THE END IS NIGH Author Interview: Jamie Ford

Tell us a bit about your story.  What’s it about?

The destruction of all LIFE AS WE KNOW IT by that nefarious, apocalyptic, doom-bringing celestial wanderer known as Halley’s Comet. At least that’s what some people thought waaaaay back in 1910.

What was the genesis of the story—what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

I love how despite having the Hadron Super Collider and the discovery of the Higgs boson our brains are still hard-wired for superstition. As a society we never fail to get our knickers in a knot over Halley’s Comet, Hale Bopp, or Y2K, and we either quietly freak-out on the inside, or embrace an absurd kind of gallows humor as a way of coping—we celebrate the great unknown.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

I write historical fiction and dabble in gaslamp fantasy so the jump to steampunk felt all cozy and homey to me. (I actually tried to write a couple of contemporary apocalyptic yarns but couldn’t quite do it. I guess I was born in the wrong century).

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

This is a Seattle story. I haven’t lived in Seattle for 20+ years, but I grew up there. I miss the Seattle of yesteryear. I think sometimes we write about what we lament.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

I found a great (and entertaining) collection of comet musings from 1910 that were compiled by the New York Times and The San Diego Union. Plus I grew up in Seattle and I’m there almost every month. I love digging for story material that we’ve paved over as a society.

What is the appeal—either as a writer or a reader—of stories that take place BEFORE an apocalypse?

When we face oblivion together we have a perverse kind of courage—we’re almost ennobled as a group. I think we behave differently than when we’re alone, rocking back and forth, mewling in the corner.

What are some of your favorite examples of pre-apocalyptic fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

I love the Kim Stanley Robinson’s short story Down and Out in the Year 2000, because there’s a quiet, aching desperation to the whole tale that’s quite human and relatable.

Plus now it feels like it’s already happened (Hello, Detroit).