Unexpected Questions with Rosemary Claire Smith

Rosemary Claire Smith is a two-time AnLab Award-nominated author who writes science fiction, fantasy, horror, and RPGs. She started out as a field archaeologist and has yet to give up her dream of jumping back in time to the heyday of the dinosaurs. Rosemary invites you to come along by playing her interactive adventure game, T-Rex Time Machine (available from Choice of Games). Somehow, Rosemary’s alternate histories, time-travel tales, future romances, reworked mythologies, essays, and editorials have snuck onto the pages of Analog, Amazing Stories, Fantastic Stories, as well as a bunch of other periodicals and anthologies. Look for her regular book review columns in every other issue of Analog. When not writing or reading, she photographs flowers, stares at dinosaur fossils, and practices Sogetsu Ikebana. She has also worked as a union leader and election lawyer.


If you could time travel to any point in history, which era would you choose, and why?

I fear I might end up not going anywhere because I would be paralyzed at the prospect of only being allowed to pick one time and place. There is so much I want to see: the oracle of Delphi in action, the building of Stonehenge, the Minoan bull dancers of Crete, Hannibal’s army crossing the Alps in winter with those miserably cold elephants, to name a few that instantly come to mind. I have thought of going back further to observe the dinosaurs. Honestly, I doubt I would be brave enough to genuinely enjoy the Cretaceous or the Jurassic. I would be cowering in fear.

That leads me to think I would opt to visit the Library of Alexandria. I’ve never gotten over the fact that it was burned and so much was lost. If I could slip a few scrolls or tablets into my robes before I come back…it almost doesn’t matter which ones as there is so much that it would be thrilling to save. Then too, there are the wondrous works that we know so little about that we cannot fully appreciate all that was lost.


Which trope of science fiction (phasers, transporters, time machines, much more) would you like to see put into our own reality? And how would you use it in a mundane way?

Teleportation, hands down. Every time I go anywhere that takes more than an hour, whether by car, train, or plane, I start envisioning how much easier, quicker, and presumably safer it would be if I could teleport. This presumes it would be cost-effective to do so and that you can pinpoint your destination. I’m fine with some locations—bank vaults and military installations come to mind—being off-limits.

Teleportation would be a great way to go buy oranges in Valencia when they are ripe. I can’t wait to drop by the farm stand near where I grew up for perfectly ripe cantaloups and sweet corn. I would also have a fresh seafood lunch in one specific seaside restaurant in a village on the coast of Greece. They serve whatever the local fishermen have caught that morning. I might also use it to go catch sight of a meteor shower or the Northern Lights someplace with dark, clear skies.


If you had to choose between being a mer-person or a dragon, which would you pick and why?

I polled several friends and all of them except me picked dragon. My fear of heights makes the prospect of flying terrifying rather than exciting. Sure, I could just stomp around to get where I wanted to go, but how ridiculous would that look? Besides, sleeping on a hoard of riches in an unheated cavern sounds uncomfortable and not terribly exciting.

Being a mer-person would be intriguing. Having that powerful tail would make it so simple to swim to neat underwater spots with no fear of drowning. That’s the way to go, so long as I don’t venture into shark-infested waters! Once in real life, I got to snorkel behind a giant sea turtle, following at a distance that did not interfere with it. It moseyed along, pausing to nibble an ocean plant or raise its head for a breath of air. I found it fascinating.


If you had to choose between being a time traveler or a space explorer, which would you pick and why?

Time traveler is a no-brainer. Having done considerable research on space while writing “The Next Frontier” and “Apollo in Retrograde,” two Analog stories about space travel, I learned how easy it is to die quickly and how hard it is to get into only a little bit of trouble from which you might recover. This is hardly surprising considering the lack of atmosphere, little or no gravity, great distance from medical facilities, radiation, and dependence upon complex technology simply to breathe and stay alive.

That said, there are a slew of dangers for time travelers, whether you are interacting with the local populace or wild animals or extreme weather. However, if you take along clothing and gear to protect yourself, you improve your chances of returning mostly intact. Also, time machines tend to make the return trip instantaneous. Of course, it helps to have EMTs standing by awaiting your arrival.


If you could have any magical power, but it came with a ridiculous side effect, what would the power be and what would the side effect be?

I would be thrilled to have a green thumb enabling me to grow whatever plant I desire of any size in one hour no matter the soil, or lack thereof, water, temperature, nutrients, or other essentials necessary for plant growth. Did I mention my passion for flower arranging and flower photography?

The silly side effect is literally a brilliant green thumb which will never fade. Maybe it even glows green when concealed by a glove or mitten.


If you could have any of your works made into a movie, what would it be?

I’d go with “The Next Frontier,” my Analog alternate-history tale published in the July/August 2021 issue. The premise is that a Soviet cosmonaut defects to the United States in 1965, during the height of the Moon Race. She becomes the first woman astronaut NASA sends into space. The November/December 2023 issue of Analog has the next novelette in the series, “Apollo in Retrograde.” I am currently writing a third one.

Now that approximately sixty years have elapsed since those heady days when humans first ventured into space, we have enough distance to gain some perspective on that era. Other writers such as Mary Robinette Kowal and Alan Smale have produced fascinating alternate histories of the early days of space exploration. Like them, my alternate history differs from the movie Hidden Figures in that in that women do not merely support male astronauts, but rather they are astronauts in their own right. Of course, women astronauts were portrayed in the streaming series, For All Mankind.

At first, I wanted to write about a U.S.-born woman astronaut who goes into space at some point during the 1960s. The problem was that the more I delved into the historical attitudes as to appropriate roles for women, and the treatment of women pilots such as the Mercury Thirteen, I sadly concluded that it was highly unlikely that in those days the American public would have accepted women astronauts. Nor did it seem plausible to me that NASA or Congress or President Johnson would have gotten behind this endeavor, especially not after the Soviet Union sent the first woman into orbit.

However, I could see the public and the U.S. government embracing a Soviet defector who was already trained as a cosmonaut and cheering her journey into space on behalf of the United States. One other note: When I wrote the first story in 2020, I made my main character Ukrainian simply because there were several significant figures in the Soviet space program who came from Ukraine. It wasn’t until almost a year after “The Last Frontier” was published that Russia invaded Ukraine.

“The Next Frontier” and “Apollo in Retrograde” would translate well onto the big screen, much like Apollo 13, The Right Stuff, Gravity, The Martian, and other tension-filled tales about the courage needed to venture forth into the unknown.

Rosemary Claire Smith is online at https://wordpress.com/view/rcwordsmith.com

She is also on Facebook as Rosemary Claire Smith.

On other social media look for @RCWordsmith.

Rosemary’s Analog book review columns can be found at https://www.analogsf.com/current-issue/the-reference-library/

T-Rex Time Machine is available here: https://www.choiceofgames.com/t-rex-time-machine/

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