Today is release day for Murder in the Generative Kitchen by Meg Pontecorvo, and I have the pleasure of having Meg here with us on the blog!
What inspired you to write Murder in the Generative Kitchen?
Although being summoned for jury duty is uncommon for most people in the United States, the situation is quite different in San Francisco, where I live. San Francisco has such a small population for a city (and county) that it has a relatively limited pool of people eligible to serve on a jury, so receiving a summons is strangely normal here–one of those little-known facts about San Francisco life. Since moving here, I have been summoned for jury duty, on average, once every year! And, while I understand the ethical importance of civic responsibility, I also have come to dread the arrival of the summons envelope every year, and the prospect of having my life disrupted by being chosen for a trial.
The concept for Murder in the Generative Kitchen arose during the weeks I served as an alternate juror on a criminal trial. The experience was frustrating because, as an alternate, I was not allowed to deliberate, and by the end of the trial I wanted to discuss the case with my fellow jurors. Forced to spend long days cooling my heels in the waiting room at the Hall of Justice (where I had to stay for the duration of the deliberation), and watching as groups of people (all looking angry or miserable or both) were herded in to report for service and then assigned to courtrooms for the voir dire questioning process, I wondered: what would make people want to serve on a jury?
My answer was the Vacation Jury Program, in which people chosen for long trials involving sequestration would get to travel to a tropical resort, where they would stream the trial footage every day. While I know that such a system would not be economically viable, the concept gave me a chance to think about the ways that the legal system, and jury service, might change in the future, especially in response to new technology.
Tell us a little bit about your journey to publication.
The narrative was fun to write, but also a challenge because it involves parallel plots–the trial testimony, and the story of Julio, a juror excited to be chosen for the Vacation Jury Program–that eventually converge during the deliberation phase. I think that the novella length (rather than short story or novel) is perfect for this narrative, to keep the momentum going while also allowing for the complexity of the trial and of Julio’s own story; however, novellas are very difficult to place in today’s market. So I was thrilled to find a home for Murder in the Generative Kitchen at World Weaver Press, and editors whose supportive revision suggestions helped me strengthen the world-building and character arcs.
According to your bio, in addition to being a writer, you are also an artist. Do you find the two mediums influence each other at all?
Yes. I tend to be a visual writer–so much so that I have to remind myself to include other sensory details in my fiction: touch, sound, smell. Also, drawing helps me generate ideas for fiction and work out plot details: the deep concentration and focused attention of drawing frees my mind to think creatively about stories. I don’t mean that I consciously worry about my stories while drawing, but that drawing allows my unconscious mind to roam. While not thinking about a story (and, especially, while not staring at a computer screen), but while instead concentrating on picture-making, and the tactile pleasure of putting line and color on a page, I will suddenly know what to do next in a story in progress, or find an idea for a new story.
Is there any technology in Murder in the Generative Kitchen that you wish existed today?
I love to cook, and the kitchen in my apartment is miniscule, so the novella’s generative kitchen is very much the kitchen of my dreams. But, while I would love to have a such a kitchen, I doubt that I could ever afford one (in the novella, such kitchens are the province of the ultra-wealthy)–so I would be happy to settle for one of its applications: the Robo-Barrista, which assesses a user’s biometrics and adjusts the caffeine level of the coffee it serves accordingly.
And finally, what advice do you have for aspiring sci-fi writers?
Read! And don’t be afraid to let a story incubate and develop over time. I think it’s dangerous to reduce “productivity” to word count alone–putting words on the page. It’s too easy to feel like a slacker if you don’t write every day or reach a daily quantitative goal. Obsessing over word count is, I think, a symptom of writing on computers, where we can track our word counts–and also of social media, where writers brag online about word count. But writing–especially speculative fiction writing–involves so much more: research, of course, and planning, but also dream time, letting the unconscious take the lead and make discoveries.
I couldn’t agree more! Thanks for stopping by, Meg!
And don’t forget to grab your copy of Murder in the Generative Kitchen, out today!
About the Author
A writer and artist dedicated to multiple genres, Meg Pontecorvo earned an MFA in Poetry Writing from Washington University in St. Louis and is a 2010 graduate of the Odyssey Writing Workshop. Meg has published a novelette, “Grounded,” in Asimov’s, and her artwork in collage and pen has been featured in experimental video performances in the Bay Area. A native of Philadelphia, she grew up in the Midwest and now shares a small apartment with her partner and cats in San Francisco, where she cooks in a tech-free kitchen.