“I Sing Against the Silent Sun” is a story of resistance, of fighting silence. Was this theme at the forefront of the story as you were creating it or did it come organically out of the narrative?
Rustad: It was definitely the core theme that stayed consistent from the conceptual idea through the . . . uh . . . ten or so drafts that I wrote before this final one worked. I think it was due to such a specific and powerful theme that I kept going even as I hit wrong draft after wrong draft; it was like the guiding light through all the words, so I knew what I was building towards and what I wanted out of the final product.
What was the collaborative process like?
Hoffmann: This was an unusual collaboration for me, because Merc already had a very specific idea of where the story should go, and most of a draft, when they recruited me. They had wanted to write the story on their own, but they needed the climax to revolve around poetry, and they didn’t feel their poetic chops were up to the task. So they asked me for help, as someone who they knew well and who understood the Principality Suns ’verse, and who had a few more poetry publication credits under their belt.
That meant that my job was essentially to be the voice of Li Sin. I had to inhabit this character who already existed and try to write poems as they would. We started by talking about influences, like a rock band—Merc suggested Pablo Neruda, Rumi, and Du Fu, among others. Then I tried to cobble together various things that Li Sin would have written while flying around rebelliously in this amazing, weird, shiny universe. We discarded a few drafts that were perfectly good poetry, but that felt too militant; Li Sin rebels through art, not war. The final “God of Silence” poem is also considerably shorter than it was in its first draft. A beta reader pointed out that Li Sin wasn’t going to have time to make a long speech at that point!
You could say I did the poetry and Merc did everything else, though that’s an oversimplification. The very first poem that appears is Merc’s; it predates my involvement and we decided to keep it there. Vector’s song, at the end, is also by Merc. I had some influence over the story and the shape that it took in revisions, but not much more than a typical beta reader. This was Merc’s baby first and foremost, and my role was more like poetry roleplay. It was an amazingly fun experience, and I hope we can collaborate like this again.
Rustad: I had the bulk of what would end up being the second to last draft of this story when I asked Ada to join me in collaboration and write the poetry. I knew the poems were integral and one of the core elements, but I didn’t know how to write them. Ada, however, is an amazing poet and I love her work (and we are good friends!) and she’s beta read multiple stories in this universe. So it felt like the perfect team-up, and it was awesome working with Ada to revise and integrate the poetry into the story. 12/10, would collab again.
This isn’t the first time we’ve seen Li Sin and followed them on adventures. Will it be the last?
Rustad: I don’t know yet! I like to keep possibilities open.
Merc, you have a project called ROBOT DINOSAURS! in the works. Can you talk a little bit about that?
Rustad: YES, YES I CAN. This hatched from a twitter meme late last year, something about “if you edited an anthology, what would the theme look like” and I immediately said “ROBOT DINOSAURS” and then I couldn’t not think about that for months and in December I was like, “You know what, self, if you don’t do this—regardless of how much work it’ll be—you’ll always regret it. THE WORLD NEEDS MORE ROBOT DINOSAUR FICTION!”
“So it does,” I agreed with myself.
So I solicited about twenty authors (some of whom, I am excited to say, will have their first published fiction in this project!) and began planning financial details, Kickstarter rewards and promotion, a website . . . it has been a ton of work, and will continue to be so through the summer, but I am so freaking excited and proud of this thing. All my authors are amazing, all my artists are amazing, and I’m so pumped to help bring more robot dinosaurs into the world!
What’s next for you both?
Hoffmann: I’ve got a Lovecraftian space opera novel that my agent is trying to shop around, and if that gets no bites, my next novel project will just be plain opera. I’m also working on a dinosaur poetry collection called Million-Year Elegies. Hopefully you can expect to see several more individual short stories and poems come out while all of those big things gestate.
Rustad: I’m working on another novel (loosely pitched as “Paradise Lost meets Les Misérables and queer as fuck”), some anthology short stories I’ve been asked for (so exciting!), and as noted above, continued work on ROBOT DINOSAURS!
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