Five Questions with Angela Ambroz
1) You have lived in some very interesting locales, including Italy and Fiji. Could you tell us a little about your work and how you ended up living in such diverse places?
Ooh! Perfect opportunity to share this story: once upon a time, when I was living in Hyderabad, I took an autorickshaw with a very kindly, very pious-looking older Muslim driver. We chatted a bit, me telling an abbreviated version of my life story, and he ended up telling me that Allah had blessed me by letting me see so much of the world! It was such a sweet thing to say. (And I’m a sucker for expressions of piety.)
I’ve spent my whole life travelling – sometimes by choice, sometimes by circumstance. I was an immigrant’s Army brat – born in one country, raised in another – and I attended universities in three different countries. Even my “true” nationality is a little blurry: my family’s from a border region in Italy, and there’s a lot of internal debate about whether we’re Italian or Slovenian or Austrian or what. I side with Italian, but that’s just because I love Super Mario Bros., pizza and the Medicis…
Now I work in international development, and that’s let me live in and visit some very interesting places as well.
2) You’re currently living in near Boston for school (if I have this right). What are you working on there?
I’m in Boston for work now; I’ve been called back to the mothership, and am slowly acclimating to being an adult in America. I work for a research organization that studies the impact of different development programs. I still do some field work (I’m actually leaving for India this week!), but my base is here now.
3) What’s going on with the Post-Punk Cinema Club? That is an amazingly diverse list of movies your site has reviewed!
Thanks! And, ah, the PPCC! My baby. I’m obsessed with movies, and I tend to become obsessed with sharing the experience. I can’t stand that there are some amazing movies (or scenes, or jump cuts, or melodic curlicues) out there that don’t get furiously loved by everyone everywhere. I have a very strong need to sound trumpets. Thankfully, the PPCC is the perfect release for that: I can be as evangelical and enthusiastic as I want, and no one needs to pay attention to it. It’s much more socially acceptable than what I used to do, which was corner people and force-feed them obscure films I thought were brilliant.
In the beginning, the PPCC was pretty dominated by Hindi films – I went through a heavy-duty Hindi movie phase, lasting several years. But I like everything: Korean, Japanese, Italian, indie, mainstream. And am always open to recommendations.
4) Your story with us, Love and Anarchy and Science Fiction, had a very personal feel, but it considered the ramifications of political actions, even seemingly unsuccessful ones. What inspired you to write this story?
I’m very derivative (hey, I cut my teeth in fanfic), and this piece was almost directly begat by Lina Wertmuller’s “Film d’amore e d’anarchia ovvero: stamattina alle 10, in via dei Fiori, nella nota casa di tolleranza…” (most often translated as “Love and Anarchy”). Lina Wertmuller is a brilliant director; one of my all-time favorites. “Love and Anarchy” is a 1970s Italian film about fascism, ignorance and, broadly, hope and despair. It’s just a really wonderful film, and I wanted the story to be an homage to it.
I also watched it during a period of getting really into Italian political history: stuff like the Brigate Rosse’s kidnapping of Aldo Moro, the partigiani of World War II, as well as some Renaissance history (e.g. Count Ugolino della Gherardesca). I felt inspired to get some of that meaty, complicated, terrible stuff into the Dropverse. I rarely see fraught, realistic politics in spec fic (LeGuin does it brilliantly; maybe Frank Herbert? but who else?). I also wanted to introduce a distinctly non-American way of experiencing politics.
Note of indulgence: the character of Salvatore Gennarino is played by Giancarlo Giannini in my head, and he actually took his name from other Giannini roles (hence bringing in other aspects of Italian film history). His first name, Salvatore, is taken from Giannini’s role in “Mi manda Picone” – a picaresque Odyssey through the Neopolitan underworld (this informed Salvatore’s Venetian backstory). The character’s last name, Gennarino, referred to one of Giannini’s most famous roles from another Wertmuller film, “Swept Away”.
Most of my stories suffer from this fanficcy habit: they’re the regurgitated remnants of specific films, historical stuff, songs, personal biases, and, on a macro scale, my agenda to make spec fic more multicultural and socio-economically aware.
5) The story with us was part of your “Dropverse” world. What little we’ve seen published is good stuff. Could you tell us a little about the Dropverse and what plans you have for it?
The Dropverse came to me, almost fully formed, on an elliptical machine in Oxford in 2006. I was listening to some scratchy, maudlin 1950s Hindi film songs and daydreaming about Naseeruddin Shah as Mirza Ghalib, and I just thought what (I think) many spec fic writers eventually think: “You know, this would be great… IF IT WAS IN SPACE.”
On one hand, the Dropverse is a place for me to explore my favorite story type: humans in pre- or post-civilization scenarios, exhibiting their particularly humanistic humanness while suffering various extreme calamities. I love the tragicomedy of it. The nobility and grace and banality of it. It’s very M*A*S*H. So the Dropverse – especially the stories on the Rahu Ketu spaceship – are just some fun in that playbox.
And then I have my larger socio-political agenda: in particular, I’m sick to death of ostensibly “visionary” spec fic being nonetheless incapable of breaking out of an American/white/male view. It’s so narrow. And boring! Okay, I realize the irony (the cheek, even) of me saying that when: I’m white, I was raised in America, many of my protagonists are white dudes, and I fail the Bechdel Test pretty regularly. But the Dropverse is a way for me to sound some trumpets that I think are important, and show that the future isn’t necessarily going to be as Euro-centric as is often lazily assumed.
No big plans for the Dropverse, at present. In fact, I’m cultivating a few other verses in the meantime (e.g., an alt history of the American Civil War), so we’ll see how they fare on the high seas of publication.
Thanks for you time & your excellent story.