How did “Zen Solaris and the God-Child” originate? What inspirations did you draw on?
The initial aesthetic was inspired by Mad Max: Fury Road and Danger Days: The True Lives of the Fabulous Killjoys, both colourful, post-apocalyptic dystopian stories. Ratter’s tattoo machine is based on the real-life prosthesis of tattoo artist JC Sheitan Tenet. The themes of gender and extinction come from my own anxieties about current events. I’m fascinated by the concept of human extinction—not from a fear of social collapse or a natural catastrophe but from a bird’s-eye-view of the planet’s history and the inevitable end of the so-called Anthropocene.
What is your writing space like? What do you like to have around for optimal creativity?
I’m so specific about my space. I need to write in my room at my desk, with everything as quiet as possible. This was true even before I switched from typing to dictation, which obviously doesn’t work with background noise. I have a window by my desk so I can stare at the clouds or the trees when the words don’t come, which is less dangerous than getting distracted online, though I do plenty of that as well.
Did you get stuck at any point while writing this? How did you get past that?
I didn’t get stuck, but it definitely took me a while to figure out what the story needed. It was originally over 9,000 words, about twice as long as its published form. Every time I reread it I cut it down more and more to try to get to the bare bones of the thing. I was really ruthless in my editing, and the further away I got from the original draft, the easier it became to trim the excess. Despite all those words cut, I actually added a new ending. The original ended in the Oracle’s cave when the god-child reveals the apocalypse-seed. It was only after I had cut several thousand words from the story that I realised I needed to write the aftermath and give Zen the closure he had been running away from all that time. Some stories have to exist imperfectly for a while before they can get finished.
Other than writing, do you have any other creative pursuits? What do you do to relax?
I love art, especially illustration, but I don’t spend as much time on it these days as I’d like. As far as relaxation, my writing might give this away, but I really like spending time around plants. I don’t have access to a garden at the moment, but I have more houseplants than I can count. I don’t have a particularly green thumb, but the plants that survive their first few weeks with me generally thrive. I love watching them wake up from their winter dormancy and send out fresh shoots every spring, new leaves unfurling to take over the room. There’s something simultaneously calming and exciting about checking in on my houseplants.
What are you working on lately? Where else can fans look for your work?
I have a handful of books published, mostly novellas, all in the queer fantasy genre. An extremely high percentage of them involve menacing plants or trees, if not the outright eco-terrorism of “Zen Solaris and the God-Child.” I have short stories out with Baffling Magazine and Wizards in Space, and a couple more coming out soon in anthologies. My current project is a novel featuring a possibly sentient, possibly holy, carnivorous tree. You can find me on Twitter @ArdenPowell where I talk about my writing and share books and art I enjoy.
Spread the word!