Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Nonfiction

Author Spotlight: Daniel José Older

Stories like “Dust” provide a very important insight into why this kind of fiction will always remain relevant. What are your thoughts on science fiction and its importance?

Science fiction allows us to imagine both the best and worst of humanity. When we open our stories up to the realm of the fantastic, we bring a new creativity and freshness to the question of how to survive this twisted, complicated world with our souls intact. As a genre, science fiction hasn’t always been welcoming to different cultures and their answers to this question — sometimes it’s not such a comfortable answer for folks that are used to being comfortable, but I believe literature is at its best when we sit with discomfort and open ourselves to these challenges.

Lead us through how you discovered “Dust.” Where did it begin, and what do you think drove you to finish it?

A few years ago, I had this very clear narrative fragment running through my head over and over of a genderqueer cowboy-type character on an asteroid. This character was sort of punk rock and sort of a genius and moody and complicated and didn’t fit in with the other folks on the asteroid and was deeply romantic. And I knew the asteroid itself had to figure largely into the story, as a kind of unintelligible godlike figure, but that’s all I knew really. The idea of dust, this all-encompassing physical manifestation of the asteroid that is literally everywhere — that’s what tied all those pieces together for me, and Jax’s emotional relationship to the asteroid and Maya are what powered me through to the finish.

Per that last question, what was the most compelling, or most difficult part of the story to craft?

Well, being a cis-male, it was challenging to write a character who doesn’t have a fixed gender. I really wanted to allow Jax to be complex and nuanced and not play into the traditional stereotypes that SF generally squeezes non-binary people into. Along with that, I generally write ghost noir set in modern-day Brooklyn, so the technological and space age aspects of worldbuilding were new to me.

“Dust” is written in the first person, so which other voices do you think most mirror the narrator’s? Did you identify with any of the characters while writing?

I love Jax and Maya’s relationship, and while they’re very different people, they share a certain balance/tension between cynical and romantic that I very much relate to. Each of them has the scales tipped slightly differently, but I can see how their minds meet and make friends on that level.

What can we expect to see from you in the future?

My first novel, Half-Resurrection Blues, comes out in January from Penguin’s Roc imprint. It’s book one of the Bone Street Rumba urban fantasy series. And next summer my first YA book, Shadowshaper, comes out from Scholastic’s Arthur A. Levine Books.

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Patrick J Stephens

Patrick J Stephens recently graduated from the University of Edinburgh and, after spending the entire year writing speculative fiction, came back with a Master’s in Social Science. His first collection (Aurichrome and Other Stories) can be found on Kindle and Nook.