Award-winning sci-fi writer talks to seniors


Paolo Bacigalupi shares his story with students in the library.

Award-winning science fiction writer Paolo Bacigalupi looked like he’s just wandered in off the street when he arrived in the library on May 11. Visibly nervous and dressed for an afternoon hanging out in Barnes and Noble’s stacks, he faced his audience of seniors from AP English Literature and Language with clear trepidation.  He preferred to be behind a computer screen, he said.

After a few sips of water, Baciagalupi launched into an explanation of how he develops and researches his science fiction ideas. “The curiosity, the exploration is the whole point of it,” he said. Pulling from sources like NPR and TV’s political talking heads, he extrapolates ideas forward to the future.

“I work in the realm of ‘what if’,” he said describing the futuristic, dystopian worlds he creates to provide a background for themes of bioterrorism, genetic manipulation and resource-deprivation.

Currently finishing a book tour that included a recent session at Politics and Prose in the District, Bacigalupi talked about his latest novel, “The Drowned Cities,” a companion to “Ship Breaker,” a 2010 work that’s won just about every award offered. His best known novel is his break-out hit, “The Windup Girl,” that won the Hugo and Nebula awards the previous year.

After reading from “The Drowned Cities,” Bacipalupi talked about the writing process.

“Writing doesn’t happen, you force it,” he said.  It took 13 years to get “The Windup Girl” published after having four novels rejected by large publishing houses. Finally, “a couple of crazy dudes in a house” in San Francisco took a chance. Within a year, he was a self-described “rock star.”

Bacipalupi described the writing process as “relentness,” and if his listeners left with one aphorism to remember, it might be, “Try, fail, learn.”

“What I started I had to finish,” he said.