Ruud van de Kruisweg
Griffith is a British born SF writer now living in the US.
Her debut novel AMMONITE created quite a stir when it was
first published as a Del Rey Discovery in 1993. It won the
Lambda Award and James Tiptree Jr. Award, was nominated for
the Arthur C. Clarke Award and the British Science Fiction
Award and barely missed winning the Locus Award for the best
new SF writer. Definitely a writer to watch and enough grounds
for an e-mail interview.
HSF: First, can you tell us something about yourself?
NG: I was born in 1960, in Leeds, England, the second youngest
of five girls. Went to an all-girl catholic convent school
and realized at a tender age (well below the age of consent)
that I was a dyke. Single sex education worked out very well
I went to Clarion in 1988 (the first UK citizen to attend,
I think) where I met Kelley Eskridge - also an SF writer.
We have lived together in Atlanta, Georgia, for five years.
Some time in the next year or two we plan to move to the Pacific
Northewest (Portland, Seattle, Bellingham) because the cooler
climate will be much better for my health. I was diagnosed
with multiple sclerosis in March 1993. Being ill pisses me
off because it means I can't (a) work as hard or as often
as I would like, and (b) I can no longer teach women's self
defence and martial arts, which is something I have enjoyed
doing for the last ten years.
In the last ten or fifteen years I have, at various points,
also been a singer/songwriter, fronting the all-dyke band,
Janes Plane; an alcohol and drugs counsellor and case worker
(awful job, hard, depressing, badly paid); a hotline counsellor;
a bouncer at a club; a tree technician and fence builder;
a waitress; labourer at an archaeological dig; I've occasionally
earned money is ways I'm not terribly proud of, now, but which
seemed necessary at the time I've taught writing courses in
the UK, and hope--now that I have my immigrant visa--to get
a Writer-in-Residence post at a university here in the US.
Two of the biggest things in my life have occurred in the
last year: Kelley and I got married, and I got approval from
the US State Department to live and work in this country on
the basis of my importance as a writer of lesbian/science
fiction. (Apparently I made legal history, the first out dyke
to get something called a "national interest waiver" and admittance
on the basis of being an "alien of exceptional ability.")
The marriage has changed my life profoundly, in ways that
would take too long to describe here. Let's just say I'm very
happy, and quite lucky.
HSF: What were the books and authors that shaped your writing
NG: The books that influenced how I read, and what I _want_
from books when I read, were by those to whom I tend to refer
as the English Landscape Writers: Mary Stewart, Mary Renault,
Henry Treece, Rosemary Sutcliffe et al. They were primarily
historical novelists, but their work contained a definite
element of historical myth-as-reality. It gave me a frisson,
a fizz in my bones, that mainstream fiction did (and can)
not. From those books I went on to read history books -- Gibbon's
'Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire', for example -- and
books on gods and goddesses, the celts and amazons and myths.
I hated children's books. And then I discovered SF and fantasy:
Frank Herbert's 'Dune' (oh, I loved that book at age thirteen!);
Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings' (ditto, at age 11-- still do,
actually); Asimov's 'Foundation', and E.E. 'Doc' Smith's 'Lensman'
series. They were the books which helped form my idea of SF:
biology, sociology, and world saving/dooming conspiracies
Of course, once I hit fifteen, I began to dislike SF: there
were no women in it. I gave it up, and just read lesbian fiction
for a while. Then at about age nineteen, I discovered Ursula
Le Guin. And Joanna Russ. And Vonda McIntyre, and Octavia
Butler, and Kate Wilhelm, and Suzy McKee Charnas, and Elizabeth
Lynn. It felt like coming home. "Yes," I thought, "this is
what it's all about." Biology, sociology, gadgets _and_ women.
Fabulous. From there, I gradually eased back into the flow
of SF, and now I enjoy the work of all the above, plus John
Kessel, Robert Silverberg, Michael Swanwick, Nancy Kress,
Judith Moffett and, literally, dozens of others. And then
I began to realize that lots of feminist mainstream writers
-- Margaret Atwood, Marge Piercy, Doris Lessing -- were actually
writing science fiction. What was going on?
The way I see it, reality is currently too big and too varied
for any piece of "realistic fiction" to characterize it. So
people are turning again to big themes, mythic sweeps...extra-reality,
if you like...which leads to SF.
HSF: Nice to see that you count Elizabeth Lynn as one of
your inspirations. She wrote a couple of very good novels
with likeable gay/lesbian characters in the early eighties.
I read that she gave up writing for her job as an akido instructor.
I wonder if she was the first openly lesbian SF writer?
NG: I don't know. How does one define 'openly lesbian' in
terms of the author? There are several writers out there who
are dykes, and often include lesbians and gay men in the their
work, and at conventions and so forth they hang out with their
partners...but their bios on the backs of books don't mention
their partners, and their dedications are coy. Are they out?
I don't know. Should they be? Again, I don't know. But I found
out Lynn was a dyke through eating breakfast with a woman
who went to school with one of Lynn's ex-girlfriends. Nothing
on her books indicated unequivocally that she was a dyke.
Gael Baudino was the first SF writer I read whose bio said
'Ms. Baudino lives with her lover, so-and-so (I forget her
name now) in such and such a city. ' It's something I've always
been absolutely adamant about to my publishers: "I want it
out there, up front, in big letters: Nicola is a dyke and
she lives with her partner in Atlanta." Some people want to
know: "But why do you want to tell everyone you're a dyke?
Why does it matter?" They think it's rather vulgar of me to
talk about my private life. For me it's quite simple: if the
reader doesn't know I'm a dyke, s/he'll assume I'm straight;
_not_ saying I'm a dyke, therefore, would be lying by omission.
Besides, I'm still at that proud, stand-on-top-of-the-empire-state-building
and-yell-it-to-the-world stage of marriage to Kelley. She's
a gorgeous, brilliant woman, and I'm thrilled that she loves
me. It makes me feel smug and pleased with myself. (I suspect
it always will.)
HSF: Was the choice to write SF an obvious one? I sometimes
hear that fans and/or writers are drawn to SF/fantasy because
it gives them room to be themselves and being 'different'
is not frowned upon. How true was this for you?
NG: What I write has nothing to do with how other people think,
or feel, or act. Those who don't like the fact that I'm a
dyke had just better keep that fact to themselves, or be prepared
to face my displeasure. So far, no one in SF has ever given
me any indication that they believe being a dyke is anything
remarkable. This is partly because that's the response I demand,
and partly because those involved in SF have a great deal
invested in appearing to be cool, radical, and into Changing
Times. Being reactionary and homophobic would really destroy
that illusion. Besides, in the last few years, I have come
to the conclusion that I don't care what other people _feel_
about me being a dyke, I don't care what they _think_, I only
care about how they _behave_.
I write SF because that's what gives me a buzz; that's the
way my mind works. Mainstream work often seems to have something
missing. When I read I want not only the writer's analysis
of how their world has affected them (whether that's the present
or the future, here or somewhere else, gay or straight), but
also of how they can then affect the world. I like a writer
who can expose systems: political, biological, social and
cultural. Sometimes mainstream is just a little too self-involved
and personal, a little too myopic.
HSF: 'Ammonite' has won two SF prizes: the Lambda award
for best lesbian SF novel in 1993 and this year the James
Tiptree Award. What's your feeling about an SF award especially
for homosexual SF/fantasy novels? Is there a need for such
a prize? Shouldn't books be judged on quality and not on the
sexual preferences of the protagonists?
NG: Let me answer that with another questions: do you think
there's a need for a literary award (for example, the Hugo,
or Nebula, or Campbell) especially for SF novels? There are
already plenty of literary awards such as the Booker Prize,
the Nobel, the Pulitzer. Shouldn't all books be judged on
quality, and not the reality and/or possibility of their setting?
I believe that prizes based on sexual orientation are at least
as valid as those based upon genre. I have to say I _love_
winning prizes. It's a great encouragement (writing can be
a lonely business) for me, and--I imagine--a useful tool for
the reader in search of good material.
HSF: Was it difficult to get the book accepted? I would think
that Ballantine/Del Rey wasn't the first choice for a novel
NG: 'Ammonite' was not difficult to get accepted. As a matter
of fact, I had offers from several American publishers (for
example, St. Martin's, and Avon) before I accepted the one
from Ballantine/Del Rey. I had three reasons. One, Del Rey
were willing to let me keep the book whole and uncut (it's
a longish book for writer that no one in the States had ever
heard of before). Two, they offered about twice as much money
as the other publishers. Three, the distribution network of
Random House (Ballantine's parent company) is the best in
the country: if I went with Ballantine, my book would appear
in every airport, every chain, every supermarket and every
speciality bookshop in the US and Canada. And it did. The
issue of lesbianism and feminism never came up. However, sales-wise,
I do think the book had to struggle against the perception
that it would be some kind of awful Womyn's Utopia peopled
by seven feet tall, wise, kind, vegetarian amazons who burned
men in effigy at the full moon. And there were probably many
who wished it was one of those gals-as-one-of-the-boys books,
where the woman drinks anything that pours, pilots anything
that flies and fucks everything that moves. Instead, it's
a book about people, every variety of people--smart and stupid,
kind and venal, indifferent and vicious, etc.--who all happen
to be women. This seems to upset some readers, who persist
in seeing a book about women as a man- hating or man-fearing
novel, when--if the book is defined in terms of men at all,
which I find irritating--it is more accurately a man-less
novel. HSF: How do you feel about the constant comparisons
between 'Ammonite' and 'The Left Hand of Darkness'? NG: Mixed:
pleased, that my work is considered to be in the same class
as Le Guin's; irritated, because I want my work to be sui
generis. 'Darkness' is a marvellous piece of work. I borrowed
from it quite consciously the idea of Marghe as a lone ambassador.
(There again, that's an idea that has been a great deal--for
example, Gentle's 'Golden Witchbreed.') The snow and ice stuff
seems to be a motif quite common to feminist work: Shelley's
'Frankenstein,' Russ, Lessing, Slonczewski, Bryant, Charnas,
Piercy etc all use the trial-by-ice, Demeter myth in some
form or another. [See 'A New Species: Gender and Science in
Science Fiction' by Robin Roberts for more on this.] But I
don't mind the comparisons, in the end, because there is a
link between the two books: both were seen as breaking ground
when they were published. Both were seen to be both less and
more radical than they actually are. The radical subtext of
'Darkness' is simple: people are people, despite biological
sex. The radical subtext of 'Ammonite' is equally simple:
women are people, despite biological sex and socially constructed
gender roles. Both of those statements are manifestly true.
Both are occasionally forgotten. Both need repeating, over
HSF: David Brin complained in an interview with HSF that
he felt that was excluded for the James Tiptree Award because
of political reasons: "As I say in my afterword, it is a topic
in which men are often denied to have the same wisdom or insight
as female authors. Fortunately, only a few silly people have
said that about Glory Season... (although those few did make
certain the book was not considered for the James Tiptree
Award (for gender bending SF)."
NG: I was delighted when the book won the Tiptree Award. The
award _is_ political, in the sense that _all_ decisions based
upon subjective criteria are political (remember the truism,
'The personal is political?'), and that the declared and specific
aim of the award is for it to go the novel or short work which
best examines and _expands_ gender roles in science fiction.
I'm a little unsure about what you intended with the quotes
from David Brin. While haven't read his 'Glory Season', I
am quite certain that what mattered was not whether or not
the author was male or female, but whether the work itself
did anything to stretch the current thinking on gender roles,
attitudes and expectations. If the book had been good enough,
it would have been considered.
HSF: He also shares your view about matriarchal societies.
NG: I think the current thinking that patriarchal societies
are inherently violent, and matriarchies nurturing, is erroneous
and based entirely on wishful thinking. There is evidence
that early matriarchies were astonishly brutal and bloody.
(Where do you suppose the later patriarchal cultures got the
example?) Brin is right, though, when he says not all matriarchies
need be pastoral. Most women love technology: it saves our
lives on a daily basis; it makes for speedy travel; it produces
tampax, knives that stay eternally sharp, and agricultural
machinery that takes the sweat out of growing potatoes and
milking cows. It makes typing easier, hot movies possible,
and twelve gauge shotguns affordable to all. Who doesn't like
technology, really? There's nothing wrong with science and
machines, but the Industrial Revolution changed us and our
culture. It's time our values changed to match.
'Ammonite' was set on a non-technological world. Realistically,
when you put several hundred people on a raw planet with practically
zero metals and then kill half of them off, four hundred years
later the people are lucky to be alive, never mind living
in Futuropolis. The women in my novel are very sophisticated
in terms of art, and agriculture and so on; they are ingenious
with what implements it's possible to produce with wood and
ceramic. They are smart (well, some are; in every culture
you get a few greedy and/or stupid people) and savvy (again,
mostly), just not over-endowed with hydro-electric generators
or computer chips.
HSF: It's a pity that you haven't read Brin's 'Glory Season'.
One of the things that surprised me about that novel was that
Brin completely ignored sexuality between women, even though
the world in that book was almost completely populated by
women. The one thing that surprised me about your book was
that men didn't play a part. Marghe for instance doesn't seem
to have a sexual history, either lesbian or heterosexual,
before she arrives on Jeep. This prevents a couple of interesting
conflicts from happening. If she'd have considered herself
heterosexual, she'd be in an emotional turmoil after falling
in love with another woman; on the other hand, if she'd had
lesbian love affairs, she might have considered her coming
to Jeep a sort of home coming.
NG: I'm not really surprised that Brin ignores sexuality between
women in 'Glory Season.' The first time I noticed a women-only
world written by a man was Lyrane, in E.E. 'Doc' Smith's Lensman
series: women who were strong, beautiful, intelligent and
so on...but they didn't understand the concepts of love, sex,
art; their social structure was static, hierarchical and insectlike;
they had no great inventors or innovators. In other words,
they were not fully human. This seems to be the assumption
of many, many male writers: women, on their own, are not people;
they only assume human attributes in the presence of men.
This implication is sometimes subtle, sometimes blatant, but
is disturbingly frequent. Brin's lack of acknowledgment of
women as sexual beings in and of themselves is just one more
manifestation of the assumption that women aren't really human.
So I'm not surprised any more, but almost always disappointed.
One of the reasons I didn't mention Marghe's sexual history
before landing on Jeep was that it was not necessary to the
story (how much do we know about Genly Ai before he goes to
Winter? how much about Christie before she turns up as envoy
in 'Witchbreed'?). I just assumed she was a dyke, and went
on from there. There was one review of the book where the
reviewer decided that Marghe actually came out on the planet:
he read the whole book in terms of her angst at 'coming to
terms' with being a lesbian. Marghe is a SEC representative
and anthropologist; it's how she sees herself, what she thinks
about. The fact that she's a dyke matters--to her--about as
much as her eye colour, or her favourite breakfast food. The
point of the book is that gender, and biological sex, and
sexual orientation don't _matter_, not really. What matters
is how generous you are, or how willing to learn; how adaptable
you can be, or how steadfast.
HSF: You've completed your second novel. When will it be
published? How does it compare to 'Ammonite' and what can
you tell us about it?
NG: My next novel is an entirely different kettle of fish.
'Slow River' is set in a near-future urbanscape. It begins
with a woman who is kidnapped, then dumped, nameless and naked
and hurt, in the middle of strange city, in a strange country,
in the dead of night. It is a novel about the essential nature
of self. If you had no name, no job, no money, no clothes,
no friends or family or support system, and couldn't go to
the police because you believed you had just killed one of
your kidnappers, what would you do and how far would you step
outside your moral code to stay alive? And what would happen
on the morning when you woke up and could not longer face
the person you had become?
The book is set in the future, and deals peripherally with
information technology, but 'Slow River' is _not_ a cyberpunk
novel in the nihilistic mode. It is realistic, yes, in its
depiction of urban lowlife, but full of the beauty and hope
(and absurdity) of everyday life: sunshine and the way it
changes the texture of stone-clad buildings; the taste of
a hot, fragrant cup of tea; the eyes of a squirrel balanced
on a power line....
The protagonist is a woman called Frances Lorien van de Oest,
Lore for short, the youngest of three siblings born to Katerine
and Oster van de Oest, the owners and officers of the very
rich, and very powerful -- but still family owned and controlled
-- van de Oest corporation. The VDO Corp made its money from
patenting genetically engineered bacteria and fungi and the
nutrients they need to live on, which are used in various
bioremediation processes. Primitive bioremediation is already
with us (remember the oil-gobbling microbes that helped clear
up after the Exxon-Valdez spill in Prince William Sound?),
but in my near future I have imagined solar aquatics--the
transformation of sewage into clean drinking water, edible
fish and recycled heavy metals without the addition of harsh
chemicals; and the return of the Kirghizi desert from its
dioxin-riddled failed-cotton monoculture wasteland to its
steppe state using six hundred-foot high heliostats, artificial
waterfalls, and glass pipelines hundreds of miles long. In
_Slow River_ there are descriptions of and opinions on: personality,
a kidnapping, hot but science- fictional sex, nanotechnology,
lesbian prostitution, growing up, dangerous and potent aphrodisiacs,
illegal media piggyback scams, pornography, fashion, the responsibilities
of the rich to the poor, fame, vice, survival and, oh, dozens
of other things.
Stylistically, it's quite different from 'Ammonite.' There
are no lyrical descriptions, no world-threatening Bad Guys.
Instead of the two alternating viewpoints of Marghe and Danner,
'Slow River' has three viewpoints, in different tenses...but
all the viewpoints are Lore's, from different stages in her
life. The tricky part was to make the book read smoothly,
so the reader doesn't realize how technically difficult everything
is. The reader just gets a good story, with some cool and
exotic happenings, and thought-provoking questions. At least
that's the plan.
It will be appearing as a Ballantine/Del Rey hardcover here
in the US in August 1995 (which means it will hitting the
shelves in mid-July). Ballantine are also re-releasing 'Ammonite'
with a new, more appropriate cover. In the UK, 'Slow River'
will be a December paperback from HarperCollins. No translation
rights sold as yet.
As for other work, I have a novella, 'Yaguara,' coming out
in the UK in Ellen Datlow's 'Little Deaths' erotic horror
anthology (Orion, Sept. 1994). Kelley also has a story in
that one. It will also be appearing in ASIMOV'S magazine early
next year. I'm writing a couple of short stories to complete
a collection, tentatively called 'Women and Other Aliens.'
I have two novels percolating at the moment: one is a non-sf
thriller/suspense thing, the other is, well, hard to describe:
clairvoyant singing parrots in the subways of New York; black
gay male protagonist escaping from a religious cult in the
Caribbean.... Fantasy, perhaps. And there's a Magnum Opus
I want to start at some point: a maybe-fantasy, definitely
historical thing about a ruthless, driven abbess in eight-century
Britain. And...but the writing is endless.
HSF: I was curious where the name of the protagonist of your
forthcoming book, Frances Lorien van de Oest, came from. NG:
The protagonist of 'Slow River' is called Frances Lorien van
de Oest because ----- (insert serious-sounding explanation
of your choice). I'm very bad at names. I often have the idea
of the personality of the protagonist a long time before their
name, so I assign as a place-holder anything that pops into
my head with the intention of sorting it all out later. The
only problem is, by the time 'later' comes around, the name
has stuck; the character has grown into it and refuses to
give it up. Look at 'Ammonite.' Can you imagine anyone really
calling their daughter Hannah Danner? Not unless they were
very cruel. I just couldn't change it once the book was done.
HSF: SF has been a genre dominated by male writers for a verly
long time. With the seventies came new writers like James
Tiptree Jr., Joanna Russ and many others who made a great
impact, but percentage wise the men were still the dominant
force. The nineties seem to be a turning point. Browsing through
the best new writer list in the Locus polls, I find that almost
all of them are women. Coincidence or not?
NG: It's been my experience that although SF dreams about
being the social and literary cutting edge is, in fact, neither
(which isn't to say it shouldn't keep trying). The fact that
women now form a substantial percentage of publisher writers
is simply a follow-on from (a) the political changes of the
last thirty years, and (b) the situation as it has already
existed in 'mainstream' literature for the last fifteen or
twenty. Just as the New Wave of the sixties purported to be
radical and experimental, it was only deemed so in the SF
milieu--mainstream writers had already been playing those
fiction games for fifty years. Just as lesbian and gay fiction
started to become financially and socially acceptable to trade
presses fifteen years ago (with a huge surge in the last five),
it is now beginning to appear in the mainstream of SF...to
the extent that half the new twenty-something straight male
writers are penning stories with dyke protagonists. (For some
reason, this is particularly true in the UK.) Science fiction
may follow hard on the heels of trends but it does not often
_create_ them. An example: 'cutting edge' SF of the last two
years has been first person present tense narrative, something
the mainstream has been doing for years and years. I imagine
that someone, somewhere is writing an SF novel that uses second
person present tense--just like Jay McInnery did in the eighties--and
believing _that_ is brand new. Which does not mean it's not
worth doing. I'm just puzzled that many who write and read
SF want it to be the literary techniques which are the bright,
gleaming forefront. In my opinion, what makes SF so interesting,
so constantly new and worthwhile and exciting, is the form
itself. Science fiction is what everyone is trying to learn
to write. The South American magic realists; the feminist
fabulists; the technothriller writers...it's all, really,
SF. (I don't care about the differences between fantasy, science
fiction etc. etc. I think nitpicking over definitions is,
ultimately, a waste of time.) Those who are already writing
it might enjoy themselves more if they just relaxed and thought,
"Hey, I can do this stuff," and worry about what they were
writing, instead of how. Literary technique is-- or should
be, in my opinion--all about how well the writer communicates
her vision to the reader: how efficiently or beautifully or
movingly. That is what technique is _for_, creating effect;
it should not necessarily (but, I admit, it can sometimes)
be the effect itself.
HSF: I see a growing number of SF authors on the Net. What
was your reason for joining the on-line commnunity? How useful
is the Net for a writer?
NG: I've been on-line about a month. Give or take. My original
stated motive was to do research easily from my own home.
My _real_ motivation, however, was much more basic: I felt
left out. (What did 'upload' mean? What did it feel like to
be 'on the net?' What esoteric goodies was I missing out on?)
There was also the omnipresent (for me) fear of being left
behind in the tidal wave of technology (something I talk about
in 'Slow River'), and the urge to try something new. It has
its good and bad points. Research-wise, I'm finding it totally
useless: electronic media are very, very low in information
density-libraries are faster, at least for a beginner like
me. Entertainment- wise, it's a mix of pretty good and utterly
exasperating. Business-wise, which is more often than not
also entertaining, (things like this interview, announcements
of readings etc) it's great.
HSF: The schism between British and American SF that arose
after the new wave seems to be a thing of the past. There
was this feeling that the Brits would write difficult somber
books while the Americans would write fluffy space opera.
Now the Brits are gradually recapturing the American market:
Iain Banks, Terry Pratchett, Colin Greenland, Mary Gentle,
Brian Stableford, Michael Scott Rohan, Kim Newman, David Gemmel
and others. Including you of course. My feeling is that British
SF has become more accessible: more SF staples, more story
telling without losing a European perspective. Do you feel
that this assesment of the difference between post-New World
British SF and the current crop of British authors is correct?
NG: I think the schism between US and UK SF goes back further
than the New Wave. In fact, I don't think there ever was a
schism; I think they grew from separate places altogether.
British SF stems from the literary tradition of H.G. Wells,
and Aldous Huxley, and Orwell; American SF springs from Hugo
Gernsback. You can see the difference in traditions just by
looking at the different way books are marketed over here
and over there. UK books have subtle covers, rich colours,
occasionally abstract art; designed for adults. US covers
are primary colours, spaceships and lasguns, occasionally
an anatomically impossible amazon with a bronze bra; designed
for adolescents. US SF has traditionally been about What Happens,
and Who Saves the World. UK SF has been more concerned with
How it Felt. The New Wave furor was the sound of the two traditions
colliding and exchanging genetic material. Now we have hybrid
HSF: BTW, congratulations on your permanent green card.
This would be a bit more difficult a mere ten years ago. I
can remember the case where two Dutch journalist for a national
TV station wanted to find out if the law that gays and lesbians
weren't allowed to enter the US was still being applied. So
they told the customs office about their sexual preferences
and were immediately put on the first return flight to the
Netherlands. Things seem to have changed.
NG: Thanks for the Green Card congratulations. Yes, things
here have changed. Not enough, of course (if Kelley and I
had been a straight couple, I would have been admitted on
a permanent basis five years ago and saved us tens of thousands
of dollars and many, many nights of worry and anguish), but
it's a start. I have been very, very fortunate that (a) I
had a skill/talent that is acknowledged to be important by
the US government (dressmakers just don't get the same kind
of leeway as writers); that I'm from the UK (practically America,
after all); and (c) that I'm white (they'll deny racism until
they're blue in the face, but it still very much alive and
well). Actually, Kelley and I had decided years ago that if
I couldn't get in the US, we would live in Amsterdam. So we
could have been neighbours. (Why Amsterdam? Because the political/social
climate is--or appears to be from this end--welcoming towards
lesbians and gay men. Because as an EEC citizen I could live
there without a job, and Kelley could legally work there as
long as she registered with the local police. Because the
Dutch word for beer is 'bier,' and it's important to be able
to communicate one's needs....)
HSF: I read in Locus that the SF community also helped a bit.
In what ways?
NG: The SF community, the lesbian and gay community, and the
mainstream writing community all helped me with my immigration
application by writing testimonial letters on my behalf. I
promised each letter writer that her or his testimonial would
remain confidential (so they could use all the hyperbole they
wanted, without fear of being quoted later), or I would _love_
to print some of the very flattering things said about me
by people like Allen Ginsberg, Ursula Le Guin, and various
university professors. Most of them are very exaggerated,
but even though I know they're not strictly true, whenever
I get miserable, all I have to do is pull the folder of letters
out and read about how fabulous I am. Lovely.