A conversation with Paul Di Filippo

Paul Di Filippo

Posted by Matt Staggs

First of all, I’d like to thank my friend Jeff for giving me the opportunity to step into the Ecstatic Days limelight for a few days, and secondly, thanks to all of you for your very kind welcome.

I’d like to start things off with a brief conversation I had with one of my favorite authors and all-around cool human beings, Paul Di Filippo, about his new book Cosmocopia. Illustrated by Jim Woodring, this novel – complete with a box and a jigsaw puzzle (!) – will be available from Payseur & Schmidt very soon.

Would you mind introducing yourself to my readers?

Not at all! My name is Paul Di Filippo, aged 53, native Rhode Islander still resident in Providence, author of some 25 books, whose career began either in 1977, 1982, 1985 or 1995, depending on which benchmark one uses. Partnered with Deborah Newton for the past 33 years. Faithful devotee of the cocker spaniel breed.

When did you start writing?

I just realized recently that my first completed story was a piece of fanfic. At around the age of ten or eleven, I laboriously typed out 2 pages of an “original” Man from U.N.C.L.E. story. That item is still extant, buried somewhere in my files, and shall never see the light of day. More professionally, I sold my first story to UnEarth (1977); quit my dayjob to write full time (1982); sold stories two and three to Ed Ferman and Ted Klein (1985); and had my first book published from Four Walls Eight Windows (1995).

How would you describe your work?

I write everything and anything that interests me, hopefully varying my tone and style accordingly while always conveying a uniquely Di Filippoian POV, from hardcore SF to New Weird, from crime novels (with pal Mike Bishop as Philip Lawson) to steampunk. I’m a bemused butterfly that flits all over the literary map.

What are some of your best-known works?

Probably The Steampunk Trilogy and Ribofunk. The latter title is a neologism of my coining, which I’m particularly proud of. I just googled the term, and it stands at 36,600 hits. Not bad, not bad at all…..

Out of all that you’ve written, what are you most proud of?

When my dissimilar yet somehow equally ambitious novella A Year in the Linear City and my novel A Mouthful of Tongues appeared almost back to back, I felt I had reached a new plateau in my work, and so those two books remain milestones in my mind, if no one else’s.

Have you ever written something you regretted?

Overly harsh and snarky reviews.

Who are your biggest influences?

Too many to name without slighting some. Let’s just say Ballard, Pynchon, Faulkner, Thoreau, Aldiss, Heinlein, Simak, Delany, Nabokov…. I could go on and on!

What do you NOT want to write like? What are your anti-influences?

Myself at my worst and laziest and sloppiest and stupidest. And any other fiction writer who’s full of cliched ideas and stylistically tone-deaf.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions people have about you based solely on your work?

All I do is humor.

What are some of the biggest misconceptions people may have about your work based solely on knowing you?

It’s all easy.

What did you want to be when you grew up?

For a while, after reading James Michener’s The Source, an archaeologist. But soon thereafter, nothing but a writer.

How does your life differ now from it did – say – ten years ago?

No dayjob, less anxiety about “making it,” having realized that by most boring conventional standards of the marketplace and academia and the consumerist sphere, I never will!

Tell us about your most recent work:

My forthcoming book from Payseur & Schmidt, Cosmocopia, is a tribute to the art of my pal Jim Woodring, and to the author we both love, David Lindsay, famed for his A Voyage to Arcturus.

How did you get the idea?

I like being inspired by visual artists, and had long contemplated doing something with Jim.

How long did it take to write the book?

It’s short; about three or four months.

When are you most productive? Are there some kinds of environments that are more productive for you than others?

I like working from mid-morning till no later than 4 PM. Afternoons are for walking and thinking. Nights are for reading.

What about other projects? Do you have anything else out there right now you might like to talk about? What’s your next project?

I need to do my sequel to AYITLC: A Princess of the Linear Jungle. And I’ve got 10,000 words of a novel that stalled out, titled Up Around the Bend, that I want to return to.

Are there any other writers out there you’d like to bring to our attention?

Anybody who loves the work of James Blaylock or early Tim Powers should read Van Reid: http://www.moosepath.com/index.html

Where can we learn more about you?

I have an autobiographical essay in CONTEMPORARY AUTHOR AUTOBIOGRAPHIES, VOLUME 29, published by Gale Research.

Folks might also like to visit my partnered blog WEIRD UNIVERSE at:


Where can we buy your stuff?

Almost all my books are still theoretically in print and to be found online at various stores.