INTERVIEW: Marjorie M. Liu, author of “The Last Dignity of Man”

Marjorie M. Liu is the author of the Dirk & Steele series, which began with Tiger Eye. She is also the author of X-Men: Dark Mirror and The Iron Hunt and the other books in the Hunter Kiss series. Her short fiction has appeared in a number of anthologies, such as Masked, Songs of Love and Death, Hotter than Hell, and Inked. She is also a writer for Marvel Comics, penning NYXBlack Widow, X-23, and Dark Wolverine.

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

It’s about a young man who is totally isolated by his genius and wealth — and his sexuality — who has found ways to cope with all those things by fixating on an imaginary role for himself, an imaginary life, one involving a superhero who falls in love with the villain.

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

The first sentence of the story, really. I wrote it at Clarion East in 2004, which was the prompt — but the first sentence came to me, and I simply followed it to its natural conclusion.

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

Every story is a challenge, but this one…is an odd little tale. I suppose the biggest obstacle was a) keeping the characters real and grounded; and b) trying to balance out the fantastical elements so that those didn’t take away from the hero’s emotional journey.

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

I really bonded with Alexander as I wrote him. He felt like a friend that I was trying to help through a hard time.

What is the appeal of mad scientist fiction? Why do writers–or you yourself–write about it? What do you think readers like about it?

There’s the appeal of mad scientists, and then the fear of them — because you’re faced with men and women who are beyond genius, and who have no moral compass to guide that genius. Or if they do have morality and a code of honor, it becomes overruled, twisted, all in the name of the “big idea”. Of course, I’m speaking in terms of the evil mad scientist — and evil results. There are good guys, too!

What are some of your favorite examples of mad scientists in fiction (or perhaps in fact!), and what makes them your favorites?

You know, I’ve always felt that Sherlock Holmes, in his own way, is a bit of a mad scientist.