The narrative voice for “No Lonely Seafarer” is very smooth and easy to read. What were your thoughts about the tone of the story and creating a protagonist accessible to both younger and older readers?
I usually let the characters dictate the tone. The tone of this story arose naturally from Alex’s voice, which is practical and straightforward, unadorned.
This wasn’t a story written with younger readers in mind, despite the young protagonist, but I think it would be accessible to them.
You seem to know your way around a stable and horses. Have you ever worked with large animals?
I’ve spent my whole life around horses. I was one of those kids who couldn’t afford a horse, so I rode every horse anyone would let me ride, and traded work for lessons and rides at trail barns and polo barns and combined training and dressage barns. Eventually I even got paid for the privilege instead of the other way around.
In the story, you look at budding sexual attraction, the possibility of same-sex relations, and the intersexed, all in a respectful, straightforward manner. It’s not often readers see intersexed characters, even those of a fantastic nature. How would you like to see the awareness of such characters continue in the future of genre writing?
I want to stress that Alex is not “of a fantastic nature.” Alex is an ordinary intersex character in a world with fantastic elements. Their relationship can’t necessarily be called same-sex, either. Alex has been living as a boy, and treated as a boy, and interacts with Ginny as a boy, but doesn’t fully identify as male. Until just before the events of the story, some of their decisions have been governed more by practicality or perceived necessity than desire. That may change.
I love giving voice to characters who aren’t typically seen in SF, or fiction in general. That’s part of the beauty of all the projects in the last few years like Long Hidden and Fierce Family and Women Destroy Science Fiction!: They show that these characters and these stories are wanted and needed. Characters and relationships that reflect the diversity and complexity of real people, even if they’re in fictional settings.
There is just enough worldbuilding in the story to turn mundane history into the fantastic. If you could return to this world, what other creatures might you add?
In the story, Homer got sirens only partly right, so I suppose some of the other creatures that he and Aeschylus and Euripedes wrote about might also be out there, harpies and centaurs and such. Things they heard about from people who heard about them from other people, so that there’s a broken telephone effect, explaining why one might describe harpies as ugly, but another might describe them as beautiful, and until you encounter them you don’t know what’s truth and what’s fiction. Mrs. Wainwright sounds like she’s seen other creatures. I think they’re around.
Music plays a significant role in your life and many of your stories. How do you balance that creative mix? Do you find that one influences the other?
The balance between the two is tricky. When I’m in heavy songwriting mode for an album, I have trouble writing fiction, and when I’m writing a lot of fiction, I stop writing songs. When I’m playing a lot that tends to be late nights, but my most productive writing time is early morning. On the positive side, I think songwriting gives my stories some interesting rhythms and cadences at a line level. And fiction definitely influences my songwriting, since I tend to write songs from perspectives other than my own. My upcoming album features songs from the perspective of a circus sideshow’s “living doll,” a Dust Bowl farmer, and a Victorian couple out for a short boating trip who get pulled out to sea. So really it all falls under the umbrella of storytelling.
Part of the appeal of the story is how the characters, even minor ones, relate to one another. As a writer, what challenges do you face when it comes to exploring such relationships on the page?
I think if you’re writing characters who are true to themselves, they’ll relate to one another in a way that feels real as well. The easiest stories are the ones where every voice develops naturally and you just have to see what happens as you combine characters. How do these two talk when they’re in a room alone together? Does that change when a third person is introduced?
You are one of the writers featured in the Women Destroy Science Fiction! issue of Lightspeed. What’s in store for Sarah Pinsker? Are there any plans to destroy other genres?
I take it one story at a time! Tiny destructions. I’ve got more stories coming up in Lightspeed and Asimov’s, and several in the pipeline.
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