Science Fiction & Fantasy

Beren & Luthien by J.R.R. Tolkien

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Author Spotlight: Karin Tidbeck

“Augusta Prima” opens in a sort of portal fantasy: What goes into the creation of such a world for you and who do you count as your influences?

What would become Augusta Prima’s world was originally born in 2005, when I co-wrote a Nordic LARP called Moira. It was a contemporary story set in the borderland between the human and the supernatural realms. The faerie folk, for lack of a better word, abducted a group of humans to examine them, and would, based on their findings, decide whether humanity should be exterminated or left alone. The background material is still floating around out there, I think—it’s copylefted so that anyone who wants to can create a LARP within that world, as long as they credit the original authors. I’ve re-built and altered the world for my own purposes, of course; it’s now quite far removed from its origin. “Augusta Prima” was written when the project was fairly fresh. This is not how I normally approach writing a story. Usually the world emerges around the narrative and not the other way around. But writing in a co-created, or pre-created, world is a great exercise.

The influences for the Moira project were Norse mythology, the Icelandic sagas, and folklore and fairy tales from Scandinavia, Germany, and other parts of the world. Also writers like Clive Barker, Selma Lagerlöf, Ray Bradbury, Neil Gaiman, Michael Moorcock, Astrid Lindgren, Lord Dunsany, Elizabeth Hand, and Mervyn Peake. So those are the influences for that project. My own influences are spread far and wide, and it kind of depends on the project.

Time has two entirely different connotations between the two worlds: Is it dangerous in one world because of how it’s understood in the other, or because of how it’s used?

Understanding is using. The moment Augusta understands other concepts of time and space, she begins to affect the world around her. Because time in her own world isn’t a firmly agreed-upon consensus reality, it’s susceptible to “infection.” Human time, at least in this story, is much more ordered and has the force of consensual agreement behind it. It becomes a sort of virus.

Augusta finds that with the discovery of the watch, she’s yearning for knowledge: Is there an Eden/Eve parallel here?

I don’t write parallels, but I suppose you could call it a Fall, or read it as a story of lost innocence—or of selling your soul to the Devil for knowledge. It’s up to the reader. I wanted to explore the psychology of Augusta, and what would happen if she began to understand the actual nature of the world she lived in.

Time is a construct of the industrial revolution, and here, time is rejected. Do you see fantasy literature (or this world, specifically) as a means to push against the conventions of an industrialized Europe?

I’ve been wrestling with this question, and I don’t think I can answer it. I just don’t agree with the premise. I don’t see time as a construct of the industrial revolution, and certainly not in this story. I’m also not sure what the conventions of an industrialized Europe are. Time? Space? Ontology?

As the world works in “Augusta Prima,” the outside world—the time-linear world, if you will—isn’t only about time. It’s about a monoreality, a consensually agreed upon time-and-space that works differently than Augusta’s. So it’s not only about time, it’s about the entire fabric of that world. Time is only one of the aspects, not necessarily the central theme.

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Andrew Liptak

Andrew Liptak

Andrew Liptak is the Weekend Editor for The Verge. He is the co-editor of War Stories: New Military Science Fiction, (Apex Publications, 2014). His writing has also appeared in io9, Gizmodo, Kirkus Reviews, Tor.com, BN Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, Clarkesworld and others. He lives in Vermont.