What was the spark for “Game of Chance”? How did you build this world?
This is one of those stories that went through a couple of permutations, several drafts, and evolved slowly rather than coming from a single spark. I’ve always had a fondness for writing about people on the fringes of a system, and for “secret histories,” the idea of an unseen hand guiding events. Fate, maybe, and how that might look from the ground. And time travel. So yes, it’s one of those stories where I kept putting things into the bucket and seeing how it turned out. The story grew out of having these quirky characters in a kind of pulp-era adventuring group—and then having them be not particularly good at accomplishing anything. They really think they’re saving the world, but they’re just kind of muddling along with all the people who don’t know what’s going on.
It seems like a lot of Clare’s life is about flying under the radar, about hiding who she is. Why did you decide to tell her story?
I love the most unlikely characters in any giving adventuring group. The one who isn’t the strongest or most powerful, who doesn’t have any particular talents and skills. (In college, I once drove my gaming group bonkers by insisting on playing a pregnant teenager.) In a fantastical adventure-oriented setting, those characters often have the best perspective on what’s going on, and they’re able to make things happen by being good people, by being focused on what they’re doing rather than on the “meta” story. She’s really the whole point of the story—the apparently weaker member of the team, easiest to dismiss, is the one who has the best idea of how to make a difference, how to do the most good. I really like writing about the kind of characters who tend to get overlooked, but who have a lot of depth behind them.
There’s a theme of free will versus destiny in this work. What’s your position in the debate? Do we choose, or are we destined?
Oh, I’m for free will, definitely. However, our choices are constantly defined and constrained in ways we’re not even aware of most of the time. Neurobiology, culture, societal pressure—it might seem like destiny sometimes, but I don’t think those structures are anything that grand. More like, this is the mess we’re born into and we spend our whole lives picking it apart. Another idea feeding into the story is of the self-correcting time stream—the idea that the sweep of history really is too big to change, even though tiny, individual quirks and choices are changing it all the time.
The main difference between Gerald and Clare seems to be the scale of the changes they make. What accounts for the difference they have in worldview?
A couple of threads feed into their differing worldviews. One is ambition—Gerald wants to change the world, and that’s the scale he’s thinking on—history, politics, the upper echelons of influence and power. Clare isn’t all that interested in changing the world—she’s focused on herself, her relationship with Major, the day-to-day details that make up a good life. Second, there’s a gendered aspect to their worldviews that I definitely wanted to get across. Clare is a woman who comes from a time and place where women are considered domestic, sheltered, passive, and that has impacted her. She’s never considered whether she has the ability to change anything beyond her own private domestic sphere. However, and this is another big point I wanted to make in the story, her so-called “limited” view, the little changes she’s able to make, have just as much potential to change the world. Gerald’s big mistake is ignoring the tiny details that Clare is focused on.
What’s next for you?
I always seem to be working on about a million things, so I hardly know where to start! I have a bunch of short stories coming out this year, in place like Asimov’s Science Fiction, Tor.com, and Nightmare, as well as several anthologies. The next Kitty book, Kitty in the Underworld, will be out in July. Dreams of the Golden Age, the sequel to my superhero novel, will be out in January. I’m working on the next Kitty novel and lining up the projects that I’ll work on after that. Keeping busy! Find more info at www.carrievaughn.com.