Gregor Hartmann’s second story for Analog this year began with real-life mammoth-revival projects and grew from there. He stopped by to talk with us about the origins, title, and greater universe of “Brought Near to Beast” [in our current issue, on sale now]. Read on for the inside scoop, and a book recommendation too!
Analog Editor: What is the story behind this piece?
GH: A number of projects to recreate mammoths are underway around the world. I’ve always been fond of elephants, so the idea of once again having “retro” elephants on the prowl is delightful. But it occurred to me that to do that sort of thing right, you can’t just recreate one adorable species. You have to recreate an entire ecology, which means a range of herbivores—and carnivores. I considered what the result would look like. Voilà! This story.
AE: How did the title for this piece come to you?
GH: I work very hard at titles. For this story I generated 20 or 30 possibilities. Along the way I happened to see a performance of King Lear. There’s a monologue in Act 2, Scene 3, spoken by Edgar, who has been framed by his evil half-brother. Outlawed, Edgar is on the run and preparing to disguise himself as a madman to evade capture, and describes himself as “brought near to beast.”
AE: Is this piece part of a greater universe of stories?
GH: Absolutely. The future history I’m slowly revealing divides broadly into two phases. The ChoRen and their doings lie in the near future. Another series of stories set on Zephyr occur in a successor civilization, thousands of years later, which in many ways is a reaction to and rejection of what you see the ChoRen doing here.
Avoid the obvious. Write something that hasn’t been written before.
AE: What is your history with Analog?
GH: This is my second story in this fine magazine this year. I hope there will be more!
AE: How do you deal with writer’s block?
GH: I switch to another project and let the troublesome one lie fallow for a while. So I now have three things in the works: two Zephyr stories, and one near-future tale, set in the Asteroid Belt, which addresses the rise of the ChoRen.
AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?
GH: Avoid the obvious. Write something that hasn’t been written before.
AE: What are you reading right now?
GH: Louise Erdrich’s The Last Report on the Miracles at Little No Horse. It goes slowly, because her writing is so lush I often stop to reread a particularly evocative paragraph or page.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?