Lightspeed: Edited by John Joseph Adams




Author Spotlight: Carlie St. George

What inspired “This Villain You Must Create”? Why did you choose to write about a superhero?

Years ago, in one of my creative writing classes, another student asked what the plural of “nemesis” was, and it sparked this big debate, not just about the correct word, but if you could ever have more than one nemesis and if a word like nemesis should even have a plural form.

So I start thinking about superheroes, naturally, because I’m a geek, and that’s kind of what I do, and I start wondering if a superhero could just decide to replace his nemesis if he ever actually succeeded in killing him. It was more of a quirky romantic story in my original conception, actually, and much more optimistic. As I started writing it, that . . . changed.

Granite and Lady Obsidian relate to each other through references to classic literature (Robert Frost, Frankenstein, Walt Whitman . . .). Why books as opposed to another form of art, and why those particular works? 

I suspect Granite and Lady Obsidian are both readers because I’m a reader, honestly. Well-read protagonists are probably even more common than writer protagonists. But it’s a trope that served me well, I think, because tropes are so important to Granite in this story. He lives by them. They’re his foundations. Although I’m a little disappointed in myself that I didn’t quote any Shakespeare. Everyone knows the best (Klingon) villains quote Shakespeare.

As far as which literary works I picked—honestly, there was a hefty dose of Google-fu happening there, certainly with Walt Whitman. I did intentionally have some fun at Robert Frost’s expense, admittedly, because certain poems of his really do pop up a lot in fanfiction. The quote from Frankenstein, though, I just love it—sometimes, I feel like we don’t talk enough about that part of recovery, how life just doesn’t stop for grief, how life doesn’t care who’s died because things still need to be done. Since this is, to some extent, a story about trying to move on after a loss, it seemed fitting.

The superheroes without nemeses have a support group to combat their depression. Why is the balance between superhero and supervillain necessary? Why do they need each other so much?

I think it comes down to a sense of purpose. We all want there to be a reason we’re here, and destiny’s just more fulfilling when specific people are involved. Say you’re a superhero. You’re like, “I’m here to stop evil.” So, you fight evil for a while, and that’s great, but then there’s this one bad guy who keeps on coming, who—for whatever reason—only you can stop. It’s your mission now, to stop this villain, because no one else can do it. He’s why you’re here. But if he just disappears one day, just dies . . . what’s your mission? Sure, there are other bad guys to stop, but other heroes can take those guys down. Why are you here? What are you contributing?

And villains, well, villains want love too, right? Or at least a good chess partner. Any respectable supervillain should know how to play chess. If they lose their favorite partner . . . why bother playing? It’s not really the game you’re trying to beat, after all. It’s your opponent.

Adam has frequent dreams about Mr. Malevolence and, later, Lady Obsidian. Why are they always at a ball, and what is the significance of the roses?

I can’t lie about this: I love writing dream sequences. I know people who hate reading them, but I can’t resist: Dream sequences are basically the music videos of prose fiction. And nightmares are just the best.

As to why they’re always at a ball . . . well, it made for an easy analogy, nemeses as dance partners, synchronized and perfectly suited to one another. Also, quite honestly, I just liked the imagery. Masquerade balls are awesome. I desperately want to go to one someday. I mostly chose the roses for imagery, too. I liked the idea that each set of nemeses had matching flowers, like corsages and boutonnieres, something that signified they belonged to one another. And red roses are just classic.

Does each superhero really have an ideal nemesis, or is Adam’s search futile? What does this say about his life, or life in general?

I kind of doubt that there is this one, ideal nemesis, but even if I’m wrong about that, I think Adam’s search is futile because by the end, he’s kind of turned the corner from “lost” to “functionally delusional.” He wants his nemesis so badly that he’s just going to keep convincing himself that he’s found her. Until someone irreparably breaks that illusion for him—and then he’ll just do it all over again. He needs it too much.

That being said, I don’t think we’re all Adam. I’m not quite that cynical. Not yet, anyway.

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Amber Barkley

Amber BarkleyAmber Barkley is a recent graduate of Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. She was born in Idaho and grew up in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin. Her favorite animals are cats and horses, and she considers it a great injustice that she is allergic to both—though that doesn’t stop her from being around them whenever she has the chance. Amber writes high fantasy with a dark twist, and is currently working on her first novel.