Durham author gets worldwide recognition

Oct. 11, 2013 @ 08:20 PM

Mur Lafferty is a mom, a UNC grad, podcaster and inventor of “Sansaball.”

Last month, the Durham denizen also earned recognition at Worldcon, a major speculative fiction convention, where she received the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer.

“The Campbell Award is a bit odd, since it doesn’t award any one particular story or novel, but it recognizes new writers (meaning within two years of your first professional publication) with potential,” Lafferty said. “It was a huge thrill to be nominated for an award that many of my idols have been nominated for. And an even bigger thrill to win!”

A North Carolina native, originally from Banner Elk, she now lives in the community of Bethesda with her husband and 10-year-old daughter. She attended UNC Chapel Hill from 1991-95, where she started studying journalism but shifted to English.

The first story that touched a creative nerve for her, she recalled, was “A Wrinkle in Time” by Madeline L’Engle.

“Before then, I just read a lot,” she said. “After that book, I actually thought science fiction was something I wanted to write.”

In May, Orbit published “The Shambling Guide to New York City.” A follow-up book is due out next year called “The Ghost Train to New Orleans.”

Before that, she produced several works of fiction through podiobooks.com.

Her podcast work has included shows such as “Geek Fu Action Grip,” “I Should Be Writing,” “Escape Pod” and “Pseudopod.”

“In 2004, I heard about this neat new content delivery mechanism and wanted to get involved, so I started recording my thoughts and my essays I’d been writing for a while,” she said.

She’s understandably reluctant to pick a favorite author or work – she enjoys so many of them.

“That’s an impossible question to ask an author,” she said.

But she acknowledged that, every Christmas, she re-reads “Miracle and Other Christmas Stories,” Connie Willis’ science fiction Christmas short story collection. And every year or so, she pores over Neil Gaiman’s short story “Murder Mysteries” to see if she can understand it more as she gets older.

“I haven’t been able to yet,” she admitted.

Lately, she said, she’s been reading China Mieville’s “Railsea” – a fantasy retelling of “Moby Dick” – with her daughter, whose name she withholds to protect her privacy.

Lafferty’s advice to her daughter, should she want to write someday, would be: “Study history, anthropology, how people work together. Learning how the world works is better than learning how other people have made up stories. Learn about people, and later learn about writing. And persistence is more important than talent.”

She enjoys weekly board games with family and friends, and her favorites include Quarriors, Pandemic, Escape! and Arkham Horror. She also plays computer games, especially “sandbox adventures” such as Skyrim, Fallout 3 and Mass Effect 2.

She’s part of the writing team for a new video game sequel to the classic Planescape: Torment computer role-playing game, which was funded through a Kickstarter campaign earlier this year.

“This one is based on Monte Cook’s new RPG universe, Numenera,” she said. “I haven’t done any work on the game itself yet, but I have written a novella based in the world, giving a back story for one of the legendary soldiers of Numenera’s past.”

Now, about “Sansaball.” Inspired by the character of Sansa Stark in George R.R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” novels, Lafferty used Twitter (you can follow her at @mightymur) to make observations about Durham Bulls baseball games through the eyes of a Westerosi noble.

Just one example: “It is time for more buffoonery with ‘Sir’ Wool E. Bull. He races a mere child and tries to convince the crowd he is beaten.”

“Sansa is naïve and idolizes brave knights and considers etiquette and honor the pinnacle of human decency, and I like to portray her watching ‘The Bulls of House Durham’ baseball and attempt to understand it,” Lafferty said.

She’s been encouraged to take Sansaball to Hurricanes hockey games and a Detroit science fiction convention wants Lady Sansa to attend a Detroit Tigers game.

“The night I won the Campbell, I spoke with Mr. Martin, but I didn’t have the guts to tell him about #sansaball,” she said.

Keep up with Lafferty’s latest adventures at The Murverse Annex at murverse.com.

 

Wes Platt can be reached at wplatt@heraldsun.com or 919-419-6684. Follow on Twitter at @HS_WesPlatt. Connect on Facebook at facebook.com/wesplattheraldsun.