Women of Science Fiction 006: Interview with E.E. Giorgi

Women

E.E. Giorgi is as eclectic as she is talented. She grew up in Tuscany, writes science fiction, and even creates amazing visual art (seriously, check it out). A self-publishing dynamo, E.E. doesn’t miss a beat when it comes to being on the cutting edge of both the science fiction genre and marketing. I don’t know about you, but I can’t wait to get to know her better!

PK Tyler: Unlike most of us fiction writers who just make things up, I understand you’re an actual bonafide scientist! What’s your area?

E.E. Giorgi: Haha, well I do make things up a little… but I take a lot of inspiration from Mother Nature, viruses and genetics in particular. My research field includes HIV vaccine testing, immunology, and cancer genetics.

PKT: How important do you think real applied science is to science fiction?

E.E. Giorgi: All my books have some real science foundation. I can’t write a book without doing extensive research–I guess for me it’s an occupational hazard. But I also love to read books that teach me stuff I can later look up and find out it’s real. Yes, it’s fiction, but even in fantasy when authors create new worlds, they apply rules and logic so that to the reader it all feels consistent. The same should go with science fiction. And it’s amazing the amount of inspiration one can draw from real science. I wrote my first book, Chimeras, after I learned about epigenetics and pseudogenes. Pseudogenes are bits of inactivated DNA we inherited from other species–for example, about 10% of our DNA originated from viruses. I started thinking about all these inactivated genes we share with lions and bears and mice and couldn’t help but think … what if these genes became activated again?  

PKT: Your work has been described as “Hard” sci-fi. how do you feel about that genre designation? Does it fit how you see your work?

E.E. Giorgi: Yes, because, like I said, I always draw inspiration from real science. Maybe my last series, the Mayake Chronicles, is “softer,” but the thrillers are definitely “hard.” Chimeras and Mosaics have a lot of genetics, and Gene Cards looks at genetically modified foods.

PKT: Gender is something we talk about in terms of STEM education all the time. How important do you think it is in terms of fiction and writing?

E.E. Giorgi: This will sound highly unpopular, but I’m afraid we have the same gender bias in writing, too. I don’t want to say more because I know I’ll sound sour. I’ll just tell you one little anecdote about gender bias in STEM. In my book Chimeras, I have one woman scientist and one man scientist. The man is arrogant and pompous. The woman is a smart, intelligent scientist who, at some point, gets verbally abused by the man scientist. I sent the book to a book blogger and she found that all scientists in my book were portrayed as pompous and egotistical. In her review she said she couldn’t understand why I would portray all scientists like that since I’m a scientist myself. So, you see, it’s more than just a bias. It’s the way we look at things and see what we choose to see while neglecting the rest.

PKT: I’m currently reading Akaela and blown away by how you’re mixing so many elements of science and characterization together. Can you tell us about how you build your characters?

E.E. Giorgi: Thank you! So happy to hear you’re enjoying it. 🙂 I think a lot about my characters beforehand. They usually start as “voices” in my head and I let them talk for a while before writing them down on a page.

PKT: From The Gaijin Girl to Apocalypse Weird: Immunity you seem to have a theme of medical science fiction running through your work. What about this particular subgenre appeals to you?

E.E. Giorgi: And don’t forget my thrillers; they all revolve around medical research. My research touches hot topics like vaccines, genetics, and cancer. It’s easy to see how things could possibly go wrong in any of these fields. No, it’s not that I don’t trust science. I love science. It’s not just my job, it’s my life, my way of thinking. It teaches me to be humble, to keep asking questions, to never feel that one answer is the final answer. But I also see the human nature behind the scenes. Scientists are passionate people. But they can also be greedy and blinded by certainties. That’s the part I usually like to exploit in my books. 🙂 I also love to use some of the amazing stuff I learn about genetics and viruses in my plots. Viruses and genes are some of the coolest things on Earth. They’re a constant source of inspiration.

PKT: You’ve been in a number of Anthologies and Collective Projects (The Future Chronicles, Apocalypse Weird) but I have to say, the most unusual to me was Tails of the Apocalypse. Can you tell me about the project and your story?

E.E. Giorgi: I’m so excited about this project. It’s Chris Pourteau’s brainchild, and, I have to say, he’s been absolutely brilliant recruiting top-notch writers, promoting, and applying his fantastic editing skillz. You are right that it is unusual, and to that I’ll add original and unique. So much so that when Chris first asked me to be part of it, I immediately thought, “Oh, that would be so cool, but I’ve never done anything like this before.” The only book I’d read written in an animal’s POV was The Art of Racing in the Rain, which, I confess, I found a little lame (I know, I know, everyone loved that book, so I’m the weird one). But then I read Chris’s story Unconditional and I was blown away. All stories in the anthology are fantastic, starting from the very first, the Poetry of Santiago, by Jennifer Ellis, which takes you to my home country, Italy, in a sentimental journey through the streets of Pompei. I’m extremely thankful to Chris for making me part of this.

PKT: Do you ever consider genre-hopping? What would you write if you did?

E.E. Giorgi: Literary. I would love to write a literary novel. How about “historical literary infused with magical realism a la Gabriel Garcia Marquez?” That’s got to be a genre, right? 😉

PKT: Where did the inspiration for your story in the A.I. Chronicles come from? Although still sci-fi, it feels very different from your other work.

E.E. Giorgi: A friend of mine had been telling me how a medical diagnosis is nothing but a complicated algorithm, and that one day machines will be better than humans at that because of all the data they can store. If you can put all medical literature into a drive and feed it to a machine together with blood results, medical history, and a complete genetic scan, the machine will do a better job than any human physician could. Of course, I think this is a very extreme position. At the same time, it’s true that no physician can possibly know all case studies, all exceptions, all weird stuff that has come up in medical history over the centuries. So we’re probably headed to a future where more and more diagnoses will be in the hands of machines and physicians will take on a role of therapist rather than examiner. So, when I wrote “Narai,” I tried to put myself into the shoes of a physician living through a major transition like that.

PKT: If I was going to buy just ONE of your books, which one should I start with?

E.E. Giorgi: Ah, great question. If you love mysteries, I’d say buy Chimeras. If your thing is dystopian, then delve into the world of the Mayake Chronicles.

Fast Five:

PKT: Do you wish you could fly or breathe underwater?

E.E. Giorgi: Fly.

PKT: What’s scarier, microbes or Kaiju?

E.E. Giorgi: Kaiju.

PKT: Browncoat or Jedi?

E.E. Giorgi: Jedi.

PKT: What color shirt would you wear on Star Trek? (Remember: red always dies!)

E.E. Giorgi: Ahhh, I’m a Star Wars girl!!! Haha, is turquoise allowed on Star Trek?

PKT: What’s coming next, dystopia or utopia?

E.E. Giorgi: Dystopia. I no longer believe in utopia.

 

About E.E. Giorgi

DEC_552-mentalI grew up in Tuscany, in a house on a hill that I shared with two dogs, two cats, 5 chickens, and the occasional batches of stick insects, newts and toads my dad would bring home from the lab. Today, I’m a scientist and an award-winning author and photographer. I spend my days analyzing HIV data, my evenings chasing sunsets, and my nights pretending I’m somebody else. My debut novel, CHIMERAS, is a 2014 Readers’ Favorite International Book Award winner in the murder-mystery category and a B.R.A.G. Medallion Honoree.

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