“Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World” is a wonderful concept with a capable, engaging female character and a unique problem. What inspired the character of Mei, somewhen to be known as Prime?
When I wrote this story I was playing around with a technique where I take several flash stories and combine them into one longer piece. I thought it’d be fun to write a flash story for each of the seven wonders of the world, with future wonders instead of ancient wonders. To link all the stories together, my initial plan was to have one character visit all seven wonders, and I came up with Mei. She was loosely inspired by Mei Kusakabe from Miyazaki’s animated fantasy film My Neighbor Totoro, which I’d recently introduced to my toddler. In My Neighbor Totoro, four-year-old Mei encounters a forest spirit (Totoro) that no one else in her family can see at first, much like my Mei is the only one who interacts with Achron in the opening section of “Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World.”
I was equally intrigued by the character/concept of Achron and how you handled the language of time. Were you to have a companion such as Achron, what sort of goal would you hope to accomplish with assistance from the future?
Mei dreamed of a new Earth, but my dream is for the Earth we already have. I agree with Stephen Hawking and others who have suggested that the best strategy for humankind, in the long run, is to spread beyond a single planet. But my hope is that we can get our own planet sorted out first, rather than simply abandoning the mess we’ve made.
I’d also want Achron to hook me up with a collection of all the best future-books that will ever be written, in any of the currently available ebook formats.
The story also addresses questions of identity, aging, and the concept of existence beyond a single physical form. These ideas have been explored in various forms in works such as Anne McCaffery’s The Ship Who Sang series, Ann Leckie’s Ancillary series, and The Three-Body Problem by Liu Cixin. How do you feel you were influenced by such works, if at all?
Liu Cixin’s The Three-Body Problem was my favorite novel from last year, but I can’t claim it as an influence because I read it after I’d written this story. I read Anne McCaffery’s The Ship Who Sang many years ago, and while I’m sure it influenced me at some level, I didn’t draw from it in a conscious or deliberate way.
I’m mostly an intuitive writer, so I don’t tend to see my influences until afterward, but at the time I was writing this story I was reading Upgraded (edited by Neil Clarke), My Real Children by Jo Walton, and The End Is Nigh (edited by John Joseph Adams and Hugh Howey), and looking back now, I can certainly see some links between what I was reading and the story that I wrote. My interest in identity and the nature of consciousness also comes from my academic background in psychology, and these are themes I find myself returning to repeatedly in my own work.
In addition to your talent with the written word, you also have an eye for photography (my personal favorite being the orange gummy bear). Do you find one artistic expression feeding the other?
Thank you! I enjoy both writing and photography, but they don’t usually play off each other in ways that I’m aware of. Brains are tricksy things, though, and I wouldn’t be at all surprised if my photography is somehow feeding my fiction subconsciously.
I do have a tendency to turn to photography when I need a bit of a break from writing. The two mediums are different enough that switching between them helps me recharge if I’m feeling a little burned out.
You are a prolific writer, and part of writing is an equally insatiable appetite for reading. Who excites your sensibilities when you want to get your fiction on?
Everyone? (Sorry, this is a hard question to answer, since I love a lot of things!) For novels, a few that I’ve loved lately are Cat Rambo’s Beasts of Tabat, Tina Connolly’s Seriously Wicked, Julie McGalliard’s Waking Up Naked in Strange Places, and Ken Liu’s The Grace of Kings.
For short fiction, some of the authors I enjoy are Ted Chiang, Adam-Troy Castro, Kij Johnson, Ken Liu, and Alaya Dawn Johnson. I also like to read various Year’s Best collections to get a sampling of short fiction from a lot of different authors and magazines.
You seem to have a unique love of flash fiction (of which I wholeheartedly appreciate as a reader). How do you feel the process of writing shorter works differs from crafting longer stories?
One of the things that draws me to short fiction in general, and flash in particular, is the freedom it gives to play around with lots of ideas and approaches. I feel like it is easier to experiment with flash fiction than with longer forms, because even if a story fails spectacularly, all I’ve lost is a day or two of work.
As a writer, I find flash really satisfying because I can hold the entire story in my mind, and then sit down and write it in a single session. As a reader, I love stories that can give me something interesting — a cool idea, a strange world, a strong emotion — presented cleanly in less than a thousand words.
What’s next for Caroline M. Yoachim? What can eager readers expect from you in the coming months?
This has been a productive writing year for me, and depending on when my forthcoming stories come out, I’ll probably finish out 2015 with twenty original publications. A couple of my favorites that came out recently are “Seasons Set in Skin” in issue #177 of Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and “Four Seasons in the Forest of Your Mind” in the May/June issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction.
I also have stories forthcoming in Fireside, Unidentified Funny Objects 4, Daily Science Fiction, and two more stories here at Lightspeed. For an up-to-date listing of my publications, check out my website at carolineyoachim.com.
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