Ask the Author: Robin Sloan

“I'm happy to answer any questions you have about Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Sourdough, other work, writing in general, or anything else.” Robin Sloan

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Robin Sloan In a version of the classic fairy tale "Hansel and Gretel," the witch keeps the titular kids in a cage (it's a classic fairy tale! It's dark!) and, every so often, demands that Hansel extend a finger so she can test his fatness and see if he's fit for cooking. (I told you it was dark!!) Hansel is mildly clever; instead of offering his finger, he offers a chicken bone, and each time, the witch pronounces, "Still too skinny!" -- which buys the children time to plot their escape.
Robin Sloan This is a good question! There's no direct real-world analogue to the Mazg brothers' soup delivery service, but in a roundabout way, I had in mind a restaurant called Burma Superstar, my favorite spot on Clement Street when I lived in that neighborhood. Their menu doesn't correspond in any way to Clement Street Soup and Sandwich's, BUT Burma Superstar does offer several spicy soups, AND the flavors are the kind that stop you in your tracks: "Why… did no one ever tell me food could taste like this?"
Robin Sloan I have just the music for you! It's a genre called klapa: Croatian choral singing, mostly a capella. Just search for "klapa" on YouTube or Spotify and you'll find some lovely stuff. One of my favorite klapa tracks -- really one of my favorite tracks of any kind -- is "A Beautiful Name" by Klapa Sinj.
Robin Sloan Aspirational nickname: Tall Robin
Probable nickname: Bald Robin 😅
Robin Sloan That's an interesting question! It was intended to be a self-contained story -- but of course if it didn't come across that way, it's possible I left something out, or didn't think about all the ways it could be read. I have no plans for any further adventures of Penumbra as of this writing… but who knows what the future holds? When I wrote *the short story version* of Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, I never imagined it would become a novel!
Robin Sloan Only people who have read Sourdough, Mr. Penumbra's 24-Hour Bookstore, Ajax Penumbra 1969, *and* Annabel Scheme ( get to ask that question… so… have you? 😉
Robin Sloan It IS a real thing! I learned about it from a friend named (you guessed it) Lois. That's one of those things that, as soon as you learn about it, you KNOW it's going in a story at some point. Who knows how, who knows when; but it's going in. (And, turns out, there are a lot of things like that in the world!)
Robin Sloan It was almost entirely my website—every page has a box (a big one) where people can sign up for the list.
Robin Sloan Slowwwly! That's the thing about email lists: they don't grow fast, like social media followings sometimes do, but they have staying power. They are more resistant to algorithms being reworked or services (gasp) shutting down. In the beginning, it's easy to feel like, say,17 email subscribers isn't much, but you have 17 before you have 34, and 34 before you have 68, and on, and on. Slow and steady!
Robin Sloan It's SO popular here in the Bay Area! I'm not a climber myself, but it seems like almost everyone else I know has at least tried it a few times. Some of the climbing gyms are immense -- sprawling temples to verticality.
This question contains spoilers… (view spoiler)
Robin Sloan You're not crazy! Although I might substitute the word "quest" for "journey." Among other things, the book is an homage to the quest novel, particularly in its YA incarnation: the hero starts down the road, with few resources, not particularly good at anything, and picks up allies along the way -- friends with great powers. I read a lot of books like that when I was younger and they made an impression on me.
Robin Sloan My favorite, for sure, is Arizmendi Bakery, primarily the Inner Sunset flagship location. Many of that bakery's scones were transformed directly into words on Saturdays and Sundays in 2010 and 2011, when I lived just across the park.

I also love Josey Baker Bread; in my household, we eat a LOT of their dark mountain rye.
Robin Sloan My second novel, Sourdough, will be out in September 2017! And of course, I'm already thinking about what comes next…
Robin Sloan This is a good question! There was an early draft of Penumbra that featured references to the lost library of Matthias Corvinus, the Raven King -- a real thing, a real historical figure. It was all a bit too much, in the end, but I did like that "Corvinus" a lot… and so it became "Corvina"!
Robin Sloan You never know! In all seriousness: I have no plans for further Scheme stories at this time, BUT, I am still enchanted with her world -- that strange upside-down San Francisco. I'll almost certainly return to it at some point.
Robin Sloan Haha, glad to hear you remember the Escape Pod episode! That was a terrific moment for 'Penumbra'; when I agreed -- gratefully -- to have the short story adapted for that podcast, I had **no idea** how large & enthusiastic the audience was. I still get emails about that episode!

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