How did “Super-Luminous Spiral” start for you—what was the inspiration and how did it develop?
“Super-Luminous Spiral” started with a question: Why do so many literary short stories center on cheating? Instead of trying to find the truth, I decided to make my own answer through a very bisexual speculative story. Hopefully, that story seed grew into something more interesting and complex than a jab at literature’s cheating obsession . . .
Also, I’m pretty sure now that I’ve written this, I’m condemned to only writing about cheating from here on out.
Second person present tense! Why second person and what are the challenges of writing in second person?
This was not a very conscious choice for me—one day I heard this prophetic and almost accusatory voice in my head that knew exactly what was going to happen to this protagonist. I went with it, and I’m glad my subconscious or whatever picked the second-person pronoun, because it works for a story that’s foreboding and immediate. I’d like to emphasize that this was a very unexpected process for me—my inner voices usually only give unhelpful advice, like to add quirky talking dogs.
Writing in second person made me question lots of basic things about the story—should I include dialogue? What details should be added and omitted about the protagonist? Who gets to have names and who doesn’t? I think that questioning was a fun challenge and ultimately helped me be more aware of the cogs of the story.
Is the galaxy boy modeled on anyone or inspired by anyone in particular? Or was he always more of an abstract notion?
I didn’t intentionally model the galaxy boy after anyone, but now that I think about it, I see some of my childhood love of X-Men leaking through in his description. He’s basically Mystique, if Mystique were a galaxy-spangled undergraduate dude who traded in shape-shifting for supernaturally keeping writers up at night.
When I made him, I intended for him to be a pseudo-trans character and he has a physical resemblance to some transgender men. In fiction, transgender men are usually resigned to transitioning and suffering, distantly pining after cisgender people rather than having their own complex relationships. Sexy villains are not an available role. The galaxy boy, on the other hand, isn’t a trans man who’s grateful for being noticed by a benevolent cis person, he’s a kind of incubus who takes people’s affections for granted and feasts on broken hearts.
By the way, if any readers missed the trans resemblance, so did all of my cisgender beta readers. The trans ones got it, though. I guess technically it’s open to interpretation . . .
There are several threads here that stand out to me—elusive inspiration, connections between creativity and sex/relationships, ecstatic moments, freedom and expression, and more—what is your favorite thing about this story, and what do you want readers to know about it?
I was interested in elusive inspiration, especially in the form of a muse—it’s so hard to be consistently creative, the idea that your own creativity comes from another person sounds a little too tempting. Of course, the idea of the muse disregards their autonomy, narrative, and their own creativity. I wanted to write a muse who not only resists being used, but uses and leaves the writer.
Who are the authors that inspire you most and what are the stories you want to tell people to read (and why)?
I am inspired by works that mix complex human relationships (romantic or otherwise) with something fantastical. I love Malinda Lo’s Huntress, Yoon Ha Lee’s Machineries of Empire trilogy, Caitlín R. Kiernan’s The Red Tree, Nnedi Okorafor’s Akata Witch, David Levithan’s Every Day, Charlie Jane Anders’ All the Birds in the Sky, and Madeline Miller’s The Song of Achilles.
I want people to read the stories in Capricious: The Gender Diverse Pronouns Issue. The anthology is made up of speculative stories that include personal pronouns other than he or she. I’m in it, so this is technically self-promotion, but if you read all the others and ignored mine, I would still be happy, because this anthology is that good. Bogi Takács has a fun space detective adventure story called “Volatile Patterns” about misused magic that will charm your socks off. A.E. Prevost’s delightful and cozy “Sandals Full of Rainwater” contemplates language, immigration, and gender in a fascinating way. This anthology stretches the limits of gender in speculative fiction and you won’t be disappointed.
Spread the word!