Science Fiction & Fantasy

The Mad Scientist's Guide to World Domination

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Author Spotlight: Yoon Ha Lee

In your story, “Swanwatch,” Swan and the other elites live in close proximity to a black hole as they work on creating their masterworks. This juxtaposition between the creation of art and the destructive qualities of a black hole highlights the true power that artistic expression holds. How do you see this artistic expression unfolding in the centuries to come?

I’m afraid I try to avoid making this kind of prediction in the first place! I remember reading SF back in middle and high school that speculated about the future of art. Nothing I read in those stories (I recall one had an olfactory symphony, for instance) would have prepared me for slash fanvids or World of Warcraft machinima sagas or custom My Little Ponies done up as everything from Marilyn Monroe to Johnny Depp, all of which are very nifty. I don’t think my imagination is good enough to anticipate what form human (or other?) creativity will take in the future.

The edge of a black hole is quite a location for an artist’s colony. What was your inspiration for this choice?

I thought of it more as a prison than an artist’s colony. Or a prison that also happened to be an artist’s colony. Mostly, though, it was the idea of a black hole as a fermata—the suspended note/silence/image—that did it for me.

Your language in the story speaks to familiarity with music—from the perfect naming of the Fermata to the Concert of Worlds to Swan’s compositions. Did this all stem from research or do you have a background in music?

A little of both? I took seven years of piano lessons, five of viola, and three summers of classical guitar, and I’ve dabbled with soprano recorder, harmonica (diatonic and chromatic), ocarina, and pennywhistle. I am not a musician, but I compose as a hobby, mostly for piano or small orchestra or electronica using MIDI. My high school senior project was a small suite that the school orchestra performed. I remember doing up the score with Finale, but there was a bug in that version that corrupted the entire score if you attempted to extract parts, so I had to recopy everything by hand for the orchestra! These days I like to read the occasional issue of Computer Music, and I mess around with Reaper (a DAW, or Digital Audio Workstation) and Vienna Special Edition; before that I was using Logic Pro 8.

Dragon, Phoenix, Tiger, Tortoise, and Swan. How did you decide on just five exiles, or Initiates of the Fermata, and not more?

Efficiency issues (read: laziness), especially in a short story. I wanted enough characters for some variety but not so many that they were hard to remember, and notice that Tortoise never even makes an appearance.

You create a powerful image of the swanships diving into the heart of the black hole to battle the silence at the end of time. What do you believe happens to all that matter that enters a black hole?

It . . . compacts down into a singularity? I am not the gravitational astrophysicist in the family, that’s my husband, but certainly, mythologizing aside, I don’t think that matter is coming back in any useful form.

Finally, do you have any new projects you’d like to announce?

I have a collection of short stories coming out in 2013, Conservation of Shadows. According to Prime Books’ website it’s due out around May, and it includes an original novella, “Iseul’s Lexicon,” which is about genocide and tactical linguistics.

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Caleb Jordan Schulz

Caleb Jordan SchulzCaleb Jordan Schulz is a writer, illustrator, and nomad, currently finding himself in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His fiction can be found in Subversion, Scape, Crossed Genres Year Two anthology, Ray Gun Revival, and Innsmouth Free Press. In between his work for Lightspeed Magazine, he’s a freelance editor, and blogs occasionally at: theright2write.blogspot.com.

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