Elizabeth Moon
With the exception of those who accidentally wandered onto this blog and have since been unable to find their way out, you’re all here because you’re fans of science fiction. Or, more specifically and at the very least, fans of the Stargate franchise. Now I’m proud of the work we’ve done on all three shows (SG-1, Atlantis, and the upcoming Universe) and have done my best to highlight many of our accomplishments over the years. But this blog isn’t only about Stargate. And, of course, neither is science fiction. A little over a year ago, I was thinking about the fact that, despite the many, many SF fans out there, so much SF literature remains under-read and underappreciated. And I was struck with a thought. What if I could use this blog to introduce even a small percentage of you to the many wonderful works out there, SF books written by veterans and up-and-comers alike? I could accompany you on the journey, join you in reading, discovering, weighing in, and discussing. So I started this little book club and, since then, it has grown, engendering some terrific discussions and welcoming various authors in the field of not only science fiction but fantasy and horror as well.

Then, a little over a month ago, as I was considering August’s Book of the Month Club selection, I was struck by another thought. What if, on occasion, rather than selecting a book I was unfamiliar with, I chose a favorite instead? It would be not unlike bringing someone to Fuel Restaurant and treating them to their very first Crispy Duck experience. One of the greatest pleasures, next to loving a dish, is recommending it to a friend and having them love it in turn. The same applies to literature. And so, for August’s Book of the Month Club Selection, I put forth one of my favorites, the superlative Crispy Duck of SF novels: The Speed of Dark by Elizabeth Moon.

It’s science fiction, but not of the kind many Stargate fans are used to. There are no bizarre aliens or unfathomable techno-weapons or big explosions (Well, maybe one explosion but at the risk of giving too much away, I’ll leave it at that). It’s simply a near-future, thoroughly compelling character study of one of the most endearing and fascinating individuals in contemporary literature. Too much? I don’t think so, and many of those who read The Speed of Dark would probably agree. Still don’t believe me? Well, why not pick up the book and find out for yourself? And if you need anymore motivation, author Elizabeth Moon has kindly taken the time to drop by and answer some reader questions.


I happened to catch Elizabeth at a good time as she’s informed me she’ll be at ArmadilloCon all next weekend (Yes, it’s a Texas thing). Anyway, if you’re in the Austin neighborhood August 14th – 16th and you do run into her, say hi from Joe. And if you enjoyed The Speed of Dark and would like to know more about the author and her works, head on over to her site (http://www.elizabethmoon.com/). And finally, if you’re wondering what Elizabeth has in the works, her next book, Oath of Fealty (http://www.paksworld.com/blog/?p=324), hits the shelves March of 2010, while two of her short stories have been included in a couple of recent anthologies: “An Incident in Uskvosk” in Songs of the Dying Earth, and “Chameleon” in The New Space Opera 2.

Enough with my rambling pre-ambling. Over to the Q&A…

Sylvia: “Thank you for a wonderful book. Very good and very thought provoking.
Questions for the author – 1. What was your inspiration for the book’s title?”

EM: It came from our son’s response to a science lesson on light.   After being told what the speed of light was, he asked what the speed of dark was.   I tried to explain that dark had no speed–that only light had a velocity.   Dark was the absence of light, etc.  He thought about that, and then said, “If the dark is there before  the light gets there maybe it’s faster.”   Some years later, when I needed a title for this book…that one was obvious, and so were the cascading metaphors that fall from it:  ignorance comes before knowledge, and is always out there waiting for the light to reach it.

“2. Please give some insight to Lou’s last statement, “…Now I can ask the questions.””

EM: People ask questions of the disabled all the time–looking for the stock answers they expect (like Lou’s psychiatrist in the first chapter.)   Their own questions may be ignored, considered unimportant or even inappropriate.   Now that Lou is no longer defined by his disability, he gets to ask questions–the questions he wants to ask, that have interested him a long time.

3. If you can share, did you experience some of the “experts” who were living in the past and had not kept up with research on autism?”

EM: Oh, yes.  Some very perceptive people, but also some with very rigid minds.  They’re still out there, too.

4. Even thought you wrote the book, if you were one of Lou’s closest friends like Tom, etc., and if he asked you – what should I do? How would you have responded?”

EM: Knowing what I know now, it would have been a long conversation, as I tried to feel out what Lou really thought, and really wanted, and yet leave it to him to make his own decisions. 

Ponytail writes: “Questions for Elizabeth Moon:Greetings fellow Texan! I am writing from the Dallas/Fort Worth Metoplex! I loved The Speed of Dark! Very interesting and emotional read! Thank you for writing it. Where is this story set? The, “finding a place to plug in my car”, had me wondering.”

EM: It’s set in the near future, when most vehicles are at least partly electrically powered.   It’s also set farther north, to a place that had sugar maples (but they didn’t like the heat.  Probably something like Kansas City or St. Louis.

“Why didn’t you spend more time on the new Lou? I liked the old Lou better anyway, but I was wondering if he was really finally happy with his new life.”

EM: The story is about changes and choices;  the critical changes Lou had to face, and the choices he made, are “done” by the end of this book.   The reader is free to face the ambiguity and uncertainty of life–that sometimes you have to just jump off the cliff of circumstance and hope your wings hold you up. 

“What did you glean from your own son in writing this book?”

EM: Close daily contact with his way of thinking and expressing himself gave me the experience to simulate an autistic mind from inside.

“I have read you wrote your first book at age 6 about your dog. This is a dog lovers blog. What exactly was that first book about? What was your dog doing in the book?”
EM: That first book was never finished.   The dog didn’t do enough; that was the problem.  Or rather,  I didn’t know to wait until the dog was old enough to sustain a book.  She was born, she was named, she was a puppy romping around being a puppy.  None of her life adventures had happened yet.    Later she was the hero of a possum hunt,  had adventures at the beach,  all with typical terrier enthusiasm.   But we were both too young for the task I set us…she hadn’t done much of anything yet, and I didn’t know how to make “nothing much” interesting.

“When you are in the middle of writing a book, do you walk around in a fog, thinking about the book constantly?”

EM: Not 100% of the time, but part of the time, yes.   Definitely.  

“Thank you Ms. Moon for taking the time to stop by and answer our questions. Your book was a great pleasure to read!”

EM: Thanks!

Charles Schneider writes: “My question for Elizabeth Moon:
“Speed of Dark provides a unique perspective on the Autistic experience in the United States. In the acknowledgments you cited research involving long-reaching and ongoing contact with families experiencing autism, but was any part of the book autobiographical?”

EM: Not directly, no.   Lou is higher-functioning than our son, and had more targeted interventions earlier.   I  chose to make Lou higher-functioning, so that his choice was not at all obvious: he had real alternatives.   Possibly the setting of the fencing group was somewhat autobiographical, because I do backyard fencing with a group, but it’s nothing like Tom and Lucia’s larger and more elegant house and yard. 

“And if so, which voice in the book was yours?”

EM: None, I hope.   Characters must be who they are (even though I make them up, they take on lives of their own, if I do it right.)    I did not identify with any of them.  

Iamza writes: “Question for Elizabeth Moon: Did you have the last few chapters in mind before you started writing The Speed of Dark? Or was it something that grew organically as the story went along?”

EM: The end grew out of Lou himself…I did not know what he was going to decide until he did (and my editor was not thrilled about that.   She kept saying “You have to know–you’re the writer!” and I kept saying “He hasn’t told me yet.”)

Michelle writes: “Questions for Elizabeth Moon:
– Has an autistic person ever read the book and told you what they thought about it?”

EM: Yes, quite a few.   They’ve all agreed that it’s an accurate picture of how they feel inside, but many did not like the ending because they themselves would not have agreed to the treatment.   Most understood when I explained that the ending did not reflect my judgment on autism or autistic persons, but was Lou’s own choice…but they didn’t agree with him.

“I read that you fence as a hobby. Would pattern recognition really help a person overcome basic lack of coordination?”

EM: It depends on how bad the lack of coordination is (and Lou did not really lack coordination.).   Pattern recognition is very, very important in fencing, because it offers you opportunities.   I’m not a very good fencer and I develop muscle memory slowly.  (It’s not lack of coordination, exactly–it’s just that I’m a slow learner, physically.)  And I’m older than anyone else in the group, and everyone slows with age, so even when I have a move down, I can’t do it as fast as a younger fencer.  But I can sometimes hit my opponent when their reliable, predictable pattern leaves an opening that lasts long enough.   Once you read the pattern (also called “tells” in the fencing community)  you can predict where the other person will attack, how they will parry–and then (with experience) you know what to try.  Some people have very simple patterns–outside low, inside high, repeated over and over.   Easy to parry and easy to attack. 

“Do you have any theories about why autism seems more common now than in the past?”

E: Yes, I do. 

First, it’s diagnosed more often.  In one state that made a serious effort to diagnose every child who had autism–went out and looked for every autistic child–they found the increase in “autism” exactly corresponded to a decrease in “severe mental retardation” diagnoses.  In other words, autism had been mis-diagnosed as mental retardation.   Same number of children with a serious disability–but a change in label.

Second,  autism runs in families and in occupations where the abilities that go with autism–especially its milder forms–are valuable.  So in Silicon Valley and other high-tech communities, people who are somewhere on the spectrum meet others who are somewhere on the spectrum–and thus are familiar in their behaviors–and they marry and have children….children who are more likely to also be on the spectrum.

“Do you think Lou made the right choice?”

EM: What was right was Lou making his own choice.   Lou had as much right to choose change (or staying the same) as any of us do.   Every choice has costs and benefits; every choice has consequences.

Nolalib writes: “Questions for Ms. Moon:
I’m curious about your writing process. I read that you researched Autism in depth for this book, did you have a spark of an idea about the storyline or about the characters prior to your research?”

EM: I knew that Lou would be faced with the dilemma, but I did not know how it would play out.

“Or did the research lead to the story/characters?”

EM: No–the research informed the story but didn’t drive it.  Lou came to me a year or so before and very quietly said perhaps I’d like to write his story.   The other characters came as I was writing him. 

“Do you know the end prior to writing a story or does the story dictate itself to you as you write?”

EM: Never.   I’m a discovery writer–I find out what happens by writing it.   I climb into the character’s head and experience what the character experiences.  The control I have is to understand what part of that belongs in the story and what part doesn’t.   So it’s not that the story dictates itself to me, but that the character lets me into his or her life.

“What inspires you to write?”

EM: (chuckle)   Most of the time I’m not so much inspired as driven.   Story beginnings come to me all the time and I will never know “what happened” unless I write them.   But on the days I don’t feel like writing, what inspires me is The Deadline.   Both the book’s deadline and the deadline for paying bills.

“Thanks for taking the time to blog with us!”

Otros Ojos writes: “Questions for Elizabeth Moon:

1) Which aspects of The Speed of Dark were most challenging to you as a writer?”

EM: Staying in the viewpoint of the autistic character. 

“2) If this isn’t too personal, which parts of the writing process were a) most difficult, and b) most rewarding for you as the mother of an autistic person?”

EM: The  answer may surprise you.   When I write fiction I’m writing as “the writer.”   I wasn’t writing it from the viewpoint of having an autistic child, but from Lou’s viewpoint.   So “the mother” part didn’t come in at all, except that it had given me the experience and knowledge to write the book….it was neither hard nor rewarding as a mother, but it was both as a writer.
“3) Regarding some (or all) of the controversial issues raised in this book, would you consider addressing them again from a different slant at some point in the future?”

EM: I’m not sure which of the issues you are seeing as controversial, but some of the issues that interested me here show up in my other books in different guises.   I’m not sure about different “slant.”    Let’s see:  identity (how it’s defined, whether by the individual or by society),  choice (who gets to make the choice, when, how), social justice/fairness,  the inevitability of change (and the need to cope with it creatively),  the connection of actions and consequences, other ethical and moral issues….all these show up in my other books with different situations, characters, and emphasis.   And some of them have shown up again in the books I’m now working on. 

Artdogspot writes: “For Elizabeth Moon –
I really enjoyed your book and the unique perspective you used to tell this story.”

EM: Thank you.

“Since this draws from some of your own personal experience, thank you for sharing part of this world with so many others. I did have a few questions for you.
1. The book is more about interactions experienced by perceived social outsiders than a sci-fi story – did this direction evolve as you wrote or was this a deliberate decision before you began writing?” 

EM: Let me challenge your idea of what a science fiction story is:  not saying you’re wrong, but I think you may be drawing a line I don’t quite agree with.   A science fiction story, to me, has to be about both people and technology, and reveal how the one affects (or doesn’t) the other.  It can be told either from the angle of  digging into the science or tech–discovery, development–or from the angle of those whom the technology affects.   Most people think of it as the former–with characters who are, perforce, the discoverers, the developers, or sometimes the users of the new knowledge or tech.  But it’s equally effective as the latter–and that branch has been in SF almost from the beginning (think Theodore Sturgeon, for one.)   

In this case, the medical advances that made prenatal and newborn interventions possible left the existing older autistics as a dying (going to be extinct) group–autism as had been known for centuries would cease to exist with their deaths.  Then a second wave of medical advances suggested that they could be made extinct (in the diagnostic sense)  right now.   So they were faced with the results of the scientific “breakthrough”–it directly affected them, in much the same way that the development of the polio vaccine affected my generation.   Suddenly those of us who got the vaccine before we got polio had no more polio to fear…and those people we knew who had gotten polio–who would spend the rest of their lives in an iron lung or another respirator, or who were permanently crippled–were living fossils.  Of course the story is also about the perennial human dilemmas–identity, choice, justice–but the setting is the collision of  the advance of science with individual lives.

To that extent, I did intend the story to deal with both the science fictional aspect and the perennial human issues. 

“And, how long did it take to write this?”

EM: That’s always hard to answer because for me the time spent mulling over ideas and doing research blends into and overlaps the time spent putting words into the computer.    This book, in particular, had a long pre-writing stretch, and several false starts (I started it in the common narrative voice–third person, past tense, deep interior viewpoint, only to realize after a couple of chapters that I couldn’t do that with an autistic protagonist.)   Writing in an unfamiliar form as well as a character mind-set so different from my own also required more time for the same number of words, to be sure I got it exactly right for Lou, not for me.  So something over a year for the actual writing, and probably (?) two years altogether, the early part overlapping my work on the previous book.

“2. How difficult was it to make Lou’s character believable and to write the story from his point of view?”

EM: The hard part was staying in his point of view–it required a lot of focus during the writing sessions.   I knew that if I captured his reality he would feel real, believable, to readers. 

“3. What was behind the decision to have Lou’s parents already departed?”

EM: That was part of ensuring that readers saw him as self-sufficient, adult, competent–not someone still relying on parents or guardians.    If his parents had been presented as still alive, some readers would’ve been expecting him to call them and ask them what to do about the experiment.” 

“4. What I liked about Lou was that he expected to be self sufficient and was always surprised when others were wiling to help him out. Was this supposed to reflect an autist’s difficulty in reading social cues or was it simply supposed to be part of Lou’s personal experience with people in general?”

EM: Both, really.  An autistic person’s experience of non-autistic people is very different than you might expect unless you’ve witnessed it.  Like most disabled people (including people who are merely wheelchair-bound and not  mentally challenged)  autistic persons find that most others relate to them very differently:  they are treated like incompetents,  or with disapproval for their inability to talk clearly or do/feel what average people do/feel.   Add to that the difficulty in reading social cues–the need to notice and analyze and think about each one (which delays the autistic person’s responses, something many people find annoying)  and again the autist experiences disapproval from others.  So Lou–both because he was taught to be independent and because of his prior experiences–did not ask for or expect help.   (Formal accommodations, like the gym at work, are different–they’re part of The Rules and not the same thing as spontaneous help.)

“5. Lou’s autistic friends and co-workers were generally more reluctant than Lou to socialize with “normal” people. How common is it for autistics to integrate into wider or larger social circles?”

EM: It’s still quite uncommon.  The main motivation for anyone to become “social” is the pleasure that other people give.  When other people are not fun or interesting to be around (and autistic children get a lot of negativity and some of them get a lot of rigid therapy)  then the prime reason to interact isn’t there.   Since it’s also harder for them to interact–to learn how to interpret expressions, tones of voice, etc.–they need more motivation to get over that difficulty.   The average person also needs more motivation for interacting with an autistic person:  because they don’t pick up social cues as well, they can be annoying, even boring (we all know what it’s like to try to talk with someone who has only one topic and goes on and on and on without noticing that nobody else cares.)  The average person doesn’t find the autistic person rewarding–and so doesn’t bother.  It cuts both ways.   When parents and other caregivers can make the social interaction rewarding for the young autistic child, then the motivation is there and there’s a higher chance (but not certainty) that the child will continue to struggle to socialize with others.   But finding others, outside the family, who are willing to help with the struggle–to put their extra effort in to understand and support and encourage–is very difficult.

“6. Did you know how the story would end when you began writing this (with many questions unanswered); and, did you know how you were going to write it?”

EM: Nope, neither of the above. 

Chevron7 writes: “Questions for Elizabeth Moon:
1. What research did you do to get Lou’s internal monologue so authentic, or what I imagine it to be?”

EM: For that part, I didn’t need to do more research: I had the years of being with our son, listening to him, seeing how he wrote (as he learned to write), noticing what he noticed.  I had also been online with other autistic persons and had observed autistic kids at a camp.

“Was it a difficult style to write and  did you find it flowed as you went along?”

EM: Very difficult.  First person present tense is hard anyway,  and being focusing on Lou’s way of thinking (which isn’t mine) was exhausting, especially at first.    It did become less hard over time, but about then my friends began telling me I “talked like an autistic person.”  I found myself seeing my world–not just Lou’s world–through Lou’s filters. 

“2. I loved Lou’s POV and found it abrupt when you switched to Pete or Tom’s POV. Did you ever consider writing it solely from Lou’s POV?”

EM: Yes, but I wanted the contrast–to remind readers of how smoothly and easily the average person can interpret social signals, how easily they can talk to others.  My editor and I discussed how much to put in the other voices…basically, only the things the reader needed to know, that Lou could not know. 

“3. Everyone seems to see the ending as tragic, whereas I see it as hopeful. What did you think as you were writing it?”

EM: I  saw it as a validation of a person’s right–including a person with a disability label–to make his own decisions.   In that sense, I think it’s hopeful.   Lou saw it as hopeful, too.  But I also know what he lost in that decision, what the cost was.  So, I think, did he.

“4. How did the Nebula Award change your life professionally?”

EM: It’s a prestigious award in our field, so it certainly bumped my name out in the limelight.   I suspect I’ve had a few more invitations to anthologies because of it.  But in terms of how I work…it didn’t..   I still plant the seat of the jeans on the seat of the chair and plug away at the next book just about every day.

“5. What are you reading at the moment?”

EM: At the moment I’m working on the current book, so I’m reading mostly nonfiction as needed for that book.    When I’m on a project, I don’t read much fiction, and nothing that’s in the same genre.   So I’m reading about longbow and crossbow tactics,  leather tanning and finishing,  tile-making,  wood-carving,  counterfeiting in the medieval and Renaissance periods,  finance and trade in those periods, various other crafts and skills,  and so on.  

Mishmee writes: “I don’t really have any questions for Elizabeth Moon, just heaps of admiration and thanks for a provocative and gripping novel.”

EM: Thank you! 

Sparrow_hawk writes: “So I guess I do have a question or two for Ms. Moon:
Lou seemed to believe that God would want him to accept the treatment, since refusing it would be refusing to “drink from the well”. What do you think?”

EM: I think it’s an individual matter–one person might come to one conclusion and someone else with equal thoughtfulness come to another.   It requires self-knowledge–understanding one’s own motivation.   Are you motivated by fear or  resentment or anger or ambition or hope or excitement…?    And of course it ties into the individual’s conception of God (as nonexistent, existent,  loving, angry, rigid, flexible, with or without certain characteristics.)    Any treatment that expands a person’s abilities offers a challenge: any unknown treatment that might (but is not certain to) do that offers an even greater challenge: is it worth the cost (pain, effort, time, money.)   What treatment (be it a shot, a pill, a device like glasses or a hearing aid, an operation like a cochlear implant or a hip replacement, or a lifestyle change that reduces the chance of a heart attack)  would you accept for a condition that a) bothered you a lot or b) didn’t bother you that much?   If your employer thinks you need to quit smoking, lose weight, eat a different diet…what would you do?

“Why did you bring right and wrong into the already complicated decision-making process?”

EM: You don’t think right and wrong are central issues in any decision?   Lou does.  He’s been shown to be a thoughtful, ethical person who sees many issues in terms of right and wrong, fair and unfair, just and unjust, rather than easy and difficult, or profitable and unprofitable.  Many people see actions/situations/decisions in a similar way–to them,  right and wrong are involved in everything, all the time.  Their definition of right and wrong may not be yours, but it’s clear to them. 

“If this is too personal, just skip it: If the treatment you invented in the book was available, would you encourage your child to take it?”

EM: If a treatment had been available when our son was very young,  I probably would have jumped at it–his early years were as difficult for him as for us.   Probably more so.  And we had no idea how much progress he could make, how he would turn out, whether he would be happy as an adult or not.  And that decision might have turned out to have disastrous consequences or good ones.   His life now is more difficult than it would be if he were not autistic–but he is old enough to make his own decisions about who he is and who he wants to be.

40 thoughts on “August 9, 2009: Elizabeth Moon Answers Your Questions!

  1. Hey Joe,
    Thanks for yesterday’s mailbag. I’m sure on your next script next year, you’ll get a bunch of us asking if you typed it in times or courier!

    I really should get involved in your BOTM club…perhaps next month, if I can get my hands on a copy and find time after school…

  2. Thanks to Elizabeth for a thought-provoking book and Q&A. Thanks Joe for sharing this book with us.

    Cheers, Chev

  3. i took that ‘what kind of thinker are you?’ quiz. i was described as: You are a Logical-Mathematical Thinker & You are a Naturalist Thinker. sweet. 🙂

  4. Thanks for the QandA Joe. I didn’t think you would post so soon…. oh and sorry about asking the budget question… I am a very numbery person and I am always curious about movie budgets, considering my interest in the movie world…… and hopefully in the future, being a movie-maker also contributes to my questions. Well thanks again.

    Oh and do you think we could have some desert gate pics… White sands looks sooo cool!!!???!

    Thanks so much,
    Major D. Davis

  5. Thanks to Elizabeth Moon for sharing her thoughts and insights on The Speed of Dark. It’s been really interesting catching up on the discussion and reading everyone’s thoughts.

    I read this book when I was in my final year of high school and loved it. Part of that was that it isn’t what I would consider “conventional” (perhaps not the right word) science fiction, because the focus feels like it’s much more on the characters. I think books like this – which in a way subvert our perceptions of the genre – are wonderful for their study of the human condition.

    What I loved about The Speed of Dark in particular is the exploration of autism and how it is perceived by different people in a society that might not be too far from now. I found Lou completely engaging from the first chapter, and following his journey through the book was much more personal because of the first person narrative (you could argue that’s always the case, but it was the way in which his stream-of-thought moved that made him such a well-drawn character).

    Like a few people, I wasn’t too big on the POV changes and I think that was partly because I liked Lou’s thoughts more than Tom and Pete’s. But I think it was good to have some different perspectives because it shows how different people will deal with the situations they face, how they treat friends and colleagues, and how they justify their own decisions and thoughts.

    This book is one I constantly recommend to both science fiction fans and people who are skeptical of the potential for scifi to explore humanity.

    Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts, I’ve enjoyed reading them!



  6. Many thanks to Elizabeth Moon for a great Q&A that is as thought provoking and enjoyable as her book.
    And, have already passed the recommendation to a couple of people looking for good reads.

    And, your analogy of sharing a good restaurant or dish – is perfect!

    By the way, in search of corn soup since I am nowhere near Fuel to get the real stuff, I tried some from a box I think it is a Campbell’s brand…it was so memorable, I’ve already forgotten. Anyway, this would have been a candidate for a weird food purchase – yuck. One taste and it was in the disposal.

  7. Thanks for a great Q & A with Elizabeth Moon.

    I’d forgotten how much I love her writing until I read The Speed of Dark. I read The Serrano Legacy years ago and loved them. Now I’m waiting until tomorrow to buy book 3 of the Vatta’s War saga. Loving it too. My brother had books 1 and 2 and I bought books 4 and 5, but my local book store did not have book 3. For that I’ll have to go downtown or up north. Hmmm, I like going north, parking is so much easy.

    What’s up for the next BOTM? I’m going to have to go back and find out. I’ve enjoyed both that I’ve read.

  8. Many thanks to Ms. Moon for participating in the Q&A. And thanks to those who asked the questions, as I failed to submit any of my own. And of course biggest thanks to the blog host, Mr. M. for bringing this book to my attention and making the Q&A possible.

  9. Thank you very, very much to Elizabeth Moon for her thorough, thoughtful, and quite enlightening answers to our many and varied questions. When I’m ready to read The Speed of Dark again, I’ll have even more appreciation for the book resulting from this Q&A session.

    Joe, thanks yet again for all your efforts aimed at broadening — or helping maintain, for all the devoted and knowledgeable readers out there — appreciation of the vast world of science fiction and associated genres. The BOTMC is solely responsible for getting me back into sci-fi lit after a 10+ year hiatus, at a more mature level. The trip gets more and more interesting the further I go, and I’ve found that I’ve acquired some new perspectives when reading in other genres, as well. A bibliophile could hardly ask for more. (Well, except for one of my “meh” books to turn into a Fuel Crispy Duck, and another one, into Argent Aso’s Smoked Iberico pork with garlic infused cream. I’m sure the technology will be available soon.)

  10. Joe, if The Speed of Dark was like a savory main entree of Crispy Duck at Fuel, then Elizabeth Moon’s Q&A was like then enjoying your favorite dessert only to have Chef’s Rob and Ted come out and tell you they had a new chocolate dessert they wanted to get your opinion on – you being the expert after all. Excellent way to finish off a great BOM club selection.

    Thank you to Elizabeth Moon for the wonderful Q&A! And thanks to all the commentors for asking such great questions. I read very slowly so I could understand all her thoughts. Another very interesting and insightful Q&A! A great way to finish off a great book. What an honor to have the author join in.

    Charles Schneider asked, “…but was any part of the book autobiographical? And if so, which voice in the book was yours?”

    Elizabeth Moon answered, “None, I hope. Characters must be who they are (even though I make them up, they take on lives of their own, if I do it right.)”

    Elizabeth – you did it right!

  11. Thanks to Elizabeth Moon for a wonderful Q&A that is nearly as thought-provoking as her book!

  12. Thanks for the clarifying the SGU action versus relationship question.

    I visited a friend over the weekend which was great, and thankfully the cat decided not to bite me this time. I also discovered Dr. Horrible, which probably makes me the only person on the planet that didn’t know about it, and brings me to another question.

    It’s so frustrating with so many formats to view and create shows these days, as in; network, cable, direct to DVD, webisodes, YouTube, podcasts and God only knows what else in the future, it seems that technology is separating us more than bringing us together. I remember when there were only three US networks and we, as in the entire country, all talked about the same “big event”. Not so much nowadays. As an older person, it’s also expensive to keep up, and I think kind of sad as well.

    How do you feel about this, and what do you see for the future?

  13. And if anyone attending ‘DilloCon wants a reason to visit San Antonio, anime event SanJapan 2.x is also next weekend. Both events cooperate with other Texas fan cons through the Texas Cons online network.

  14. Follow-up: having read the Q&A, I may read the novel after all. But first, I’ll call my 11-yr-old nephew!

  15. Not that anyone really wants to hear me whine again…but…

    Last night we had a thunderstorm – power flashed off. Home computer now has the blue screen of death with words telling me that if I try to start the computer with the blue screen of death, I will do further damage to my computer with the blue screen of death.

    I swear, Mallozzi…you’re like the harbinger of doom for computers. 😛


  16. PS…I’m posting from hubby’s laptop. Sounds kinky, but it’s really not…


  17. Thank you, Elizabeth Moon, for the Q&A. It was an interesting addition to the book and the blog discussion.

    One thing I’ve learned, how little an average person (like me) knows about autism. Maybe because there are so many different types. The only autistic person I know (not close) is more like Lou. Pretty independent.

    Question for Joe: You’ve never asked questions yourself for any author’s Q&A, have you? Why not? Because I can imagine, as a writer you might come up with different questions than your blog readers.

    @ chevron7

    I like taking (psychological) quizzes, too. 🙂

    And I’m also a Logical-Mathematical Thinker. Haven’t read the other types. However, that fits. Not a surprise. I hate illogicality. Except in the fantasy/science fiction areas. I would never say things like: Wizards are non-existent/you can’t travel through a wormhole. 😉 Math was my favorite subject in school. I entertained the idea of studying math and/or computer programming. Don’t know why I’ve never done that. Instead now I crucify myself with learning languages. Which in parts aren’t logical. 😉

    Just finished SGA Season 5 DVDs. I loved the extended Vegas version. Of course, since this ep is my favorite one. 🙂 It’s a pity, we didn’t get more such versions on the DVDs. I take it, the material would be there, since some episodes have been too long and the poor writers/producers had to decide which scenes they should drop/trim.

    There was an incident during a fair here in Germany this weekend. A ride malfunctioned. As a result the people hung headfirst in 5 – 6 meters high for half an hour. The name of the ride? Stargate!…..

  18. I can hardly see to type at the moment let alone read todays blog. My German Shepherd Sassie is dying and probably won’t make it through tonight, The vet says she is in no pain thank god but she is very weak and can barely move now, she is 9 years old and has been the most loyal companion and I’m going to miss her terribly. So give your pups an extra special hug:(

  19. Hi Again Mr M!

    Thanks to Ms Moon for a great discussion. I have printed off todays entry and will read it all, when I am finished the book!

    OK, so funny story for you all!

    As some (on Twitter) may know, Her Royal Highness is not exactly a Sci Fi fan….well…umm..she has watched the sum total of ZERO minutes of SG1 /SGA. How she has avoided this, is the secret to a happy marriage. Trust me.

    Anway, each year HRH usually goes to the International Horse Show at The RDS in Dublin. Now in its 145th year, it is a prestigious show with teams from around the world competing in the Aga Khan Trophy and the Puissance etc. At this point I should raise my hand and say that my knowledge of show jumping is patchy but passable in conversation (much like nuclear reactors)

    Anyway….. gang loaded up and off we went. On the train to Dublin, my wife said ” Well at least there’ll be no Stargate at this!!!”….which got me thinking…”Hmmmm Stargate and Showjumping…how could you mix them up? Could they be two exclusive worlds (pardon the pun)”
    So we arrive amongst the crowds and all of a sudden, one their Imperal Majesties, (my youngest daughter) tugged at my sleeve. Though only 3, she has seen most of the SG1 back catalogue, all of SGA (minus the scary bits) and even can identify some cast for SGU….(I can hear you reaching for Child Services already)
    Anyway, she tugs at my sleeve and points in to one of the jumping arenas http://twitpic.com/ddsns

    And just in case you thought you were seeing things:

    Well, my wife threw her hands up in the air…and declared :
    “I give up!”

    Anybody got Mark Savela’s number so we could “light it up?”

    Best to all


    PS If this is some imaginative viral MGM advertising….nicely done!

  20. Many, many thanks to Elizabeth Moon for such a thoughtful – and thought provoking – Q&A. It is clear why her books are so great.

    Thanks again to you, Joe, for providing a forum like this for everyone.

  21. Hi Joe! Just delurking to see if you could dedicate today’s entry to jumble, who is celebrating her birthday today. She would get a kick out of it.

    You rock!


  22. @Anne Teldy
    Sorry to hear you’re needing antibiotics again.
    Hope you get gooder and better soon.
    Yes, my grammar and grampar are attrocious.

    LOL….thanks for sharing that priceless story.

  23. I’ve never heard of The Speed of Dark prior to this blog, but I’m looking forward to reading it soon. I have a 10-year-old son with Asperger syndrome, and while I would never encourage him to go through with a similar treatment, I wonder what he would choose for himself? I believe it’s a mistake to try to eradicate autism from the human race. Try not to approach it as a disease, but a different way of thinking. Where would we be without Einstein and others who were able to make scientific breakthroughs because they had the ability to think “outside the box” or to stick with a problem long enough to come up with novel solutions? I recently attended a workshop with a woman whose autistic father helped to develop ATM machines. She said when they wanted to play Monopoly they had to raid her dad’s prototype.

  24. @shiningwit… I’m so sorry about your dear Sassie German Shepard. Be comforted and know she is aware of your love for her, pets can sense that from us.

    Having 9 years with her is a blessing, for you and for her. My prayers are with you. Take good care.


  25. Joe, questions about the kino…

    1. What is the relationship between the kino and the long-range communication device?

    2. What are the main components of a kino?

    3. How many kino are there?

    4. Does the kino have any artificial intelligence?

    5. What has the kino been doing all these millions of years?

    6. Does the kino have any quirky traits?

    7. Does the kino go off the ship?

    8. Does the kino facilitate communication with aliens who don’t communicate in conventional ways?

    9. Does the kino facilitate contact with aliens who live in environments inhospitable to humans?

    10. Does the kino facilitate communication when the communicators are experiencing relativistic effects?

    11. Is the kino nosey?

    12. Does the kino have any pets? If so, what is its understanding of selective breeding?

    See? I can ask twelve questions without (overtly) bringing up gremlins or cephalopods.


    I would challenge you two to come up with 12 questions that don’t involve albinos or science, respectively, but I’d be a hypocrite since some of my questions were inspired by cuttlefish and a notion about pug versions of gremlins.

  26. shiningwit – Thinking of you. So sorry to hear.

    Joe – Poor Japan has been at the wrong end of nature’s battering stick over the last 24 hours.

    And to those in Thailand and surrounding regions who are on tsunami alert, here’s hoping the ocean stays calm.

  27. @ shiningwit – {{{hugs}}} I know all too well what you are going through. 🙁 Hang in there…thoughts are with you…


  28. Very interesting Q&A, thanks for that 🙂

    I have a question that’s kinda SGU related, but not about the show itself.

    Do you think we’ll be seeing another sort of transitional show, like “From Stargate to Atlantis, a SciFi Lowdown”?
    I thought that was a pretty good way to introduce the concept of the show and get a little behind the scenes info too.

  29. Shirt’n’Tie – Haha, very funny anecdote and great write-up. Thanks for including the link. I like to watch showjumping when possible, and a fence dressed up as a stargate is definitely an image to be savored.

  30. A big thank-you to Elizabeth Moon for spending time with us and answering our questions. Your participation makes reading new and proven classics a big treat. Thanks, Joe, for doing the heavy lifting to make it happen for us.

    Anne Teldy Thanks for peeking in! Come out swingin,’ girl, and you’ll be able to knock this one out, too. The antibiotics are for maintenance, for kicking the pests to the curb. When antibiotics “level” the playing field, they take the good bacteria away, too. Have they given you acidophilous/pro-biotics to add back the good bacteria? That will help a *ton* with the side-effects of the antibiotics, and make your tummy function and feel better.

    Shiningwit, am so sorry to hear about Sassie, your German Shepherd grrrl. Shepherds are incredible dogs. They are so intelligent, loving, and vigilant about their people and surroundings. We also lost our Shepherd grrrl way too soon, and miss her still to this day. Sending lots of understanding and big hugs your way. When you’re able, tell us a story about her and post a picture link.

    Ponytail, otros ojos, Deni, and Narelle, thank you for all the good thoughts for my Dad, and the family. Dad says to say thanks, also. Every day has its challenges. This may take a while.

    Also, Ponytail, thanks for the kind words re: The Speed of Dark. Had to laugh at “better late than never.” My Mom has said that a lot. But this time it was because the cable/Internet was out for three days. 🙂 Not to worry, I never thought Lou was a mistake—that’s why I mourned the loss of who “Lou-before” was. Lou’s parents told him autism was accidental. That freed him to make his own choices.

    Chev, another good quiz. I’m an “intrapersonal thinker,” it says, a “renaissance” person.

    Shirt’n’Tie, that story was a stitch. Love your family updates and dry humor.

  31. Speaking of the BOTM, there’s an interesting article on the bbc news site about autism, and about how Hollywood portrays life as an autistic person:

    link to article

    I thought it made for interesting reading, all the more so after having read Elizabeth Moon’s book.

  32. #shiningwit: So very sorry to hear about Sassie, our thoughts and prayers are with you and her.

  33. @ for the love of Beckett – your views on the religious part of The Speed of Dark just jogged my memory and I wanted to mention about God not creating any mistakes (except maybe cockroaches – gonna have to talk to Him about that one). There was so much symbolism in this book it was hard to think of all of it. Very glad you weighed in with your thoughts. I enjoyed everyones!

    @ shiningwit – you are in my thoughts during this very sad time.

  34. Thanks to Ms. Moon for a wonderful Q&A. It’s interesting the thought that a married couple with some autistic tendencies can have a child with more pronounced ones. I live in Silicon Valley and I know one such couple. There must be a bunch of genes involved. Also it’s very sad to imagine people being diagnosed as severely retarded when really it’s their input processing that’s impaired, not their thought processes. I’m glad we’re getting better at diagnosis, at least.

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