NPR.org’s Cosmos & Culture blog has run a long-form conversation between me and PEN/Faulkner Award-winner Karen Joy Fowler focusing on animals and the environment. Here’s an excerpt:
Fowler: On the limits of empathy — I just read the new book by Frans de Waal called The Bonobo and the Atheist. A lot of it was about our natural proclivity towards empathy and how many animals we find this in, and cited many studies and observations. But in the end the book concluded that there seems actually to be what they call an empathy deficit for people or creatures that you don’t see as part of your own tribe. Not only do you not empathize with them, you actively dis-empathize.
VanderMeer: Dis-empathize, right. If sharks were as smart as chimpanzees — using our conventional definitions of worth — it wouldn’t make a difference, in a sense. So how far do you think “personhood” should go in terms of our thinking of animals? Is there a cut-off point? Or is it simply that we need to rearrange our entire thinking about this?
If you missed it, this weekend NPR’s To the Best of Our Knowledge ran an interview with me as part of a discussion of weird fiction.
Also, Laboratory Lit is a thing, and Annihilation is on their most recent list of novels. (Probably best they don’t read Authority…)
Finally, Rick Kleffel has a list of novels “better than blockbusters” that includes the Southern Reach trilogy.