Q: “In your novel Gateway how much of the character Robinette Broadhead is autobiographical and how much is therapeutic?”
A: Well, in a sense every character in every story I ever wrote is autobiographical. That is, every character is basically what I think I would care about, do, and wish for if I were that creature, with that creature’s makeup and history.
That’s not hard for me to do when the character is human, like Robinette. I know what kind of a world he lives in, that he’s been raised by his mother (autobiographical? maybe), what his hopes are for the future (not much, until the chance to go to Gateway comes along for him) and so on, and I can pretty much imagine what my feelings would be like if those things were true of me.
When the character isn’t human, and sometimes isn’t even organic, like Wan-To in The World at the End of Time, it’s harder. Wan To is a ball of energy living in the core of a star. But still he has feelings — like self-survival, maybe jealousy, probably vanity, probably curiosity and so on — enough to make him a character instead of a prop.
(That’s a distinction all we sf writers owe to Stanley G. Weinbaum. Almost every alien creature in every science-fiction story written before the creature named Tweel in his “A Martian Odyssey” in 1934, from H.G. Wells’s invading Martians on, was a prop. Only Weinbaum’s Tweel was a character.)
At least I think that’s about what I would be like if I happened to be a ball of radiant energy instead of a human being.