When Alvaro Zinos-Amaro approached me about possibly reviewing his book Traveller of Worlds: Conversations with Robert Silverberg, I had to say no due to my teeter-tottering to-be-read pile and the fact that I’m horribly behind on writing up reviews. However, Traveller of Worlds sounded interesting and I thought that there would be plenty of people who read my blog who would be interested in it, so I asked Alvaro if he’d be up for an interview. He was! And you can find the interview below.
Let’s start with the basics. Who is Alvaro Zinos-Amaro?
Born in Madrid, Spain. Went to high school in Germany. Then back to Madrid for a Physics degree. Have loved s/f/h since my teens. Started out in the field as a reviewer and then moved on to short fiction. Have published some thirty plus stories in various magazines and anthologies, and no intention of slowing down ☺ Want to tackle novels as well.
How would you introduce people to Robert Silverberg?
The temptation is to rattle off ten of his classic novels, point out his nine volumes of collected stories, dozens of edited anthologies, over sixty nonfiction books, and cite the ridiculous amounts of awards he’s won, hoping this will all inspire awe and reverence. But I won’t do that. Instead I’ll just say that he’s done a little of this, and a little of that, and if you’ve been reading science fiction some time during the last half-decade, you’ve probably heard of him.
The short version is that I’ve loved Bob’s work since I was seventeen, we became correspondents and then friends, and I since he’s never going to write an autobiography, I thought this would be the next best thing. The longer version is in my Preface of Traveler of Worlds, out now! Also, Bob writes about me in the Introduction to my half of When the Blue Shift Comes, our fiction collaboration, so you should buy that also!
What do you hope people take away from the book?
An honest look into the life and mind of Robert Silverberg; a thoughtful portrait of the man behind the millions and millions of words.
With Robert Silverberg being the Grand Master that he is, you must have picked up numerous nuggets of authorly wisdom. What is the most important thing you learned from your conversations?
In one of our conversations, Silverberg recalls these thoughts: “Get published. Write books. Achieve something that will bring you the respect of people whose respect you want to have.” This last point seems wise to me, and one worth remembering.
For new readers, I might suggest Lord Valentine’s Castle. Great fun, wonderful world. And it can serve as a gateway text for many of his other works, which tend to be a bit darker but explore not dissimilar themes.
What’s next for you? Any appearances or conventions planned?
I’m working on new stories for several anthologies and have a seedling idea for a novel, plus my ongoing review columns. I hope to join Robert Silverberg and Daryl Gregory on the stage on September 11th for the upcoming “SF in SF” event. After that, World Fantasy Con at the end of October, in Columbus, Ohio. Next year I’m eager to visit Helsinki for the WorldCon.
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
I love music and films, and have an ongoing interest in repelling the tides of entropy that inevitably engulf us all.
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
Long live book enabling! Time Travel: A History by James Gleick. Fashion, Faith, and Fantasy in the New Physics of the Universe by Roger Penrose. The second edition of Adam Roberts’ The History of Science Fiction (Palgrave Histories of Literature series). Bridging Infinity, edited by Jonathan Strahan. Joyce Carol Oates’ Soul at the White Heat: Inspiration, Obsession, and the Writing Life. By Ursula K. Le Guin: The Complete Orsinia (The Library of America), and Words Are My Matter, and The Found and the Lost: The Collected Novellas of Ursula K. Le Guin. Ellen Datlow’s Nightmares: A New Decade of Modern Horror. Six Scary Stories by Stephen King. Out of the Dark by Steve Rasnic Tem. Jad Smith’s study of Alfred Bester (Modern Masters of Science Fiction) and, in the same series, Gerry Canavan’s Octavia E. Butler. Spaceships: An Illustrated History of the Real and the Imagined by Ron Miller. Invisible Planets: Contemporary Chinese Science Fiction in Translation edited by Ken Liu. I’m going to stop here because I have to stop somewhere.
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
Excellent question, and one after my own book-obsessed heart. There are three “tiers” for me. First, a few very prolific authors get their own space. Silverberg is one of them. These authors can have multiple shelves or even whole bookcases dedicated to them, and are not to be mixed with anything else. Second, all science fiction/fantasy gets separated out and goes into its own room. Within sf/f, I arrange books loosely by themes (“hard science fiction,” “New Wave,” “Golden Age,” “anthologies”) and by authors within those themes, also (mostly) separate paperbacks from hardcovers. Everything else—science, math, history, literature, philosophy, etc.—I arrange by a combination of periods or sensibilities (“Victorian,” “Modernist,” “Ancient Greek,” “French,” etc.) and more vaguely by authors intuitively linked in my mind within those clusters. For example, in science, Michio Kaku and Brian Greene are side by side; they imprinted on me in a connected way when I first read them years ago. So, a mix of formal categories and illogical, intuitive groupings.
Alvaro’s more than thirty stories have appeared in magazines like Analog, Nature, Galaxy’s Edge, Lackington’s, Mothership Zeta, Farrago’s Wainscot and Neon, as well as anthologies such as The Mammoth Book of the Adventures of Moriarty, The Mammoth Book of Jack the Ripper Tales, The 2015 Young Explorer’s Adventure Guide, Cyber World, This Way to the End Times, Humanity 2.0 and An Alphabet of Embers.
Alvaro’s essays, reviews and interviews have appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books, The First Line, Asimov’s, Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Foundation, The New York Review of Science Fiction and Intergalactic Medicine Show; he also edits the roundtable blog for Locus.