In this Author Spotlight, we’ve asked author Kat Howard to tell us a bit about the background of her story for Lightspeed, “Sweet Sixteen.”
I have a strong academic interest in hagiography—writing about saints—and in the way holy women in particular are written about. had written an article that touched on this topic. One of the specific areas he wrote about was the idea of “requickening,” which, to vastly oversimplify, was the thought that by taking on a saint’s name, a convert also took on a part of that saint’s identity. I really loved this idea, and wanted to see if I could make it work outside the area of medieval literature and hagiography.
The major issue in “Sweet Sixteen” seems to be the problem of personal identity. What made you choose the technology of re-making an individual to address this issue?
Technology is amazing. I know, we’re sort of supposed to be grumpy that we don’t have our jetpacks and flying cars yet, but I look around at what science and technology have achieved, and are achieving, and I am amazed. At the same time, I think that no matter how advanced technology becomes, some questions—like “Who am I now?” and “Who am I going to be?”—are pretty universal. So I wanted to show that even if it seems like technology gives us an answer, we’re still going to find a way to ask the question.
You are silent when it comes to the masculine in this story. What prompted this choice?
It was a gentle push back at all of the stories that erase women.
Role models seem essential to this story. Do you have a role model as life-altering as the ones in Star’s life?
I feel very lucky, because I’ve had a tremendous amount of people in my life that I look up to, and admire. Many of those people, I am also honored to call friend. But for the purposes of brevity, I’ll limit myself to mentioning Caroline Walker Bynum, without whom my field of study would not exist, and my sister Elizabeth, who is one of the most extraordinary people I know.
Even though each child in “Sweet Sixteen” has input into who she will be, and the choice itself is pushed to as late as physically feasible, there’s still a lot of anxiety about the change. Do you think there would be any time where there wouldn’t be that sort of anxiety?
I still feel anxious about who I’m going to be when I grow up, and I’m definitely not sixteen! I think people are always anxious about making big decisions, and I think that’s good, because ideally, that means we consider those decisions carefully. But since we don’t ever have perfect knowledge, there’s always the chance of making a mistake, and not being able to correct it. So you think, and you worry, but eventually, you have to choose.
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