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On a foggy Monday in 1986, the universe suddenly, without warning, bifurcated. Fast-forward to 35 years later: Felix Sayers is a culinary writer living in San Francisco of Universe A who spends his days lunching at Coconut Cafe and dreaming of penning an Agatha Christie-style mystery. But everything changes when his Aunt Henrietta dies, leaving Felix a photograph of his father and himself--dated ten days before Felix was born. It can only mean one thing: Felix has an 'alter' in Universe B. Panicked that his mystery novel may exist already, Felix crosses to San Francisco B and proceeds to flagrantly violate the rules of both worlds by snooping around his alter's life. But when he narrowly escapes a hit-and-run, it becomes clear that someone knows he's crossed over... and whoever it is isn't happy about it. Now Felix must uncover the truth about his alter, the events of one Monday, and a wayward rubber duck before his time in both worlds runs out.
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Science, Then Fiction: A Q&A with Neve Maslakovic
Question: Most science fiction writers don't have a background in real science, but you graduated with your Ph.D. from Stanford's renowned STAR Lab. How did your scientific work influence your fictional writing? Did working in science inspire you to write?
Neve Maslakovic: When I first tried my hand at writing fiction, I found that the process is a close cousin of scientific research--you come up with an idea, sit down at your desk (or in your lab), work at it, spend time thinking, backtrack, try a different approach... neither one happens neatly and both are very creative endeavors. Science is guided by observation and deduction, of course, while in writing Regarding Ducks and Universes my aim was to make the novel a fun read and a bit thought-provoking at the same time. Ultimately, though, you're just tinkering with ideas until you hit upon something that works and feels right. I don't feel I've moved wholly away from science; on the contrary--scientists and academic settings inhabit my stories.
Question: You were born in communist Yugoslavia and have lived all over the world. How did your travels impact the creation of Universe A and Universe B in Regarding Ducks and Universes?
Neve Maslakovic: I love to travel, both in person and virtually, by reading about real places or by writing about imagined ones. Sometimes a place that's only a little different than what we're used to can be more disconcerting than a place that's hugely different. To that end, I wanted Universe A and Universe B to be "next-door" kind of universes to ours and to each other; the laws of physics are the same and people don't have five arms, but in Universe B ordinary things like paper books and Ferris wheels seem out of place to A-dweller Felix Sayers, who's come from a more technologically and environmentally oriented society. So he's a little baffled by San Francisco B, especially as it seems that someone is trying to kill him.
Question: What made you decide to set Regarding Ducks and Universes in San Francisco?
Neve Maslakovic: I think writers, even ones of speculative fiction, always end up writing about their lives and the places they've been, even if only in some extended sense. I was in California for 12 years, and, like all the places I've lived, it's become a part of me. And San Francisco, in particular, is such a unique and interesting city, a city of innovation, a literary city. A perfect setting for basement-lab experiments with universes and for an encounter with a paper book for the first time.
Question: What can we expect to see next from you? More science fiction? Or maybe something travel-related?
Neve Maslakovic: As a matter of fact, the novel I'm currently working on is going to be both science fiction and travel-related. I don't want to say too much at this early stage, but let's just say that this time there are no ducks, but there is an Australian didgeridoo. And Fibonacci numbers. And cheese, lots of cheese. And time travel.About the Author:
Neve Maslakovic spent her early years speaking Serbian in Belgrade, in former communist Yugoslavia. After stops along the way in London, New York, and California, she has settled in Minneapolis-St. Paul, where she admits to enjoying the winters. She earned her Ph.D. in electrical engineering at Stanford University's STARLab (Space, Telecommunications, and Radioscience Laboratory) and is a member of the Loft Literary Center. Regarding Ducks and Universes is her first novel, and she is hard at work on her second.
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