Andy Dudak takes readers on a wild and disease-ridden ride in “Love in the Time of Immuno-Sharing,” on sale in our current issue now. Learn about his inspirations and his thoughts on job-hopping, cross-immunotherapy, and sassy spaceships in this fun Q&A.
Analog Editor: How did the title for this piece come to you?
AD: At some point during the writing, I thought of the novel Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, even though I hadn’t read it. So, I replaced the working title “Pleasure and Plague,” which I ended up using for the book within the story, a paean to immune-sharing that I kind of based on Rumi.
AE: Are there any themes that you find yourself returning to throughout your writing? If yes, what and why?
AD: I come back to plague, reproduction, and extended phenotype a lot. I’m fascinated by genes expressing beyond the confines of their host bodies. That’s the theme for my story “The Abundance,” forthcoming in The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. As a teenager I wrote a very bad story called “The Love Bug” about a virus that increased the attractiveness and libido of its hosts. A little later there was “The Good Virus,” also terrible, about a virus that conferred longevity. Much later I had a story in Interzone called “Cryptic Female Choice” about women with the internal ability to select and mix genetics from multiple partners to create a child. Ursula Le Guin had a big impact on me, the way she played with gender and modes of reproduction.
I don’t know why I’m into all this weirdness. I’ve always been a biology geek.
AE: How did this story germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?
AD: I’d read about cross-immunotherapy, the stimulation of your partner’s immune system via kissing. I think this could’ve been the subconscious story germ (no pun intended). I had my immuno-sharing concept for months before I concocted an actual plot with characters. At some point during the process I was watching old footage of a Beatles concert on YouTube. The hysteria of the audience struck me, and the story began to gel.
AE: Many of our Analog authors are interested in science. Do you have any scientific background, and does it impact your fiction?
AD: When I was thirteen my friend Chris told me about time dilation. I didn’t believe him, and went and looked it up myself, and I’ve been hooked ever since. I majored in biology until I got to the organic chemistry and washed out. I ended up with an anthropology degree, focused on physical anthro and human evolution. Maybe none of this counts as a science background, but I love science. It’s definitely why I ended up in science fiction. (The last I heard from Chris, he was repurposing DNA as computer memory.)
AE: What careers have you had and how do they affect your writing?
AD: I’ve been a screenplay reader, caricaturist, pizza cook, search engine optimization salesman, construction laborer, house painter, English teacher, burger flipper, library shelver, and Mandarin translator, among other things. At one point I was a winter caretaker at a fly-in fishing lodge, alone in the Alaskan bush for eight months. I like to think the screenplay coverage honed my dialogue. I had nothing to do at that lodge but read and write, so I think of it as my creative writing grad program. I’ve tried to get Ken Liu to admit that his translating work improved his writing, for my own peace of mind, but he won’t go there. If nothing else, my sixty-odd jobs have motivated me to improve my writing so I can become a career writer and drop the day jobs forever. Not likely, I know.
AE: What other projects are you currently working on?
AD: I’m translating a lot of Chinese science fiction these days, mostly for Clarkesworld, and I translate the occasional story on spec. When there’s time or brain power, I research a possible story about Virtual Private Networks becoming self-aware. I’m also trying to write a novel set in my “human system” universe, where wild starships cultivate oblivious human populations within themselves. I’ve had two short stories from this universe published: “Human System” at Ray Gun Revival and “Taste the Whip” at Diabolical Plots.
AE: What is the weirdest research rabbit-hole that working on a story has led you down?
AD: At one point I was researching dark energy, and the camel-mounted guns of nineteenth-century warfare, for the same story. The story didn’t pan out, but I have no regrets.
AE: If you could choose one SFnal universe to live in, what universe would it be, and why?
AD: I’ll go with Ian Banks’ Culture, even though it must be a common answer. Progressive, enlightened, full of intelligent and sassy starships. It sounds even better than Norway.
AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?
AD: Besides the usual (read a lot, write a lot, don’t give up), I think meeting other writers is important. Chat with them, drink with them, get inspired. Synergy can happen in a thriving writer’s community, like the one I was privileged to be a part of in Seattle. Even if you’re in a small town, try to find other writers in your area to interact with. Or join online communities like Codex. We writers too easily become recluses, and that can lead to stagnation.
AE: What are you reading right now?
AD: I’m bouncing around between Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee, The Fifth Season by NK Jemisin, The Silk Roads by Peter Frankopan, and The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy edited by Charles Yu.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
AD: Twitter: @Andy_Dudak; Website: https://andydudak.com/