Friday, February 28, 2014

Interview: Lettie Prell

Tell us a bit about yourself and your work.

I was bent on going through college majoring in something practical that would lead to a good job. Yet I filled every elective class I had with literature or writing. I graduated and got the good job; I’m currently research director of the Iowa department of corrections and I’ve enjoyed my career in the justice system very much. But the other side of me insisted on being expressed as well. In my free time I wrote poetry, science fiction and fantasy, and worked on my writing skills by taking more classes and attending critique groups. I used to tell myself it was a hobby, but I have an intense drive to excel at everything I do so to call it a hobby now would be laughable.

The Performance Artist focuses on the merger of humans and technology. That's a very interesting theme to explore with so many possibilities. Do you see humanity actually heading in that direction?

Questions like this are impossible to answer. If I were to say no, it feels like I’m denigrating all the work I put into thinking intensely and in detail about this. If I say yes, I sound a little loony; it’s a bad sign in a science fiction writer to worry about stuff you write coming true. Yet I see people walking around staring at their phones, living inside that world and dangerously close to preferring it—and I wonder what this is leading to.

Most people nowadays seem to neglect reading short stories. They are under the impression that only a novel can provide a fully developed story. Do you think that opinion is warranted? Is it important for people to rediscover the wonder short stories have to offer?

Actually, it’s odd short stories aren’t more popular. The format would seem to fit right in with this fast-paced society known for its short attention span. You can read an entire story during a commute, on a lunch hour or before bed. It’s not a huge investment and if you don’t particularly care for one, choose another. Maybe short stories need a marketing campaign with billboards and prime time commercials.

It's said that writing a good short story is far more difficult than putting a novel together. Do you agree? What would you say the hallmark of a good short story is?

My natural inclination tends toward the novel. I can try to keep it in check, but sometimes the world I create is simply too big to fit into a short story. So it’s a relief when I finish writing a short story and it actually works as a story. Stories are lean body-builders compared to novels. They have to be tight—nothing wasted—with every image supporting the overall piece. Novels can afford to take time to appreciate life; they do a bit of lounging around eating bon bons and talking about fascinating things.

Where did your interest in science fiction start; what drew you to the genre?

I grew up with older brothers and a sister who liked Star Trek, so I watched it, too—we’re talking re-runs in the 1970s. Then in the high school library I discovered Asimov’s Foundation. After reading the trilogy, I worked my way around the room reading all the science fiction: Bradbury, Clarke, Heinlein, Herbert, and so on. What hooked me was the imaginative genius of the writers, and reading about the future. I especially liked reading about aliens because their strangeness challenged the way I looked at things. I liked my mind being pulled in these crazy directions.

Do you have any favourite authors you can recommend?

I admire Nekropolis by Maureen McHugh, and M. John Harrison’s Light. I’ve read quite a bit by Octavia Butler and William Gibson, and I’ve enjoyed reading Ted Chiang and China MiĆ©ville. There are many more I can get excited about, but I’ll stop here.

And finally, if you could integrate yourself with one piece of technology what would it be?

Well, not presently, but when I’m close to natural death, I’d like to be integrated with the Large Hadron Supercollider. Think of it, experiencing the thrill of atom-smashing. But also, can you imagine becoming one with something that learns the secrets of the universe?

More about the author:
Lettie Prell is a science fiction writer who likes to explore the edge where humans and their technology are increasingly merging. In addition to Apex Magazine, her stories have appeared in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Paranormal Underground and elsewhere, and have been featured on the StarShip Sofa podcast. She is also a poet and her haiku were featured in the Iowa Drama Workshop production of Kali Ma!

You can visit her website at or follow her on Twitter - @lettie_prell

1 comment:

  1. Great interview! I See so many people walking around with their bluetooth in their head (really? you are really going to take a call while you are having cavities filled, or while you are changing your baby's diaper in a public restroom? really?), and I too wonder where it's going.

    but being connected to the Large Hadron Supercollider? that is something I would get in line for!!