Connie Willis: Listening In

Connie Willis is a member of the Science Fiction Hall of Fame and a Grand Master of the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. She has won more Hugo and Nebula awards for both her short fiction and novels than any other author in the genre. Her latest book is Crosstalk (Del Rey, $28), a witty novel about communication and emotional connection in the not-too-distant future. She described its genesis for us:

photo: G. Mark Lewis

My new novel is about telepathy, and it's amazing how many people think being able to hear other people's thoughts would be great.

No, it wouldn't. It'd be awful!

At best, it'd be like being back in middle school and accidentally overhearing the person you thought was your best friend saying nasty things about you. And at its worst... well, just think about all the creeps and porn addicts and serial killers out there. What if you were stuck listening to their thoughts? Any way you look at it, being telepathic would be pretty much of a nightmare.

And also pretty amusing, which is one reason I wanted to write Crosstalk. Lots of people have written stories and novels about telepathy, but nearly all of those have been pretty grim, focusing on all the negative consequences--madness, social ostracism, outright mental enslavement.

Hardly anyone's written about the funny side of suddenly finding yourself telepathic--or about the romantic complications which might ensue. Which brings me to the other reason I wanted to write Crosstalk. Telepathy abounds in fantasy and science fiction, but almost nobody has set a telepathy story in the here and now, in the middle of our already oversharing social media society. What would happen if you added an even more efficient form of communication? How would it change things?

Our social media were supposed to make communication (and relationships) easier and better, and instead we got nude selfies, online dates who lie, and the Kardashians.

I told you, lots of possible disasters and romantic complications!

I had fun playing with all of them in Crosstalk, and I hope you have fun reading it.

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