Issue 036 Author Interview: Laura Duerr and “Transcripts of Tapes. . . “

Are you still savoring our Issue 036??? We certainly are — it is delicious. Which is one main reason we’re here today to share with you all our recent chat with Issue 036 author Laura Duerr about her story “Transcripts of Tapes Found Near the Depot, 06-45.” Please go enjoy Laura’s story and our interview below!

LSQ: The structure of this story would make for an excellent podcast. Is that something you have, or would ever, consider?
Laura: I have actually had two stories come to life as podcasts. It’s a much different experience as an author to hear your words, rather than just read them – it was a little nerve-racking, to be honest! But it’s incredible to hear how a narrator interprets the phrasing, the voice, etc., and I’d absolutely love to hear Linda’s voice out loud.
LSQ: An old woman keeping a farm by herself isn’t exactly the quintessential face of an apocalypse survivor. Where did you get the idea for your protagonist?
Laura: Linda and her farm come from many different sources. I’ve spent a lot of time driving through the Willamette Valley and out to the Oregon coast, and I always wondered about the lives of the people who work on the farms and vineyards I’d pass by. Linda talks very much like a Portland-area woman I used to work with – no one messed with her, and it was always entertaining to overhear her profanity-laced phone calls. As for Linda’s age, I get a little tired of teenage protagonists (despite working on a book about one myself), and after seeing the clan of biker grandmas in “Mad Max: Fury Road,” I never got over the idea of tough-as-nails old ladies bucking expectations. I also have to give credit to Grandma Ben from the “Bone” comics and Judi Dench’s M in the Bond movies.
But even more important than her toughness is Linda’s capacity for kindness. She’s absolutely entitled to keep her flourishing little farm a secret, but instead she goes through a lot of effort to share her resources with others who might need them. Even though it puts her at risk – and people do actually try to take advantage of her generosity, in the form of the gang members attacking her farm – it never occurs to her to not try to build this community. I hope people see that when they read the story: we all need to get there together.
LSQ: “They never wanted to change.” That line, as well as Linda’s remarks about how one woman’s eco-friendly efforts were nothing compared to the carbon footprint of corporations, really hit home. What can we, the regular folks, do in the face of such an imminent climate crisis?
Laura: Call your representatives. Write to your representatives. Tweet your representatives. Send balloons to your representatives. Okay, not the last one, but seriously, our elected officials are the ones who have the power to enact the changes our world needs. On the other hand, don’t give up on the little things you’re doing to help. Those matter, too, and no one should feel useless or ineffective for doing them! What I’ve had to do is come to terms with the fact that I can’t save the world alone (I know, right?) and that the best I can do is to give my time or resources to those in a position to do the world-saving, whether that’s candidates or nonprofits, while also recognizing that the little things I do still have value. Every reusable bag and thermos counts – but yeah, find and contact your representatives.
LSQ: Just when all hope seems to be lost for Linda, it rains. Why is the promise of hope so important in post-apocalyptic stories?
Laura: The promise of hope is important in everything. There’s a line in The Rewind Files by Claire Willett that goes, “Why do we do what we do if not for the belief that the future can be changed?” Our own world can look pretty post-apocalyptic at times, with climate crises, refugees fleeing wars and corruption, and poverty and oppression in our own cities. If we don’t have hope in our own lives, we’ll burn out. What I love most about science fiction, including the post-apocalyptic genre, is its ability to tell us truths through a different lens, and the truth I try to tell in all of my stories, even and perhaps especially the post-apocalyptic ones, is about hope. We can have all the grit in the world, but if we don’t have an image of hope before us as a goal, we’ll run out of strength.

LSQ: What was your favorite part about writing this story?

Laura: The structure was really fun to play with. Originally I had sound effects and notes like [unintelligible] to emphasize that these are, as the title says, transcripts, but I ended up liking the immediacy of Linda’s story in the form it’s published. The reader is freer to guess on when these tapes were actually found and transcribed, and by whom. The ending of The Handmaid’s Tale (spoiler alert?) does something similar, revealing that the whole story was found via tapes, but the story itself doesn’t give any clue that Offred’s experience isn’t happening in real time. The reader doesn’t get any kind of catharsis from the fact that Gilead no longer exists because Offred’s fate remains unknown. Ultimately Linda’s fate is unknown, too, but I think it’s easier in this iteration of the story to imagine her finding a happy ending.