INTERVIEW: Harry Turtledove, author of “Father of the Groom”

Harry Turtledove—who is often referred to as the “master of alternate history”—is the Hugo Award-winning author of more than 80 novels and 100 short stories. His most recent books include ReincarnationsThe Golden ShrineAtlantis and Other Places, and The War that Came Early series: Hitler’s War and West and East. In addition to his SF, fantasy, and alternate history works, he’s also published several straight historical novels under the name H. N. Turteltaub. Turtledove obtained a Ph.D. in Byzantine history from UCLA in 1977.


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

As the title implies, it’s about a mad scientist whose son is getting married.

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

Well, one of my daughters got married last year, and I noticed that everybody was running around like a headless chicken except the father of the groom, who could kick back and smile through it all. I was jealous.

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

I always worry when I write a story I hope is funny. Keeping the tone right is challenging.

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

As noted, I was involved in a wedding last year.

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

Having a daughter of marriageable age was a pretty good start.

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?

You can talk about power trips–about man playing God, basically. Should he? Shouldn’t he? Can this possibly have good results? Or you can get silly, the way I did. Unlike some who write about mad scientists, I wasn’t facing any great philosophical issues. I was just having fun, which is also in the rules.

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

Hmm. Interesting question. Theodore Sturgeon’s Microcosmic God, the movie Young Frankenstein, and the real Nikolai Tesla immediately spring to mind