What were some of the other story ideas you played with before settling on the final central story idea for “Alsiso”?
None that I can remember, though it was a while ago! I tend to find that if a story’s going to work at all, it more or less works in the first draft. I’ll rewrite and fiddle, but the basic premise stays the same. I get a bit discombobulated when I’ve got a lot of choices, so it’s better for me not to give myself too many. If the first idea really doesn’t work, then I’ll try another, but if I find myself trying out a lot of different ideas and approaches, it’s a warning sign that the story won’t get written.
Your stories often have pieces of actual cultures woven into them. Do you keep a set of notes on cultures for worldbuilding? Or do the details get discovered along the way while writing and researching and brooding?
I don’t keep notes. I use things I’ve remembered and kept in a mental odds and ends drawer; then if I need specific details, I’ll research them.
“Inevitably Alsiso became a car.” That perfect line kinda killed me. From such great heights to the quintessential trivialization. Tell me you, too, felt some remorse to bring Alsiso so low.
I did. Alsiso may be out there waiting to get his/her revenge on me. Maybe I’ll be turned into a toaster oven or something. I’m fascinated by the rise and fall of mythic figures—ancestors and heroes becoming gods, gods becoming another culture’s demons, the modern mythologies around products. I don’t think our belief in magic has died; it’s hiding in plain sight in consumerist psychology. On the one hand, Alsiso becoming a car is a fall, but it’s a fancy car, and since we accord a kind of magical status to fancy cars, maybe it isn’t such a dishonour.
I loved how you closed the cycle of Alsiso on one planet and then set Alsiso off to begin a new cycle somewhere in the cosmos, and yet the final line seems to foreclose any hope for a new cycle. Why?
The original story had a different last paragraph, where a galaxy ends up with the name of Alsiso. Why did I change it? It seemed too upbeat. I guess that’s the danger of revising stories years later—you’re a different person, older and more miserable! But considering the fame of Laika, who I was thinking of, I reckon Alsiso’s cycle could start again.
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