Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Author Spotlight: Seanan McGuire

Right from the start, you hit the readers with a subtle blend of fears and unease that sets the tone for the story—drowning, forced manipulation, not fitting in. Later, you delve into the pain of surgery and chronic medical treatments/conditions. How conscious were you of these influences and how they would impact the story?

Extremely. I have a complicated and very painful issue with my left foot right now, and dealing with it has been both exhausting and a distressingly large part of my daily life for the last year and a half or so. So I am very conscious of these things, and how they impact our lives. There’s a lot of fear of not being accepted that comes with having a sudden change in health, and I wanted to focus on that, at least a little.

“Each to Each” could easily be labeled as science fiction, military SF, feminist SF, or even science fantasy. As a writer, what do you see as the pros and cons of genre labels and the continued emergence of slipstream/crossgenre works?

Pro: It’s easier to find things that contain at least one major ingredient you’ll enjoy. Con: It’s easy to dismiss things you would have absolutely loved because they’re not the “right” genre, or sub-genre. I think it’s a good idea to read broadly, and to follow authors as much as ideas.

You use the deep ocean as a setting, and the exploration of sharks, lionfish, and other non-cetaceans as a basis for the modifications to the sailors. How did you research the oceanographic elements for this story?

I spent a lot of time at the aquarium! I love the ocean. The mysteries of the deep sea are one of my favorite things to explore when I get bored. So I really just used several years of cumulative research, all in the same place.

Challenge coins are an important part of military service in terms of branch of service and command post, part of their esprit de corps. With the unique make-up of the submariner forces in your story, what would you like to see for their challenge coin?

Since some of them don’t have functional fingers anymore, I sadly think that the loss of the challenge coin is just one more burden being put on the women of the Deep Sea Naval Initiative. But the ones who are still mostly human still carry their coins, and mourn them when they have to put them down.

Many of your works deal with gender politics. In this story, you combine such issues with views on women in the military, and social dynamics in an all-female social setting. How do you see the portrayal of such issues shaping the future of genre fiction?

We learn what’s possible from what fiction shows to us. I think that the more often and more purposefully we expand our ideas of gender and social dynamics through genre fiction, the more we’ll be able to bring those things naturally into our storytelling. Superhero teams used to have “the girl,” and now we have all-female teams, women leading the Avengers, and a lot more gender diversity (not to mention racial diversity, which is a huge thing). We’re nowhere near perfect, but we can get there if we don’t give up.

The story explores the ideal of physical freedom, moving unfettered in a world not of your own making. What would be your ideal world to explore if environmental concerns were not an issue?

The deep sea! I want to look for mermaids.

In stories such as “Indexing” or “Knives,” you look at fairy tales through a different set of eyes. What is it about fairy tales that appeals to you as a writer and a person?

I majored in folklore and mythology. So I guess it’s just how I’m wired. It’s sort of like writing legal fanfic. Everybody knows these characters, knows these stories; it’s all a matter of finding a different facet in the diamond. I love that.

What can eager readers expect from Seanan McGuire in the future?

So much. So much! I’m continuing my October Daye and InCryptid series (next books in each: The Winter Long and Pocket Apocalypse). I have a stand-alone, Sparrow Hill Road, coming in May 2014. Lots of short fiction. And of course, that Mira Grant lady has a book coming out this fall . . .

Plus I’m going back to Disneyland.

Sandra Odell

Sandra Odell

Sandra Odell is a 47-year old, happily married mother of two, an avid reader, compulsive writer, and rabid chocoholic. Her work has appeared in such venues as Jim Baen’s UNIVERSE, Daily Science Fiction, Crosssed Genres, Pseudopod, and The Drabblecast. She is hard at work plotting her second novel or world domination. Whichever comes first.