One Word Interview: SPARK

The next One Word Interview is here! Underwords has gathered an amazing group of science fiction writers to participate in December’s One Word Interview, responding in 50 words or fewer to the word SPARK. As we bring 2010 to a close, it’s time to let loose our imaginations. Who better to interview than some of the best science fiction writers that the field has to offer?


Spark is the seed of a story, a flash of an idea, a collision of thoughts, maybe a misheard word or an incongruous glimpse, all of which tangle and tumble together into the start of a great adventure.
Kevin J. Anderson

It’s smoke that suggests fire; sparks are evidence only of themselves.
Elizabeth Bear

SPARK… ignition, the leap over (across or through!) an energy barrier that takes a latent union of two energies and triggers them to marry, releasing more energy still. In human beings this is the Idea that overcomes lethargy. That takes the staid and smugly cynical and makes then realize: “Hey, we’ve taken strides before. All right. Maybe we can gather the will for yet another step. Forward.”
David Brin

I have a good friend who calls herself “Madam Spark” online. It comes from her husband’s nickname for her, the origin of which I have never pried into. But it’s an apt name. She is compassionate and patient, with a ready smile even for idiots. (Having been the idiot from time to time, I know.) Yet she cannot hide, from those who know her, that spark of a fiery temper, a passionate personality. So when I hear the word “spark,” I think of her smiling at a fool, cheerfully refusing to say all the devastating words that are burning in that spark behind her eyes.
Orson Scott Card

The spark wakes me up 3AM with the solution to a story problem and I stumble out of bed and scribble it on the back of an envelope, but just as I’m pulling the covers over me the spark sparks again and so I spend half the night writing.
James Patrick Kelly

In the middle of the important meeting
without warning she looks you in the eyes
and you remember that you are made entirely out of electricity.
John Kessel

SPARK: The small electric thrill when a story idea comes to me. Fan it, fan it, careful now, not too much fuel too soon… damn, it went out. Wait for the next one. Sometimes they fly thick and bright against the black sky, sometimes nothing for a long gray time. The writing life.
Nancy Kress

Rushing from the primordial darkness, spark was what God got when She said, “Luke’s Fiat.” Spark, and fire, and ice, and earth, and air, and all the vengeful writhing business of life, love, fiction and the inner light that drives us all to be better than ourselves. Spark is creation.
Jay Lake

When I was a boy on Lewis
we clashed white stones together
in the dark
of the shelter
to make a spark.

We called them flints
but they didn’t flake, so
probably not. They made
no edges –
just sparks
and the smell
of matches.
Ken MacLeod

A spark is a bit of airborne burning matter. Opportunities for metaphors abound.
Larry Niven

“Spark” is actually thousands of nano-slivers that converge and intertwine within the brain. The rapture of spark is the rapture of life being transformed to, hopefully, reflect back light, and…life. Today, woken: city-traps-immigrants-gift-passionflower-anemone-awakened-grit-sea-brine-father-shadow-free.
Jeff VanderMeer

About Erin Underwood

BIO: Erin Underwood is the senior event content producer for MIT Technology Review’s emerging technology events. On the side, she reads, writes, and edits SF.
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10 Responses to One Word Interview: SPARK

  1. Edward Call says:

    Victorian “spark” would be Muse.
    Other sparks collide (unless collimated).

  2. McKenzie says:

    To Niven:

    an ember asail
    glows orange, infra-red, then black
    sparks are something else

  3. Dave Land says:

    Interesting interview approach, and good responses. The key word exhibits itself: it is a burst of energy that gets other things burning.

    There appears to be a typo in David Brin’s entry: Unless he’s channeling Neal Stephenson and making up his own words, “battier” should probably be “barrier”.

  4. Nancy Holder says:

    I dunno, Dave. David Brin can be pretty batty. 😉 Wonderful postings, all. Erin, you’re a powerhouse!

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