In this Author Spotlight, we asked Carolyn Gilman to tell us a bit about her story for Lightspeed, “Frost Painting.”
I’d been doing a lot of driving through the West, and the badlands along the Dakota-Montana border got into my brain. The landscape there is so strange and sculptural already, it didn’t take much of a leap to imagine it as deliberately created. But what really made the story happen was that Galena came to me in a flash, fully formed and demanding that I should write about her. I have no idea where she came from, but I was not about to argue with her.
Impermanence features heavily in “Frost Painting.” What was it about this particular theme that drew you in?
I suppose I wrote this story at the stage of life when you realize that the world you grew up in is going away. Things that shaped you start vanishing without your permission, and you can’t help grieving for them, and for the person you thought you were.
I also work in a setting where impermanence confronts me every day. I’m a museum curator, and our job is to guard irreplaceable things in order to preserve them for the ages. But you can’t, of course. Things crumble and decay no matter what you do. So we ultimately have futile jobs, battling entropy.
The sculpture, as well as the evocative imagery in “Frost Painting” made me wonder if you’re involved in other forms of art besides writing, such as painting, sculpture, etc. Do you work in other media?
I wish. No, like Galena, I’m more of an appreciative observer. The only art form I engage in, other than writing, is the creation of exhibitions, which most people don’t even think of as art. I think of exhibitions as theater—a stage setting on which artworks and artifacts are the performers, and where the audience gets the experience by moving though space as the mood changes around them. That’s the ideal, of course. The reality is that you never have enough money, space, time, or talent to create the exhibition that’s in your head. I think “Frost Painting” is a little bit about wish fulfillment—inventing a setting where artists could actually achieve what they imagine.
I was hit hard emotionally by the relationship between Galena and Thea—and how it is revealed to Galena that she had become, or was all along, the type of person she wanted to avoid in her previous relationships. What sort of message would you like the reader to take home from Galena and Thea’s relationship?
It would be presumptuous of me to say what anyone should take home. I think reading a story is a creative act just as important as writing one, and every reader creates a different story. I just drop hints; the readers do the hard work. But that said, I do seem to write a lot of stories about people breaking their hearts trying to control things that can’t, or shouldn’t, be controlled. Honestly, I don’t know why.
Can you tell us what you’re working on now?
I have a new novel coming out in August, called Isles of the Forsaken. It’s the first part of a two-book fantasy novel about an isolated nation of islands on the brink of a revolution. It’s all about empire, rebellion, sacrifice, and love.