Howard Hendrix is back in Analog with a followup to his 2017 Novella “The Girls with Kaleidoscope Eyes.” Find “The Narrowest Eye” in our current issue on sale now!
Analog Editor: What is the story behind this piece?
HH: I wrote “The Narrowest Eye” in Fall 2017. At the time there was, and continues to be, a lot of discussion—coming particularly out of Silicon Valley—about UBI (Universal Basic Income), as if it were some “new” thing. Because I am cursed with a long memory, however, I remembered reading, in the 1970s, “Riders of the Purple Wage,” a novella by Philip José Farmer that originally appeared in Harlan Ellison’s New Wave anthology Dangerous Visions (1967). I thought it somehow appropriate to be writing this story to remind people that science fiction had already gone there, exactly fifty years earlier.
AE: How did the title for “The Narrowest Eye” come to you?
HH: The title echoes a discussion about the “narrowness of the needle’s eye,” near the end of Walter M. Miller Jr.’s novel A Canticle For Leibowitz, which itself alludes to Mark 10:25, “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God.”
AE: Is this piece part of a greater universe of stories?
HH: Yes, it follows the future chronicled in The Girls with Kaleidoscope Eyes, which appeared in 2017 in Analog, a magazine I first subscribed to in 1977 and which has been publishing my shorter fiction since the mid-Oughts.
AE: Who or what are your greatest influences and inspirations?
HH: I read everything I could find of Arthur C. Clarke’s work during my science fiction Golden Age (13), then omnivorously in science fiction more generally. Because I eventually went on to get a PhD in English literature, I’ve also been steeped in the literary canon as well. When I began to write professionally I returned home to science fiction. For this story I was particularly influenced by Ursula Le Guin’s novel The Dispossessed, Neil Young’s song “After the Gold Rush,” and Mari Ruti’s book of Lacanian theory, The Singularity of Being.
AE: How did you break into writing?
HH: I began selling stories and winning contests in the mid-1980s, after beginning to scribble SFnal stories when I was fifteen years old. Eventually, after graduate school, jobs, and life, my novels started selling in the latter 1990s.
AE: What other projects are you currently working on?
HH: Fairwood Press is working with me on a collection of shorter fiction—The Girls With Kaleidoscope Eyes and Other Analog Stories for a Digital Age. The collection covers ten years of my shorter work published in Analog. I have two novels in the hopper—epic space opera Home from the Swarming Stars (still in need of a grand rewrite) and my most immediate project, the novel Eternity in No Time, which I’m in the midst of.
AE: What are you reading right now?
HH: Burning Planet, a history of fire on Earth, by Andrew C. Scott
AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?
HH: Remember that once you get your foot in the door you will find yourself standing on a treadmill. Take the time to do the work seriously. Don’t fear the future, but don’t sugarcoat or technopimp it, either. The world you save may be your own.
AE: Many of our Analog authors are interested in science. Do you have any scientific background, and does it impact your fiction?
HH: My bachelor’s degree was in biology. I was a phlebotomist and bacteriology tech in a hospital for time, as well as manager of a fish hatchery. I went on to take my master’s and doctorate in English literature. A good background for a science fiction writer, but that wasn’t the plan at the time. It just happened. As Kierkegaard said, Life can only be understood backwards, but it must be lived forwards.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
HH: Below is a link to my TEDx talk. I’m also doing a gig with Kim Stanley Robinson at “SF in SF” if readers are interested in meeting me “live.”
I’ve also got two projects from McFarland on which I’m co-editor: Bridges To Science Fiction (2018) and The Dismal Science: Economics in Science Fiction (2019).