Q: Is there one story line or premise you hope you never see again? Or do you remain open minded?
A: I am totally open minded–isn’t that the most exciting thing about great fiction, that it can change your mind about a subject or genre you thought you’d never be interested in? I read sci fi and fantasy and I love literary fiction that combines those elements, but I wasn’t a big crime reader until Zoe Ferraris’s amazing debut Finding Nouf landed on my desk. She drew me in with her detailed depiction of life in Saudi Arabia and the character of Nayir–a man who never intended to become a detective but who ends up solving a crime. After that I started reading more mysteries.
Well, when you look at a lot of science fiction novels they’re asking questions about power. There are questions about what it means to have power and what are the long-term consequences of power. When you think about the Dune novels — the original Dune novels start out as this Machiavellian fix-up — the battle between these houses — but they turn out to be a very troubling meditation on what it means to take over an entire civilization and set it on a certain path.
But there were other books that just were supremely important to me, where I was like, damn. Stuff was happening in these science fiction books that I wasn’t seeing anywhere. Whether it was the Dorsai series or Harry Harrison or the Death World novels, where they’re imprisoned in this nightmare world where it’s sort of like a Doom videogame on crack. There was all of this extreme stuff happening that resonated with a lot of the ideas and experiences and the historical shadows that have been cast from the Dominican Republic. I didn’t see mainstream, literary, realistic fiction talking about power, talking about dictatorship, talking about the consequences of breeding people, which of course is something that in the Caribbean is never far away.