Sci-Fi Writer Matt Kressel Talks About the Singularity, Data Privacy, and Short Stories
Wake Up Call: How Matt Kressel Became a Sci-Fi Writer
Kressel grew up reading a lot of the classic sci-fi authors: Isaac Asimov, Robert Heinlein, Arthur. C. Clarke, and H.P. Lovecraft, whose story "The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath" held particular fascination for him. Kressel admits that his urge to write speculative fiction came from being a lifelong daydreamer, but it took a memento mori to help turn his dreams into a career: "I was in the street when the towers fell," he recalls, referring to the September 11th terrorist attacks. In the aftermath of the attacks, Kressel thought about his own death and his writing career and asked "Why am I waiting?"
He credits a 2002 writing class with Alice Turner at The New School as the impetus for taking his writing career to the next level. After finishing the class, he was recommended by Turner to join the writing group Altered Fluid in 2003, which now includes authors like N.K. Jemisin, Sam J Miller, and Richard Bowes.
From the Singularity to Post-Earth: The Fiction of Matt Kressel
One of Kressel's most popular stories is "The Sounds of Old Earth," published in the 2013 issue of Lightspeed Magazine and nominated for a Nebula Award the same year. The story deals with the last days of the planet Earth, which is scheduled to be destroyed by its former residents, who have settled in space colonies and need their old planet's raw materials to fabricate their idyllic new worlds, all designed to fit human needs.
Kressel says the inspiration for the story came from watching people's reactions to the destruction of Yankee Stadium—many New Yorkers welcomed having a brand-new stadium built, despite the tremendous amount of history that would be destroyed in the process of tearing down the old one. Another inspiration came from Kressel's concern with environmentalism and the indifference he encountered when talking about the future of Earth in an era defined by environmental disasters and climate change.
Another of Kressel's popular works is "The Meeker and the All-Seeing Eye", which was a 2014 Nebula Award Nominee. The story deals with a universe-spanning artificial intelligence who has consumed all life in the universe and is now trawling the dying galaxy to harvest stars, accompanied by its companion, The Meeker. Kressel says the original idea for the story (which came to him just before falling asleep) was to have two alien garbage truck drivers looping around the galaxy, collecting the remnants of the stars. Instead, the story grew into a narrative about "a giant machine mind with insatiable curiosity" and "what happens when there's nothing left to be discovered," as well as how an individual can confront the Singularity.
In addition to his short stories, Matt Kressel is the author of the Worldmender Trilogy, whose second novel, Queen of Static, is set to be released later in the year. The series delves into Jewish mythology, Qabbalah, the many-worlds hypothesis, and portal fantasy, where a person is taken out of everyday life and thrown into another world. In the case of the Worldmender Trilogy, the person thrown into another world is one of the Lamed Vav, the 36 righteous people whose existence protects the rest of humanity. The series evokes Kressel's perennial themes of shattered worlds and solitary main characters, and received ecstatic praise from NPR, Publishers Weekly, and others.
Where Science Meets Science Fiction: Data and Technology
All things considered, Matt Kressel is undoubtably a sci-fi writer's sci-fi writer—his fiction is both intensely imaginative and consciously rooted in the issues of modern life, allowing readers to peer through a window into worlds that are at once alien and strangely familiar. It's a rare author that can pull that off, and an even rarer one that can do it again and again.
Look for Matt's upcoming stories, "The Last Novelist," coming out on Tor.com on March 15th, "Love Engine Optimization," coming out in Lightspeed Magazine in May, and "In Memory of a Summer's Day" in Mad Hatters and March Hares, a creepy Alice in Wonderland anthology edited by Ellen Datlow, coming out later this year. You can also keep up to date with Matt on his Facebook, Twitter, and website.