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Collection Description

Larry McCaffery is an SDSU professor emeritus of English. In addition to teaching, McCaffery built a reputation as an important postmodern and contemporary American literary critic known for identifying influential and innovative writers. Over the course of thirty years, he and his wife, Sinda Gregory (a scholar in her own right), conducted numerous interviews with notable postmodern and contemporary American writers. In total there are 71 interviewees, including Mark Danielewski, Samuel Delany, Raymond Carver, Joanna Russ, Ursula LeGuin, Raymond Federman, and William Gibson.

McCaffery's unique interview process started with a recorded interview on tape. He then made a loose transcription of the recorded conversation, making changes and rearranging sections as he went. Both McCaffery and the interviewee heavily edited this transcript, which eventually resulted in the creation of a final, collaborative manuscript. Some original audio recordings are reproduced here, while others are only available in our offline archives. This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

McCaffery’s interviews were published in several books: Anything Can Happen: Interviews with Contemporary American Novelists (1983); Alive and Writing: Interviews with American Authors of the 1980s (1986); Across the Wounded Galaxies: Interviews with Contemporary American Science Fiction Authors (1990); and Some Other Frequency: Interviews with Innovative American Authors (1995).

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Interview with Derek Pell
Larry McCaffery and Sinda Gregory meet with Derek Pell in his apartment in Manhattan. The discussion begins with Pell’s book Assassination Rhapsody, a satirical deconstruction of the Warren Report. From there, it continues on to the various things that Pell does, both in terms of satire and in terms of collage within books. Much of the discussion ranges around the limits of satire including what Pell does under his pseudonyms of Doktor Bey and Norman Conquest. Pell explains how he came to use the pseudonyms, the work that he does under those names and how they have become almost a separate part of his own personality. The end of the discussion is dominated by the notion that American writers do not know how to properly write erotic fiction and that it comes out as pornography instead which is what Pell has been satirizing in some recent work. An edited version of this interview appears on pages 270-286 of Some Other Frequency: Interviews with Innovative American Authors, ed. Larry McCaffery, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996., San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Interview with Diane Johnson
Larry McCaffery interviews Diane Johnson in her house in Berkeley. They begin with a discussion of her writing habits and how she begins her novels. Johnson explains that what interests her in her writing is form. Johnson discusses her views on being considered a “woman writer.” Johnson discusses her views on the characters in her novels. Johnson discusses the influence of California on her writing. They discuss the portrayal of relationships in Johnson’s novels. Johnson discusses her then forthcoming biography of Dashiell Hammett. Johnson discusses, in-depth, her novel The Shadow Knows. Much of the last half-hour of the interview concerns Johnson’s work as the screenwriter for The Shining. An edited version of the interview appears on pages 199 to 218 of Anything Can Happen: Interviews with Contemporary American Novelists, ed. Tom LeClair and Larry McCaffery, University of Illinois Press, 1983., San Diego State University, Digitized by the California Audiovisual Preservation Project (CAVPP) / California Revealed.
Interview with Donald Barthelme
Due to rights issues, the audio of this interview is not available online. Please contact San Diego State University, Special Collections and Archives if you wish to be granted access to the original audio. Larry McCaffery interviews Donald Barthelme in Barthelme’s home in the West Village in Manhattan. The interview begins with a description of Barthelme’s work habits, both in how he physically works and also how he conceives of his works, including an explanation of why he prefers to publish short stories rather than novels. A considerable time is spent on Barthelme’s history, how he came to be a fiction writer after working in other fields and how he eventually came to move to New York. This description includes asides from Barthelme on how art has influenced his writing. The two discuss the concept of meta-fiction, including various names for it, who writes it and whether Barthelme himself is part of that group. Barthelme gives an in-depth explanation of his relationship with The New Yorker. The interview concludes with a discussion of how film and popular culture have influenced Barthelme’s writings. An edited version of this interview appears on pages 32 to 44 of Anything Can Happen: Interviews with Contemporary American Novelists, ed. Tom LeClair and Larry McCaffery, University of Illinois Press, 1983., San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Interview with E.L. Doctorow
Due to rights issues, the audio of this interview is not available online. Please contact San Diego State University, Special Collections and Archives if you wish to be granted access to the original audio. Larry McCaffery interviews E.L. Doctorow in Doctorow’s house in New Rochelle, New York. They begin with a discussion of Doctorow’s early career as an editor at New American Library and Dial Press. Doctorow explains how that work helped inspire him to write his first novel, Welcome to Hard Times. Doctorow notes that he doesn’t feel he is part of any literary movement. Doctorow talks about the germination for the concepts of his novels. Doctorow discusses the influence of film on his writing and his disinterest in writing realistic fiction. Doctorow discusses both his use and the use by other authors of actual historical figures in works of fiction. Doctorow discusses how he became interested in the Rosenberg case that lead to him writing The Book of Daniel. The interview concludes with several questions concerning the novel Ragtime, including the debt it owes to the von Kleist novel Michael Kohlhaas. An edited version of this interview appears on pages 91 to 105 of Anything Can Happen: Interview with Contemporary American Novelists, ed. Tom LeClair and Larry McCaffery, University of Illinois Press, 1983., San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Interview with Edmund White
Due to rights issues, the audio of this interview is not available online. Please contact San Diego State University, Special Collections and Archives if you wish to be granted access to the original audio. Larry McCaffery and Sinda Gregory meet with Edmund White in his apartment in Paris for an interview. After a brief discussion of other writers that White admires, the interview begins with a discussion of White’s most recent novel, A Boy’s Own Story. Mentions of truth, beauty and language lead to discussions of White’s other novels, most often States of Desire and Forgetting Elena. White spends much of the interview discussing his own homosexuality, its impact on his writing, the ability to get his writing published, and on his life, including a discussion of his work in the historical context of gay fiction. An edited version of this interview appears on pages 259 to 274 of Alive and Writing: Interviews with American Authors of the 1980s, ed. Larry McCaffery and Sinda Gregory, 1987, University of Illinois Press., San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Interview with Eurydice Kamvisseli (Eurudice)
In 1993 a story by “Eurudice” (Eurydice Kamvasseli) was published in McCaffery’s anthology Avant-Pop: Fiction for a Daydream Nation.To start this interview, Kamvasseli and McCaffery had viewed a video, and McCaffery asked if it has anything to do with her book F/32, and she says no, she wants to keep her work from being “filmable.” Both her interest in cinema and her writing come from the image of a mirror. Kamvasseli says the title of the book refers to a lens aperture in photography, and the shutter in that metaphor is reminiscent of the “toothed vagina” of folktales. She mentions Jacques Lacan as representative of attitudes towards women. She made some changes after talking with Ronald Sukenick, and “some of the things men say are verbatim. ”She says, “The story of the book is a fable.” It originates partly from philosophical and religious dualism, and they discuss that and the mechanics of writing. Kamvasseli talks about her childhood, which she calls “absurd.” They discuss “appropriating” text. They continue their discussion of inspiration to write coming from other books. She writes in English because she is conscious of Greek tradition. She speaks about going to Redondo Beach Union High School after having run away from home. They talk about her humor. She does not write to shock people, but if she tries not to write about sex she gets writer’s block. She discusses self-awareness in writing and Stein’s “little dog knows me” metaphor. Explaining that both sexual intercourse and writing come from a oneness without individuality, she says that therefore she is not good at revision. They talk about guilt, which she says she does not understand. They discuss erotic literature, and she underlines the transcendent aspect of sex. This first tape ends at around one hour and 34 minutes.At the opening of the third side, Kamvasseli says that in her book F/32 she wanted to reclaim the word “cunt” for women to use, to move it from the “scatological to the ontological.” They talk about modernism, postmodernism, cyberpunk, Madonna, various authors, feminism, and sexual repression.They discuss her experience with poetry and then surrealism., San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Interview with Gene Wolfe
Larry McCaffery meets with Gene Wolfe at his home in Barrington, Illinois in June of 1985. For the first eleven minutes, as the discussion ranges around the film version of Dune and moves towards Wolfe’s fiction, there is a lot of outdoor noise. After the 11 minute mark, the interview moves indoors and Wolfe begins by discussing his theory that science fiction has always been around and will always be around and that it is realistic fiction that is the fad that will fade away. Wolfe notes the fantastical in works such as Homer, Shakespeare and the Greek myths. Wolf explains how he came to be a science fiction writer, starting with reading Buck Rogers and Flash Gordon in the comic pages and how he came across the Pocket Book of Science Fiction. Wolfe discusses the books he read as a child before discussing his time in the Korean War and the influence it had on his fiction. Wolfe explains his history as a writer, before and after publication. While the discussion ranges across other science fiction writers and a variety of Wolfe’s works, it continually returns to Wolfe’s recent novel cycle, The Book of the New Sun. Wolfe discusses his intentions with the book, his ideas, his goals and a potential future follow-up. An edited version of all but the first eleven minutes of the interview appears on pages 233 to 256 of Across the Wounded Galaxies: Interviews with Contemporary American Science Fiction Writers, ed. Larry McCaffery, 1990, University of Illinois Press., San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Interview with Gerald Vizenor
Larry McCaffery and Tom Marshall meet with Gerald Vizenor in Vizenor’s office at the University of California. The discussion begins with the concept of post-modernism and the place that Native American literature has in the field and how perhaps Native American literature as a whole helped inspire post-modernism. Much of the discussion focuses around Vizenor’s most recent novel, The Heirs of Columbus, published late the previous year in order to be available before the 500th anniversary of Columbus' arrival in the "New World". The discussion of that novel leads to a discussion of the place of the trickster, not only in Native American literature, but in other places as well, including in the Monkey King in Chinese literature (and Vizenor’s own novel on the character). Much of the latter part of the interview focuses around Native American voices, in terms of songs, poetry and autobiographical fiction. An edited version of the interview appears on pages 293 to 309 of Some Other Frequency: Interview with Innovative American Authors, ed. Larry McCaffery, University of Pennsylvania Press, 1996., San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Interview with Goro Masaki and Yumi Matsuo
Due to rights issues, the audio of this interview is not available online. Please contact San Diego State University, Special Collections and Archives if you wish to be granted access to the original audio. Larry McCaffery and Sinda Gregory jointly interview Goro Masaki and Yumi Matsuo. The interview begins with the discussion of whether because Masaki and Matsuo live together, if their fiction is influenced by each other. Masaki explains his writing in regards to the cyberpunk movement. Matsuo describes her early short writings. There is a discussion over the use of pregnancy as a theme in science fiction. Both authors explain their early experiences reading science fiction as children. The lack of hard science fiction among Japanese science fiction along with a discussion of current trends and developments in the field are discussed. In light of the presence of Japan in American cyberpunk, the Japanese view of America in science fiction is explored. Edited versions of this interview were published in Review of Contemporary Fiction Vol. 22 (2), Summer 2002 as “Not Just a Gibson Clone: An Interview with Goro Masaki” on pages 75-81 and as “Bird Outside the Cage: An Interview with Yumi Matsuo” on pages 91-97., San Diego State University, https://web.archive.org/web/20080316223825/http://www.centerforbookculture.org/review/02_2_inter/interview_masaki.html, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Interview with Gregory Benford
Speaking in a noisy eatery, McCaffery and Benford discuss modern science fiction and the future of computers. They talk about modern and past culture, with Benford saying that the epic poem is now “fossil culture.” McCaffery and Benford discuss writing about human sexuality and good and bad characters. Benford says, “The best hard SF writers have considerable mystical content, because science has considerable mystical content.” He discusses the two strains in American fiction: “the frontier” (Robert A. Heinlein) and the “transcendental element.” Benford’s brother Jim arrives: “Two only children,” Greg says of identical twins. Greg Benford talks about writing for SF fanzines and being in fandom. McCaffery talks about the book for which he is doing this series of interviews, Across the Wounded Galaxies. Speaking of one of his books, Benford says he used a “Southern storyteller voice” like his grandfather’s, based on the “tradition of the South. ”McCaffery and Benford discuss the television show “Max Headroom” and the future of social and sexual roles, as well as genetic or evolutionary change. McCaffery asks when he began writing. “At first I just liked the idea of storytelling,” and then he saw that some things can be approached only “through a set of controlled lies, which is what fiction is, a method of lying.”, San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Interview with Haruki Murakami
Due to rights issues, the audio of this interview is not available online. Please contact San Diego State University, Special Collections and Archives if you wish to be granted access to the original audio. Larry McCaffery, Sinda Gregory and Toshifumi Miyawaki interview Haruki Murakami at a café in Boston. The conversation begins with a brief discussion of a (never-completed) project that would entail different adaptations of the short stories in Raymond Carver’s collection What We Talk About When We Talk About Love. The interview then focuses on Murakami’s books. Murakami explains how his writing has a rhythm to it and that the books usually spring from a single idea. Murakami discusses his writing as compared to Japanese expectations of what fiction should be. He explains the politics involved with the novel he is currently writing, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle. Murakami answers questions about the current state of fiction and what he reads. The conclusion of the interview deals with Murakami’s use of memory in his fiction. Portions of the interview are conducted in Japanese between Toshifumi Miyawaki and Haruki Murakami which Miyawaki then roughly translates for McCaffery and Gregory. An edited version of this interview appears on pages 111-127 of Review of Contemporary Fiction Vol. 22 (2), Summer 2002 as “It don’t mean a thing, if it ain’t got that swing: An interview with Haruki Murakami.”, San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.
Interview with Jack Williamson
Larry McCaffery and Jack Williamson meet in Williamson’s house in Portales, New Mexico and discuss Williamson’s long career as a science fiction writer. Williamson discusses the early days of writing science fiction in the late 1920s, writing for Hugo Gernsback (who was hands-off and sometimes didn’t pay) and John Campbell (who was more of a hand-on editor and was more influential). Williamson stresses the importance of optimism in technology and what technology can do for the human race, both in science fiction and in reality. Williamson’s writing stems from an isolated youth and attempts to entertain himself and from reading writers like H.G. Wells, who Williamson would later write a dissertation about. Williamson explores the source of his ideas, including his own time in psychoanalysis. Williamson, as one of the most prolific collaborators in the history of science fiction, discusses his various collaborators and what it was like to work with such different artists as James A. Gunn, Frederik Pohl and Lee Elias. Williamson discusses the rise of science fiction as an academic subject and what he has done to further that, with his own thesis and years of teaching. Throughout the interview, Williamson returns time and again to the notion of progress through technology and civilization and the reflection of that in science fiction. An edited version of the interview appears in Science Fiction Studies, Vol. 18, No. 2 (Jul., 1991), pp. 230-252., San Diego State University, This project was supported by a Recordings at Risk grant from the Council on Library and Information Resources (CLIR). The grant program is made possible by funding from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

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