In “The Schrödinger War,” multiple incarnations of each soldier wait in the perpetually-changing H-Station for their deployment orders. How did this setting come to be? Can you tell us more about the reality versus memory aspects of it?
H-Station originally developed out of need, and as the story evolved became more integral to the plot. The original setting for this story was inspired by an anthology call for stories about extreme planets, and I thought it would be interesting to set a story on Hadean Earth. After other aspects of the plot came together, I needed a “safe” place for my soldiers to be turned around between battles, and H-Station was born. Gradually, as the theme of grief and reconciliation evolved, H-Station became a way to peek into the Sam’s psyche. As H-Station is a virtual construct, it can take on almost any form, and I purposely left it ambiguous and for the reader to decide whether Sam controlled its form or if Kim manipulated the form to better achieve her objectives.
Each time the soldiers are reincarnated, they lose their physical scars but keep their memories. Sam is trying to forget his past and can’t seem to do so. Why is it so important for him to remember, not just for the sake of being a good soldier, but for him as a person?
Grief is a powerful emotion. It can drive people to do any number of things they might not ordinarily do. In Sam’s case, he’s tried to forget everything about his past because the loss is too painful for him. He even signs up to fight a distant war to remove himself from anything that might remind him of Christina. But our past is what makes us who we are; we are that collection of experiences and relationships, and by denying his past, Sam is left only with senseless fighting and dying around him to identify who he is. That’s not a great place to be.
Time moves in an interesting way in “The Schrödinger War.” They’re fighting in the past to protect the future, but Sam recognizes that it’s not really his future now that he’s in the past. How does time work for him and the other incars?
I’ve always disliked time travel stories because of the paradoxes they invariably generate. To the best of our knowledge, it’s not possible to travel backward in time, but maybe it’s possible to “slip” into another timeline, so that from the perspective of the individual, they haven’t actually gone back in time. For Sam, his past is still his past, and his future is still unknown and ahead of him. There’s nothing circular here and Sam realizes this. He’s not fighting for his Christina; he’s ultimately fighting for himself.
As Sam returns as a ninth, then tenth incar, Kim looks more and more like Christina. Can you tell us why that is, and why Kim has changed each time Sam returns? How does Kim fit into the reality of H-Station?
As I said above, H-Station is a virtual construct and everything in it and on it can take on almost any form. Each time Sam returns to H-Station, his memories seem to be intruding more and more on the landscape around him, but I purposely left it ambiguous as to whether this is a product of Sam’s subconscious or a purposeful manipulation on the part of Kim as part of her research. Kim is Sam’s most important relationship on H-Station, and she’s the one who’s digging into his psyche, trying to tweak him into the ultimate soldier. She realizes he needs to reconcile his past if he’s ever going to reach his potential as a soldier. Both of these characters have reasons for H-Station manifesting Sam’s memories. Maybe both are responsible, and the answer becomes apparent only when you make a decision one way or the other (like any respectable wave function).
Why did you choose cancer as the cause of Christina’s death? How does that connect to Sam’s cycle of death and reincarnation?
To be honest, I put no special thought into Christina’s cause of death. I wanted something common that readers might relate with; I wasn’t interested in something that would draw undue attention to itself, because I didn’t feel her cause of death was important. I also wanted something that would leave distinctive “marks” on Christina, but wouldn’t necessarily debilitate her to the point that she was hospitalized or unresponsive. These “marks” then show up throughout the story, such as when Sam sees the part in Kim’s hair showing her scalp, and is rattled by the memory Christina missing hair.