Rick Kleffel's always-great Agony Column podcast interviews Matt Ruff about his extraordinary "golden rule" alternate history novel The Mirage, in which the Arabia is the cradle of democracy, the USA is a collection of basket-case Christian theocracies, Germany has been partitioned in a two-state solution that makes Berlin the capital of Israel, and a war on terror is launched when Christian "crusader" terrorists crash jetliners into Baghdad's Twin Towers. The Mirage is very likely to be the best novel I read in 2012, and Ruff is very coherent and interesting in discussing his work.
Matt Ruff is anything but a tortured soul himself, and that makes the creation of a novel like 'The Mirage' all the more remarkable. He's easygoing but clearly very meticulous, very particular about his writing. He's got a lot to say about his new novel, and what is refreshing is that he can sy it and still have the entire novel left for the reader as a fresh new experience.
Generally, I don't arrive at an interview with specific questions in mind, but my producer at KUSP had asked me, essentially, just what the heck did Matt think he was doing? Ruff of course knew exactly what he was doing and why. But he head a lot of new stuff to tell me about the novel, in ways I thought really opened up the book for me.
The origins of the book are not based in the politics. In fact to the degree it can be, this is not a very political novel. Even though this book sports a great plot, and a fully-fleshed alternate reality, this is really a book about perceptions, and that includes the reader's perceptions. Plus, it's fun.