If you joined up with the Merchant Force, what planet/moon/race would be your favorite one visited on your first tour?
I’m the last person who would sign up for something like the Merchant Force. I’d be perfectly happy just watching videos of other planets, aliens, etc. Seeing giant ambulatory plants would be really cool from a distance, but I wouldn’t want to get up close and personal!
This story has love, time dilation, poetry, and plant monsters in it. What was the inspiration behind “An Ever-Expanding Flash of Light”?
The genesis of this story goes back a good seven or eight years, but it has changed a lot since its initial conception. The basic idea of a couple being held apart due to time dilation/cryogenic stasis remained, but that’s about it. I only wrote the opening and closing scenes of the original version, but Irina was barely a character and it had a much sadder ending. My understanding of the science behind time dilation, light cones, and so forth is more in line with Tone’s than Irina’s, so I knew that I couldn’t focus too much on the science, but had to make the story about the characters. This version is much more of a love story, and I like it a lot more for that.
The plant monsters are actually from an unpublished story I wrote around the same time I came up with this idea. No one wanted to publish it, so it has since been trunked until I can come up with a good way to rewrite it, but I still really liked the plants, so I was very happy when I realized I could include them here.
I also remember that The Sun Also Rises was somehow a big part of the inspiration, but for the life of me can’t remember/figure out how . . .
Tone, at one point, says “Buying time . . . what a turn of phrase. Something’s almost poetic about it.” I’m interested in time in your story, because, with time dilation, so much of it can be bought with so little. Do you think that people in this world, specifically the merchant-soldiers like Sarge, don’t see time as a resource anymore?
This is an interesting question, and I don’t think there’s really one definitive answer. Certainly with time dilation, people would view time-as-a-resource differently. Merchant-soldier lifers like Sarge probably don’t see time as a resource anymore, but they are effectively cut off from society at large due to their profession. For Tone and Irina, meanwhile, time is very much a resource, one that they’re trying hard to take advantage of. In fact, to keep Irina in stasis, they need to literally pay for time. I think your average citizen would still see time pretty much the same, though.
Is there anything about this story you’d like your readers to know?
I think this is probably the closest to “hard” science fiction of any story I’ve written. As I said above, my understanding of the physics here is pretty spotty, so my apologies to any scientists who spot something wrong! And a fun personal fact that made it into this story: my deep and hopefully irrational fear of losing my wedding ring.
What’s next for you? What other projects are you working on?
This is my first “pro” sale, so hopefully what’s next will be more like it! I’m always working on short stories, but I’m also working on a novel now. I finished the first draft a while ago, so now I’m working on revisions, which is always the toughest part for me. With luck, everything will click soon and I’ll be able to send it out for consideration. Thanks to everyone for reading, and to John Joseph Adams and everyone else at Lightspeed for helping me get this story out into the world!
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