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Author Spotlight: Cassandra Clare

In this Author Spotlight, we asked author Cassandra Clare to tell us a bit about the background of her story for Lightspeed, “Some Fortunate Future Day.”

Cassandra ClareYou seem to have an affinity for steampunk, given this story and your YA steampunk trilogy “The Infernal Devices.” What draws you to this sub-genre? Why did you choose it for this particular story?

I’ve always been drawn to the Victorian era, specifically the “scientific romances” of Jules Verne and HG Wells. I love the idea of this time period where to them technology was indistinguishable from magic and it served the same function in a lot of ways in their literature that magic does in ours. Steampunk is retro-futurism—it’s the Victorians’ idea of what was coming in their future. There is something magically compelling about the technological idealism of A Future That Never Was. It is also I think to us a wonderfully innocent view of technology, before World War One came along and people realized that what technology was really good for was killing a lot of people fast.

Many of the protagonists in your novels grow and learn through the conflicts they face. But in “Some Fortunate Future Day,” Rose was resisting change before Jonah even arrived, remaining in her home day after day while the world crumbled around her. What inspired her character?

I had had this idea for years, about this character who is trapped in an endlessly repeating loop of bad choices. I think with Rose, she has been overprotected and kept ignorant of the world around her by her father because she’s a girl, and when he disappears, she just doesn’t have enough information to navigate the world she’s in.

Do you think Rose would have fallen in love with Jonah so quickly had she not been alone for so long? 

I think that one of the themes of the story is about what makes a person—Rose is surrounded by these automatons who have feelings and personalities (something that really shocks Jonah). I don’t think to her Jonah is any more real than one of her dolls, and so he should respond like a doll—giving her obediently what she wants, which in this case is love. Or what Rose thinks of as love. I think it’s clear she doesn’t understand love any more than the dolls do.

Cordelia and Ellen act as Rose’s voice of reason. Why did you decide to give the dolls personalities?

I think Cordelia and Ellen (named after Ellen Kushner and Delia Sherman, always voices of reason) function to keep the story from becoming too claustrophobic; they give Rose some way to express her feelings and to hear an alternate viewpoint. I do think they also foreshadow how bad Rose is at hearing anything she doesn’t want to hear and how selfish she is—she’s perfectly willing to abandon them to go with Jonah even though she knows they have no one else and were in fact built to be her companions.

The real tragedy here could be that Rose has the opportunity to grow up. Jonah says he’ll send someone back for her, to take her to the Capital just like she wants, but she refuses to listen—all she wants is to marry him. Do you think she’s incapable of change?

I don’t think she’s incapable of change so much as resistant to it. I think the story is about second chances, or the dream of them. Everyone wants the ability to have a “do-over” of some mistake they made. Rose has that ability, but because of it, she doesn’t need to change. It also means she never learns from her mistakes, because she doesn’t have to. I don’t think anyone will finish the story thinking that Rose really is going to make Jonah love her the second, third or fifth time she uses the time device.

I found it an interesting turn of events that at the beginning of the story, Rose’s father had said that “time is a river that carries away what you love.” Yet Rose uses time to bring Jonah, and her chance at love, back to her. Do you think she’ll be trapped in this cycle forever, or will she eventually find her way out?

I think leaving readers with that question is the core of the story. Of course one wants to know the answer—I want to know the answer—but I don’t think I could answer it because the story is about positing that question. If we could live our lives again, could we “do it right”? Are the mistakes we make really flukes or do they grow out of our nature? Is there fate (Rose uses her time device to bring back her rabbit, but it just dies again, differently) or do we have free will? Could we really make someone love us if we just said the right thing at the right time (“Groundhog Day” style) or is love a more mysterious force than that, alchemical, grounded in who we are?

What are you working on now?

Clockwork Princess, the last in the Infernal Devices series.

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Erin Stocks

Erin Stocks Lightspeed Assistant Editor Erin Stocks’ fiction can be found in the Coeur de Lion anthology Anywhere but EarthFlash Fiction Online, the Hadley Rille anthology Destination: Future, The Colored Lens, and most recently in Polluto Magazine. Follow her on Twitter @ErinStocks or at www.erinstocks.com.