Today we are delighted to welcome award-winning playwright, essayist, and fiction writer A. R. Taylor. She is the author of the unpredictable winningly bizarre satire, Sex, Rain, And Cold Fusion. A. R. has a wicked sense of humor–go ahead and see for yourself:
Mentors: This book is written primarily from the point of view of a 30-year-old male scientist. Was it difficult writing as a man?
A. R. Taylor: For some reason, not at all. I could hear David Oster speaking, and at one time the entire book was written in the first person as a man, but my agent said it wouldn’t sell! Shoot me, but I still think it’s true that men can say things that women can’t, they can act in ways that would be censured if a woman behaved that way. Promiscuity comes to mind. A woman’s a slut, but a man is a playboy or sometimes a heartthrob. Get angry, dress someone down, and you’re a bitch, but a man is considered appropriately assertive and demanding. Oscar Wilde once said we can really only tell the truth when we wear a mask. The male mask fit me just fine, and I’m guessing that many women know way more about men than they’re willing to say out loud, but give them a mask and oh boy.
Mentors: There’s more than one May-December romance in this book. Any reason you’re drawn to this?
A. R. Taylor: David Oster has so far made a mess of his romantic life, despite being a very bright physicist form Caltech. Because he’s the child of a forty-seven year old mother and an alcoholic father, he has been left to his own devices growing up, improvising all the way, but when he finally meets a fully developed woman with a solid identity and few problems asking for what she wants, he sees right away that this is what he needs. Of course, it’s not at all easy to get it––or her. If there is indeed reincarnation, this is the first time he’s been here, the baby of the universe.
Mentors: Intelligence seems a two-edged sword in the book. Even though engaged in exotic experiments and advanced theories, these characters have terrific trouble with personal relationships.
A. R. Taylor: Confident in their own mental abilities, left brain type people, especially scientists, try to think their way through relationships, and I’m not sure this works. We always ask why smart people do such stupid things? Just look at the news. Even though love makes fools of us all, in some sense, we’d all like to think ourselves the lesser fool. Keep in mind too, that this is a comic novel, and comedy thrives on mistakes and absurdities. In the end too, people sometimes act crazy to keep from going crazy, in this novel mainly because of the constant rain.
Mentors: Yes, it does rain an awful lot up in the Pacific Northwest, where this novel takes place. Do you really think weather influences behavior that much?
A. R. Taylor: I do, and an old theory about alcoholism suggests that the wetter and darker your environment, the more you drink. So if we go by that, Norwegians drink more than Spaniards. It’s dark, it’s wet, it’s just raining all the time in Washington state, to which David moves after leaving Southern California. I wanted the rain to become almost a character, like a party-guest who refuses to leave. In David’s analytical mind, the rain in the Pacific Northwest gets fatter and fatter, then thinner and thinner, like some meteorological eating disorder. One day David gets through a boring meeting by counting the time it takes a drop of water to fall from a leaf to the ground.
Here, sadly, we have almost no rain, but that leads to bad behavior as well, perhaps laziness, wanting to play outside all the time, sun damage, a kind of sun-idiocy if you will. William Faulkner said when you live in Southern California, you sit around doing nothing, then one day you wake up and you’re sixty, not having known how the time went by.
Mentors: I noticed that you deal with a strong male friendship between an older and younger man, a buddy relationship, and the older one leads the younger into more and more mayhem but also into the wilds of scientific theory. So it’s symbiotic and sometimes destructive, but then ultimately mind-bending for David, ultimately helpful.
A. R. Taylor: Viktor Pelliau, a Latvian physicist, becomes the father figure David never had, and alas, he shares some of his father’s characteristics––the love of danger, the need to get loaded a significant period of time, the great importance of having a romance always in the works. But through his obsession with cold fusion, he leads David into new ways of thinking and more responsible actions, oddly enough.
Mentors: What exactly is cold fusion anyway?
A. R. Taylor: In 1989 chemists Stanley Pons and Martin Fleischmann claimed they had induced fusion reactions at room temperatures, on a tabletop, in a lab. According to these two under an electrical current, atoms of deuterium in heavy water would fuse into tritium in platinum electrodes, releasing heat and neutrons––thus replacing the need to build massive, expensive fusion reactors. Unfortunately no one could really replicate their experiments, and their work was discredited. However, experiments continue on this, and in the more exotic reaches of the government there are promising studies.
Both the scientists in the book are working on discredited theories, refusing to give up. I find that heartening, sometimes comic, but always worthwhile.
Mentors: Our thanks to you, A. R., for sharing your thoughts with us today. Readers, now it’s your turn! Do you have any concerns or ideas about women and comedy, cold fusion or a writing career? Use the “Leave a Reply” section to make a comment or ask a question.
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