In your story, “Salto Mortal,” you probed the depths of many injustices, but I wanted to focus on the domestic abuse aspect. Was this subject matter personal to you? How much research did you have to conduct into this horrific subject?
Domestic violence isn’t directly personal to me. However, I’ve had a couple of acquaintances subjected to it. In both cases, part of what was horrifying for me was that I had no idea what was happening until well after they’d left the relationship and essentially fled for their lives.
Because of that, I’ve done a great deal of thinking about how abusers often subjugate and attempt to erase their partners’ self-identity so that their actions appear to be part of the natural order of things. This can obviously be widened into a broader metaphor about cultural subjugation and erasure.
This story actually originated from two separate collaborations with the talented writers Tina Gower and Amanda Forrest.
Amanda originally wanted to co-write a story about the relationship between Mexico and the US, but the complexity of the issues rapidly became too large for anything short of a novel.
At roughly the same time as Amanda and I were attempting to write that story, I was also writing a fantasy story about an abusive relationship, trying to process my own thoughts about what I’d seen. During writing that story, I consulted with Tina. Tina’s a psychologist who has treated the victims of domestic violence. She’s also an award-winning writer, so she gave me incredibly valuable insight into the variety and complexity of relationship dynamics between abuser and abused.
The book Emotional Assault: Recognising the Abusive Partner’s Bag of Tricks by Lisa Kroulik was also helpful in gaining some insight into the psychology of a typical abuser.
These two trunked stories became the backbone of “Salto Mortal.”
My main source of information on lucha libre was Heather Levi’s book The World of Lucha Libre: Secrets, Revelations, and Mexican National Identity. I also received the gracious assistance of the artist Maricela Ugarte Peña in regards to Mexican culture and language.
You’ve written several short stories and have even been nominated for various awards. Will you continue to only write short stories, or will you venture into novel writing as well? Or do you already have a novel in the works?
I mostly write short stories because I’m too disorganized to write novels. As you might be able to guess from my process of trunking two stories to eventually write “Salto Mortal,” I’m not the most organized and efficient of writers.
Having said that, I do love short stories. Breaking into the US market with short stories is tremendously difficult. Practically, it would probably be wiser to start on novels. I’ve been doing a bit of research and reading. I’m currently obsessed with Cold War-era spy novels, so you might soon see a speculative fiction version of The Spy Who Came In From The Cold. Or, more realistically, you’ll probably see a novel with the most tangential of associations with the classic spy novels.
As a person of color and a writer, what would you like to see more of as far as diversity in speculative fiction?
Obviously, I’d like a diverse list of voices taking speculative fiction in all kinds of directions. Any community needs the constant influx of new ideas and new perspectives in order to remain vital and healthy. Although there’s chaos and displacement involved with new voices, a mature community is enriched by them.
Personally, I’d like to see writers from cultures I don’t know very well. From an Australian perspective, indigenous writers are underrepresented in speculative fiction. I know I haven’t read enough non-Western speculative fiction (outside of some Japanese science fiction). There’s a whole world of speculative fiction out there and it’s very easy to be ignorant of it unless major publishers and magazines, like Lightspeed, are proactive in reflecting it to the masses.
I always like seeing things from truly different perspectives and different lives, but I’d also like to see more subtle twists on some of our more popular tropes. I like my challenges, but I’d also like to see my comfort food slightly changed. What does the Zimbabwian Harry Potter look like? The Chinese Star Wars? There should be more people of colour everywhere in the publishing industry, from writers through to corporate owners.
I’d also like to see more work tackling the complexities of grappling with POC identity. For me, part of this story is about grappling with identity questions like “How Chinese am I?” In a world of increasing immigration and intermarriage, I think these kind of stories are important in ensuring that cultures enrich each other.
I’m sure you’re hard at work on other projects. When will your next work of fiction be available?
That’s in the hands of the editors and my own capricious writing process. Hopefully soon. I’ll definitely have a story coming out in an anthology called Starlight and Second (ed. by Dustin Adams) at some stage this year.
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