An Unlikely Interview with Lauren C. Teffeau

There’s a very visual, cinematic quality to Jump Cut, which is appropriate for a story about using film sequences as a drug, and you shared a Pinterest board on Twitter of images you drew on in writing the story. Do you gather pictures as inspiration for all your writing projects? What generally comes first, the images, or the story?

When researching my stories, I try to keep track of my sources, and Pinterest is a great tool for collecting visual inspiration. I maintain a board for each of my projects but they don’t go live until the project is sold/published — so needless to say I have a lot of “secret” boards as a result. As to which comes first, images or story, it depends. Sometimes I tell myself I’m going to write a story about x, and do so. Other times, I’ll envision some sort of scene or situation and have to determine what came before and after that moment to uncover the bigger story. Both methods have their pros and cons, but usually the Pinterest board comes in after I have a solid handle on the story. As a result, I’m usually chasing down pins that match the images in my head, not the other way around.

In this story, you invoke Paul Virilio, as well as innovators of cinematic montage, and draw strongly on many of the themes Virilio writes of. Additionally, Marek’s usage of the technologies of speed stand in stark contrast with Deseronto’s — speed as a means of violence and control as opposed to accident, anarchy and freedom -- essentially the contrast between Virilio and Filippo Marinetti’s Futurists. Can you tell us a little bit about the theories you drew on, especially those of speed and the accident, and how they informed the narrative?

Yikes. There’s a lot to unpack here so please bear with me. This story emerged out of a desire to leverage my master’s degree in mass communication where I studied film theory and cultural studies. I thought it would be an interesting challenge to try to incorporate some of those concepts into a speculative fiction milieu.

In a critical theory course, I was exposed to Virilio and his ideas on how the mind both perceives and is affected by the speed of modern life, as exemplified by cinema. Moving pictures are comprised of individual stills linked together, and our brains have to resolve the differences between frames when shown in succession to understand the visual information as motion. Virilio posits that people do this in their waking life as well, making sense of gaps in awareness and the passage of time, so it is perceived as a continuous whole. His insights continue to have a lot of relevance in our increasingly desynchronized, decoupled, modern world, for example: “[T]he more information flashes by the more aware we are of its incomplete fragmentary nature,” (The Aesthetics of Disappearance, Semiotext(e), 2009, p.55).

In developing my concept of vid-boosting for “Jump Cut,” I wanted expand on Virilio’s idea of cinema as speed by focusing on those gaps in awareness and between frames, which led me to film editing techniques.

Montage, generally speaking, is a way to manipulate space, visual information, and the passage of time in a film. In a training montage, for example, the viewer is expected to understand that the cross-cutting between different activities implies a longer sequence of training (and, by extension, time) that is skipped over. Hence, the viewer’s perception of time can be speeded up or slowed down as a result. Montage can also be employed by cutting to other images, sometimes only tangentially related to the primary story. In these cases, the linking of the two different images forces the viewer’s brain to resolve the competing information to make sense of the association, leading to Eisenstein’s assertion that the collision of two images creates a psychological effect (his 1942 The Film Sense is a seminal text on montage).

Back to Virilio. He extends his theory of speed to that of war, where the trajectory of modern warfare is determined by the speed of its technological developments (see his Speed and Politics: An Essay on Dromology). In that sense, Marek, who seeks control of the hover cross gambling circuit, is dependent on the speed by which he adopts new technologies like vid-boosting to help him and his players stay on top.

Marinetti’s Futurists saw speed as something to exult in and celebrate. This was part of a larger cultural movement that viewed the speed that came from advances in machinery, automotive technology, and other industrial achievements, as the embodiment of true freedom. This whole-hearted embrace of speed in all its permutations in both art and politics was combined with a rejection of the past in exchange for the future. The Futurists also saw war as the ultimate way to purge the world of outmoded concepts. (Counter-Currents Publishing’s profile on Filippo Marietti provides an accessible summary of the Futurists’ worldview.)

Ari and Jack, as hover cross athletes, are addicted to speed and revel in it, much like the Futurists did. Ari sees vid-boosting as the future of hover cross racing, rejecting tried-and-true practices in the wake of the new technology. Jack, though, particularly in his funk after his friend’s death, isn’t interested in all that. Instead, he’s more enamored of the freedom that comes from fully giving himself over to speed, and the vid-boosting techniques that amplifies those sensations.

But, of course, no technology is perfect. Virilio also believes that creating new technologies creates the potential for accidents related to those technologies as a matter of course. “Speed is a cause of death for which we’re not only responsible but of which we are also the creators and inventors,” (Aesthetics, p. 112). In the case of moving images, it comes back to those gaps between visual information that the brain has to resolve. These disruptions, regardless of how minor, still separate us from reality, and this distancing opens us up to the possibility of misunderstanding the meaning of the images if the brain can’t keep up or make sense of a transition. Similarly, the development of hover cross would by necessity include the possibility of hover cross accidents. I wanted both types of these “accidents” to feature in the story. The first, accidents in perception that the willful misuse of visual stimuli employs to create the boost. And second, the more straightforward hover cross crash, an accident that wouldn’t be possible without the existence of hover cross in the first place.

You’ve lived in a lot of different places across the United States. Has all the moving you’ve done informed your writing at all? Do you find different moods or tones creeping into your writing based on where you’re living at the time?

Moving to different parts of the country has helped me embrace my identity as a writer, something I’ve struggled with for a long time. The places I’ve lived correlate to different phases of my life: childhood, college, grad school, work, and now writing. When my husband and I moved to New Mexico, I had the unique opportunity to reinvent myself in a place far away from family, friends, employers, and expectations. No one was there to watch me fail, repeatedly, as I struggled to develop my craft. Now, I have a supportive group of writers in New Mexico and a life devoted to my stories. For me, writing and New Mexico are forever linked.

Some authors require complete silence when they write, others need their desk arranged a certain way, or their favorite tea mug at hand. What does your ideal writing space look like — either the place where you actually write, or the imaginary place where you wish you could write?

We’re in the process of revamping our home office to better accommodate my writing activities. In the meantime, my favorite place to work is a local coffee shop. The brew is average but the ambiance is welcoming to those needing a comfortable workspace with enough white noise to drown out the rest of the world. The caffeine doesn’t hurt either. 😉

When your creative brain needs recharging are there any particular hobbies you turn to, people you talk to, or places you go to refresh yourself?

Exercise helps jumpstart my day. But sometimes I need a little more creative headspace to work through things if I get stuck. Enter video games. I can just turn on my console and let the hindbrain take care of the rest. Action-adventure games are my favorite. First-person shooters can’t be too realistic, otherwise it stops being fun and starts feeling creepy. And I stay away from open-world environments—if I let them suck me in, I’d never write again.

What else are you working on have coming up you want people to know about?

This June, The Change: Tales of Downfall and Rebirth releases from Roc, and I’m honored my story “Against the Wind” will be included in the anthology. Stories are set in S.M. Stirling’s post-apocalyptic Emberverse, where all electronics, explosives, and internal combustion engines mysteriously cease working and humanity must find a way to survive. The anthology — with stories from Stirling, Harry Turtledove, Walter Jon Williams, John Birmingham, John Barnes, Jane Lindskold and others — is a great introduction to Steve’s world or a fun companion to his novels.

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