INTERVIEW: Mike Resnick, author of “Winter Solstice”

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

It’s about Merlin the Magnificent, and the problems of living backward in Time.

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

I wrote it the day I learned that my late mother-in-law had Alzheimer’s. I tried to imagine what it was like for her, going to bed each night and knowing you’d wake up a little less intelligent each morning. I knew I needed to work it out fictionally. Then I remember that the Merlin of The Once and Future King, my favorite fantasy novel, lived backward in time, and I decided I could use that as a metaphor.

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

It wasn’t artistically that challenging, but it was emotionally painful, as I was writing about someone I cared for who was suffering from a disease we still don’t truly understand.

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

I think I just answered that.

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

No scientific research. I skimmed The Once and Future King to see if T. H. White had said anything about living backwards that I needed to incorporate. (He hadn’t.)

A side note. I have submitted perhaps 40 stories to Asimov’s over the years. This was the only one that was ever rejected, probably because it was a pure fantasy. I turned around and promptly sold it to F&SF, and it made the Hugo ballot. I teased Gardner Dozois, the Asimov’s editor, about that for years; he teased right back that it may have been a nominee, but the winner was an Asimov’s story.

What is the appeal of wizard fiction? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers love it so much?

I think most readers love it because it’s good escapist fun. I also think it can be put to higher purposes, as in this story.

What are some of your favorite examples of wizard fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

Clearly, T. H. White’s The Once and Future King. The Harry Potter books. The Wizard of Oz. Christopher Stasheff’s The Warlock in Spite of Himself. They all had some charm, and about as much originality as you can bring to such a limited and universal theme.