ingredients: ensure that your systems of power reflect the diversity of your population as a whole, and acknowledge the entirety of your history, no matter how painful.”
-Omar El Akkad on American War

“Friendship is the smallest measurable unit of political resistance.”
-Annalee Newtiz on Autonomous

“You have to concoct a meaning out of it all, and one good meaning is to be passing things along the generations, with the idea that you’ve done your part in your life, in terms of the longer species life.”
-Kim Stanley Robinson on Red Moon

“The people you know are representative of the world: generally good, sometimes careless or selfish, and, on the whole, wanting to make things better for everyone.”
-Cory Doctorow on Walkaway

“It’s easy to assume that technological ‘progress’ unfolds in a mostly linear and inevitable way, but that’s far from true.”
-Malka Older on State Tectonics

“What unifies the work is that the story transports me to a place of deeper awareness.”
-Alexander Weinstein on Children of the New World

“I doubt George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four would have been nearly as widely read or have had nearly the cultural or lexical impact if he’d written it as an essay rather than as a novel.”
-Barry Eisler on Livia Lone

“The big successes in synthetic biology will be created not by multi-billion dollar labs but by newcomers experimenting without preconceptions—in much the same way that early Internet entrepreneurs disrupted existing gatekeepers.”
-Daniel Suarez on Change Agent

“It’s interesting working on it in chunks, because you’re plotting individual stories and then fitting them into the overall narrative — but I wasn’t going for plot much with this, I was taking a very different tack to my more commercial novels, and just exploring people, relationships.”
-Lavie Tidhar on Central Station

“The biggest challenge is to think different while being connected. It’s easy to think different while in isolation; it is easy to be connected. It is vastly harder to see different, make different, be different while connected to seven billion humans all the time.”
-Kevin Kelly on The Inevitable

“Read a lot, write a lot, and get out of your comfort zone. Put yourself in someone’s else’s position as much as you can, either by immersing yourself in a different kind of life or by thought experiment.”
-Malka Older on The Centenal Cycle

“We live in a science fiction novel that we are all writing together. Because of that, science fiction is the realism of our time. It’s become the most relevant and dominant art form in our culture.”
-Kim Stanley Robinson on New York 2140

“It’s all one job, and it’s the job of life—finding one’s purpose in all the madness.”
-Lucas Carlson on Big Data

“I went down a dozen blind alleys and labored over scenes for weeks that turned out to have no role in the story, despite the further weeks I spent trying to cram them in. I avoided looming structural problems by working instead on solid, finished scenes. I am trying to shed or outrun these terrible habits, but probably some of that blind-alleyism is just how I do this thing. Behind the pages of Whiskey Tango Foxtrot can be found another four times that number of pages.”
-David Shafer on Whiskey Tango Foxtrot

“Humans are impressive explorers but really terrible colonizers. We make great tools, but we’re irresponsible with them. This imbalance has not worked well on Earth. We need to be as thoughtful as we are handy.”
-Meg Howrey on The Wanderers

“A talent for writing is to writing a novel as a talent for tools is to building a house: necessary, but not sufficient.”
-Barry Eisler on A Clean Kill in Tokyo

“The best and most memorable science fiction makes you think about people, society, and technology, and it changes you.”
-William Hertling on Kill Process

“There are many different varieties of democracy in the world, and none of them is perfect yet, but we’re still working on coming up with more. Our semi-democratic political system, specifically, is a work in progress.”
-Malka Older on Infomocracy