The speaker interviews – Annalee Newitz

We talked recently with Annalee Newitz, geek, writer and all-round sci-fi fan-girl.

Webstock: You get to blog about things like, “Ten of the Kinkiest Science Fiction Books You’ll Ever Read”. You must, surely, have the best job in the world. Can you tell us a little about what you do?

Annalee: My primary focus these days is running, a blog about science fiction and science that’s part of the Gawker Media network. I work with a team of writers, and every day we deliver a mix of entertainment news in the scifi world, as well as details on the coolest new scientific discoveries. We post about 25-30 times per day, with a little less on weekends, so we tend to spend workdays on tight deadlines, exchanging a million little messages on IM or in our Campfire online meeting room. My job as editor-in-chief is to keep the whole ship running: I write, I edit, I balance the budget, and I try to stay in touch with editors at related blogs to let them know when we’ve posted something interesting.

Oh and then in the times when I’m not doing that, I freelance for Popular Science and New Scientist, and I’m writing a book. Just call me a graphomaniac.

Webstock: What’s coming in the next 10 years that really really scares you?

Annalee: I think the scenario that scares me most is one of runaway poverty, combined with climate change that wrecks traditional food sources like farms and oceans. Octavia Butler wrote a very believable set of books called Parable of the Sower and Parable of the Talents which describe a near-future United States whose government has collapsed. Gangs are competing with evangelical terrorists for control of local areas, and poverty has exacerbated political differences to the point where violence is part of everyday life. Some might say these novels are about the conditions of the developing world coming to the developed world. I think Butler’s scenario illustrates my biggest fear. Which is that we’ll make choices over the next decade that permanently destroy our ability to develop the planet so we can provide education, health care, renewable energy, and decent livelihoods for everyone.

Webstock: Is the election of Barack Obama the beacon of hope that so many outside of America look to?

Annalee: Well, he’s better than the other guy! But he’s a politician, and has made some poor choices when it comes to tech and science policy, so I wouldn’t get my hopes up too much.

Webstock: Who are the four people, living or dead, you’d invite to your ideal dinner party, and why?

Annalee: Tonight’s ideal dinner party will include early feminist and scifi author Alice B. Sheldon (AKA James Tiptree, Jr.), whose life I’ve been eagerly reading about in Julie Phillips’ fantastic biography. She’d probably have a lot to talk about with second dinner guest, the software compiler geek Grace Hopper. They were both in the military at a time when few women were – and they were both pretty geeky science types at a time when women were pushed out of labs and into the home. Along with the two of them, it would be fun to have deposed Harvard president Lawrence Summers, who has argued repeatedly that women don’t possess a natural aptitude for science. I’d love to see them slap him around. Finally, I’d invite my partner in crime Charlie Jane Anders, since she makes delightful conversation and would love to see Larry get slapped around by Alice and Grace too.

Webstock: On the apocryphal desert island, you’re allowed one book, one CD and one movie. What would they be?

Annalee: Several terabyte drives containing every book ever written, plus my entire music and video collections? Can I say that?

Webstock: Hardly in the spirit of the question! But a suitably geeky and appropriate answer. We’re looking forward to seeing you here in February!