When Marco Frassetto’s mother asked him if he would publish in Astounding, little did he know that yes, he’d be making his publishing debut in
Astounding’s Analog’s pages! Marco appears on the SF scene in our September/October issue [on sale now!] with his story “The Hunger.” Read on to learn about the weird nature fact that inspired “The Hunger,” the Italian astrophysicist who inspired its protagonist, and Marco’s thoughts on the life vs. technology dichotomy.
Analog Editor: How did this story germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?
MF: I got the initial idea as I learned something new: that locusts and grasshoppers are the same animals. In fact, in certain environmental conditions, grasshoppers can become locusts. When they do so, they change in both behavior and physical appearance! I found that fascinating, and it sparked the original idea for the story. I also like thinking about the way technology and life can mimic each other, so I had the idea for the locust drones.
AE: What made you think of Analog for this story?
MF: It was a natural fit for a fairly details-heavy science fiction story, but there’s a secondary reason I submitted to Analog first: when I started writing in English, I told my mother (who is very encouraging, but can’t read English) I’d submit to magazines, and she was surprisingly enthusiastic: turns out American SF magazines reached Italian newsstands when she was a teen, and so she asked me if I “would publish on Astounding”—I looked for it and found out it was Analog’s former name. So yes, mom, turns out I published on Astounding.
AE: Who or what are your greatest influences and inspirations?
MF: For science fiction writing (beside the usual classics, Le Guin and Asimov in particular), I think Charles Stross and Adrian Tchaikovsky influenced me the most. As for inspiration, I think scientific news, curiosities and even regular news feed my creative process the most.
AE: Are there any themes that you find yourself returning to throughout your writing? If yes, what and why?
MF: I’m fascinated by the idea of thinking of life as a technology—we tend to think of life and technology as opposites, or different categories at least, but that’s not necessarily the case: whatever happens in nature, it’s something we can understand and learn to use. While less relevant to “The Hunger,” I also like to think of the ways humanity (or other species) could change themselves with technology in the far and not-so-far future.
AE: What other projects are you currently working on?
MF: Right now, I’m working on a fantasy novel! It’s my take on the magical school trope, choosing a teacher instead of a student as a main character. I’m having a lot of fun writing it, and I hope people will like reading it, someday.
AE: What is the weirdest research rabbit-hole that working on a story has led you down?
MF: Beside doing enough research on nuclear weapons and propulsion to end up on every possible watchlist on the planet, I spent way too much time studying non-Euclidean geometries and the way to represent and map them, for a story with a weird afterlife which I didn’t even write in the end.
I’m fascinated by the idea of thinking of life as a technology—we tend to think of life and technology as opposites, or different categories at least, but that’s not necessarily the case: whatever happens in nature, it’s something we can understand and learn to use.
AE: What are you reading right now?
MF: Children of Ruin, by Adrian Tchaikovsky! I highly recommend it to any non-arachnophobe reader.
AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?
MF: If you are an up-and-coming writer, please let me know how you did it, this is literally my first and so far only published piece
AE: Many of our Analog authors are interested in science. Do you have any scientific background, and does it impact your fiction?
MF: I have a PhD in physics, and I worked on nanotechnologies, which informed this specific story to some extent. But honestly, I learned more useful physics from science fiction than the other way around.
Sometimes my scientific background affects my science fiction reading, though. I try not to fixate on accuracy when I read, but a scientific background makes it harder to roll with it when authors are, well, creative with the science—I can’t just “not think about it.” I have to actively suppress my understanding of how the world works, so I end up reading stories praised for accuracy, or those which avoid scientific details entirely.
AE: What is something we should know about you that we haven’t thought to ask?
MF: Something I want to tell you about my story, actually, and didn’t fit that well the previous questions: The main character (an old, grumpy, slightly arrogant but good-natured engineer) has a very specific inspiration.
She’s a homage to a childhood hero of mine, Italian astrophysicist and science communicator Margherita Hack (who passed away ten years ago). She was a fiery, passionate woman, and when she visited my high school—aged almost ninety—she ended up in an argument with a philosophy professor, and loudly cursing the Pope. She left an impression on me.
Also, she’d be extremely angry if she read this story, because the character inspired by her is an engineer.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
MF: I sometimes talk about my writing and do threads about my interests on twitter, with the handle @MalvagioMarco.
Just finished the story, I really liked it, so much so it prompted me to renew my subscription. My dad had me watch the Hellstrom Chronicle when I was younger and so I never looked at a grasshopper the same way since.