Interview: Tim Pratt

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

A guy named Pete, a who is a huge fan of movies, discovers a video store that seems to have films that come from a parallel universe — including many movies never made in his world. He’s fascinated by the movies… but gradually comes to be more fascinated by the woman from another world who runs the store.

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

I love “little magic shop” stories, and I love stories about bookstores and libraries that contain books never actually written (or completed) in this world. (Like the library of Dream in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman series.) But I didn’t want to write yet *another* magic bookshop stories, so I began thinking about other art forms. I had a roommate in college, Brian Auton, who was a big film buff, and introduced me to all sorts of interesting films — foreign stuff, weird obscurities, strange classics — and that gave me the idea to write about a film buff.

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

I remember it being a pleasure to write, though it was a long time ago, so I may be revising the past…

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

While I’m not a truly devoted or well-educated film buff, I do love movies, and more generally I love storytelling. I understand the obsessive fascination with fictional worlds — and using those

fictional worlds as models or keys to embracing or understanding your real life.

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

Not much in the way of active research, but *years* of collecting movie trivia with the idea of using it all in a story some day. Most of the fictional movies mentioned in the story were films that *might* have been made in this world, if things had gone a little bit


What is the appeal of parallel worlds stories and/or portal fantasies? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about them? Why do you think readers/viewers love it so much?

My abiding fascination is with roads not taken, and with those linchpin, turning-point moments in a life when everything changes, and you go on an entirely new path. I’m also fascinated by the fact that small things can lead to huge events. Decide to go to a party, and you might meet your future wife — but it would have been just as easy to blow it off and play video games on your couch, leading to a wildly different set of outcomes.

For this particular story, I also liked the notion that the proprietor of the “little magic shop” would have no idea she was “magical”; her reality is absolutely boring and normal for her, but *our* world is a place of astonishing wonders.

What are some of your favorite examples of parallel worlds or portal fantasies (in any media), and what makes them your favorites?

Off the top of my head, “Onion” by Caitlin R. Kiernan, “Ten Sigmas” and “The Walls of the Universe” by Paul Melko, “Sidewise in Time” by Murray Leinster, and “Why I Left Harry’s All-Night Hamburgers” by Lawrence Watt-Evans.