How did “10 Things to See Before the World Burns” originate? What inspirations did you draw on?
The inspiration for the story came from the title, which I didn’t come up with; I got it from a “title rummage sale” in the Codex writing community. Originally, it was a very short flash story, based on the sort of touristic advertising brochures you find in hotel lobbies. When I realized it needed more fleshing out beyond that, I was also thinking a lot about climate, and reading a lot of climate fiction. (Jude Wetherell’s “Dead Horse Club” and Rebecca Campbell’s “An Important Failure” are two that I remember from around that time.) I started thinking about a biosphere that has been broken and remade over and over, and what it might look like when that place falls past the point where it can ever be brought back.
How did this story come together? Did it fit your usual writing pattern?
This was actually an outlier for me, in that I typically write in strict chronological order. This time, I had generated a flash piece based on the title, which was the list of tourist brochure entries that made it more or less intact, albeit totally reordered, into the final story.
I realized that, although that list tells a story of its own, it isn’t one with the emotional impact I wanted, which led me to go back and imagine what kind of person might read such a brochure and visit these places. Once I had Mer in mind, I wrote his scenes out of order, matching them to the journal entries they best fit, and rearranged everything until I had an emotional narrative arc that rang true for me.
Did you get stuck at any point while writing?
It took me the longest time to come up with an ending that fit. I had to write, or at least sketch out, four or five different options for where we last see Mer before I found one that felt like the right form of closure.
What are you reading lately? What writers inspire you?
I just finished When the Sparrow Falls by Neil Sharpson, and I am very belatedly reading Black Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse. I also love short fiction and aspire to capture any fraction of the beautiful prose of a Nghi Vo story, the emotional resonance of an Amal Singh story, or the elegant twist of a B. Pladek story.
Someday I’d also really like to write something in the kid-lit sphere that makes me feel like a Ben Hatke story makes me feel (but without artwork, because stick figures are going to be a tough sell on the illustration side).
What are you working on lately? Where else can fans look for your work?
I like to practice “productive procrastination;” if I have three or four different projects running at the same time, I can put off one by working on another! To that end, I’m working on a fun fantasy novella, outlining a novel that tackles some “chosen one” tropes, and drafting a short story set in an Amazon company town.
My short fiction can be found places like Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and Fireside, and I do also have two published novellas that are available from Tor.com and Interstellar Flight Press respectively: Sun-Daughters, Sea-Daughters, which is a somewhat dreamy and lyrical re-imagining of The Little Mermaid in space, in which the mermaid and the sea witch have to work together; and Local Star, which is the queer-space-station-adventure-romp-and-hold-the-misogyny-please version of Much Ado About Nothing that I had long wanted to write.
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