“Jupiter Wrestlerama” embraces noir sensibilities without sacrificing any of the science fiction flavors of life on a space station. What drew you to explore this combination?
This is actually a story about Niagara Falls.
I was walking in Niagara Falls, Canada, far from the strip, with my husband. We had gotten lost and ended up on a residential street — all these tiny bungalows so close to massive hotels. I wondered what it was like to live in a small town that was also a huge tourist attraction.
I wanted to write a story that took place on a space station as the ultimate closed community — an exaggeration of the trapped feeling of living in a small town, juxtaposed against the freely mobile wealthy visitors.
When I sat down to write this, I had just received a critique that none of my stories had enough plot. In a fit of pique, I said, “You want plot? Fine. I’ll write a murder mystery. Those are full of plot.” That naturally drew in the noir element, and it stayed after I decided it wasn’t really a murder mystery, but just a story with a murder in it.
Setting is important to both science fiction and noir. You make good use of physics and biology to support the setting without sacrificing the flow of the story: the trampoline and guywires for wrestling matches; black market carbs; the signs on the staircases; bone density tests. How conscious were you of your decision to present this information to the reader?
The setting was the whole impetus of the story, so I was very conscious of it. Every scene started with setting for me — the fortuneteller’s office, the gym, the Strip. Many details I just wrote as they came to me — the trampoline, the density tests. Others I carefully went back and added in once I had a good handle on my plot and knew what the readers would most need to know.
Also, I come from a blue-collar background, so it’s important to me to show blue-collar futures. I wanted there to be a laundromat. I wanted the characters to care about money and keeping their jobs. I wanted a sense of class barriers within the closed community, and barriers to escaping the community at all.
Not only do you take on more traditional genre tropes, you also tackle the stereotypes of larger men as courageous brutes, and female bodybuilders as in denial of their own femininity. What consideration did you give to your portrayal of characters that turn these stereotypes on their ears?
I’m particularly passionate about subverting gender roles, and stereotypes in general. Stereotypes can be comforting, and certainly many people build their own identity in line with one or another, but the toughest butch you know has a My Little Pony collection, and the sweetest, shyest flower will punch your lights out. Real people are full of contradictions; no one really fits the narrative perfectly, and I wanted to show that.
Besides, if you didn’t figure it out already, I’m a fierce warrior girly-girl. I lift weights, and you should see my party dress collection.
Your secret identity as an SCA recreationist offers a range of research possibilities. Have you ever taken advantage of such possibilities to fuel your writing?
Well, I did write a story about a female alchemist in 1520s France, but no one has accepted it yet. The experience of being a heavy weapons fighter — a female in a male-dominated sport — did color my portrayal of Kay. (My first draft of this story focused on her infiltrating the Wrestlerama and had her actually wrestle Jenna.)
My specialty in the SCA is Fifteenth-Century French costuming. (I’m cited on Wikipedia!) It hasn’t really come up in a science fiction setting for me, yet, but I have advised many writer friends on costume for their historical pieces.
“Jupiter Wrestlerama” ends on a gritty, realistic note, another nod towards the noirish influence. Who do you read when you want stories that reach beyond “happily ever after”?
The first name that comes to mind is Maureen McHugh, who writes beautifully literary SF. Someone needs to chain her to a keyboard and make her write more. Her endings epitomize realism and I want to be her when I grow up.
Let me be self-indulgent and mention two of my Clarion classmates: Alyssa Wong and Will Kaufman. Names to watch. Their delicious dark stories will soon be the stuff of legend if there is justice in the world.
You just finished the Clarion Write-a-Thon, and have a story coming out in Orson Scott Card’s Intergalactic Medicine Show. What else can we expect from Marie Vibbert in the future?
It’s been an exciting year for me! Having made my third pro sale, I just joined SFWA. I have two stories which have been accepted, but no contracts yet, so I feel I can’t even mention the magazines, but I’ll leak that one of them is very noir. Femme Fatale Robot in the 1940s Noir. OH YEAH.
And I’m just . . . writing. I have something like sixty short stories on my hard drive after all that write-a-thon-ing. Four of them might even be good!
Oh, and I’ve written a memoir about playing women’s tackle football, which I am terrified to show anyone, and I have a couple other novel drafts which might someday be revised into something readable. Maybe.
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