Science Fiction & Fantasy

CHOSEN ONES

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Nonfiction

Author Spotlight: Nisi Shawl

How did “Deep End” begin as a story for you? What was the most difficult aspect to writing it?

It started as an invitation to the anthology from Nalo Hopkinson. I forget her exact words, but whatever she said made me conceive the whole set-up. I was a bit surprised to see that everyone else hadn’t written the same story I did.

The hardest part was getting the ship designed. I had help with that from the husband of my dear friend, Sarah Zettel. Tim is a genuine rocket scientist.

Why did you write these colonists as prisoners? Why did you choose not to reveal their crimes or their guilt/innocence?

Empires often use their outcasts to do the dangerous work of colonizing. Many European whites were condemned to settle North America and Australia. I simply extrapolated.

I was honestly surprised the first time someone asked me what crimes the prisoners in “Deep End” had committed and then wondered why I hadn’t named these offences. Where I come from, imprisonment is largely a given for huge percentages of the population. Whatever one has done doesn’t matter much—punishment is based more on who one is. I haven’t memorized the horrific statistics, but African American men—my cousins, nephews, neighbors, so on—are all highly likely to have been imprisoned, or to be imprisoned in the future. Or now. What my characters had done to wind up where they did just didn’t register for me as a point I needed to cover. Of course, Wayna’s, Doe’s, and Thad’s sexual and romantic relationship with each other was nonstandard enough to make them criminals in some people’s estimation.

I found Wayna’s attitude toward her new body and its integrity inspiring in its self-love and mental toughness. How do you think she grew this attitude, since her circumstances might support even the opposite sort of view, i.e. self-destructive and self-loathing?

Wayna’s a survivor. I see her acceptance of her new body as a conscious choice made with the knowledge that rejecting it would lead to serious, perhaps even fatal, problems.

I had a similar experience the first time I took LSD. As the trip began, I looked for a long time at my feet. I had always been teased and shamed for my large feet. I realized that I could hate them, and I would have a really bad experience, or I could love them and have a good one. I chose the second option. So I know it’s possible to decide things like that.

What’s next for you?

Later today I’ve got to write a blog post for Sarah Hans, the editor of Steampunk World; that’s an anthology featuring a story excerpted from my Belgian Congo steampunk novel, Everfair. And I’m a few days overdue with a collaboration for Lethe Press’s A Scandal in Gomorrah—Cindy Ward and I are working on a cross-dressing mixed-race Sherlock Holmes pastiche. Then I’ve got an urban fantasy short story to write and send to Streets of Shadows, another anthology. Due in about three weeks. Finally, I hope to get an editorial letter from Liz Gorinsky telling me how to improve my Everfair manuscript soon and very soon. I hope.

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Robyn Lupo

Robyn Lupo lives in Southwestern Ontario with her not-that-kind-of-doctor partner and three cats. She enjoys tiny things, and has wrangled flash for Women Destroy Science Fiction! as well as selected poetry for Queers Destroy Horror! She aspires to one day write many things.