Hi Carrie, thanks for taking some time to talk to the readers about “Marlowe and Harry and the Disinclined Laboratory.” Now that you’re several years into the Harry and Marlowe stories, can you tell us what has changed for the two of them along the way? How is your thinking about them different now than it was when you started?
I always had a pretty good idea of how I wanted their story to go, and what would happen over the course of it. One of the things I’m doing now is looking at what gaps there are, what holes in the story I might need to fill in before I get to the end point—I do have an end in mind for all this. If anything’s changed, it might be that I started with wanting to focus on the adventure aspects of the story, but as time has gone on, I’ve brought more and more politics—both personal and some of the politics of this alternate history—into the mix. As I’ve gotten to know the characters a little better, I’ve been able to expand their stage.
And of course, this is the first story from Marlowe’s point of view. This one finally clicked when I shifted it to his point of view, and it was a lot of fun focusing on him for a change. I learned some things!
The stories that we’ve seen so far haven’t been published chronologically from Harry and Marlowe’s perspective. Is there a pattern underlying how you’ve told their story or has it just been the luck of the draw? What are the challenges to going back and telling earlier parts of the story when there are already quite a few Harry and Marlowe stories out in the world?
It’s the luck of the draw, as I’ve thought of ideas. Of course I needed to go back and fill in how they met and became partners, that was the big issue I wanted to cover here. The main thing is making sure I plant seeds that I can use in later stories, and maintain continuity when I go back in the past. I already did the story of how they met (“Harry and Marlowe Escape the Mechanical Siege of Paris.”) This one connects the dots from there to their later adventures. I had to show them being not quite so comfortable with each other as they are in later stories, while still establishing that there’s a rapport there.
There’s a theme that repeats through these stories of Harry’s restraint due to how Victorian society views women and propriety. This story in particular shows how difficult that must be for Harry when faced with the scientists who go to great pains to ignore her. When looking back at the period from the lens of the future, is it hard to maintain that level of condescension? Is there ever a temptation for Harry to tell the people around her who refuse to acknowledge her to get stuffed?
As time goes on, I think Harry has less and less patience, as her mission becomes more important than propriety. By the later stories, she effectively tells them to get stuffed when she gets her grandmother’s—Queen Victoria’s—permission to take an airship and go out to do what she needs to do. It’s also important to remember that there were plenty of historical women at the time who bucked tradition and told people to get stuffed, by traveling the world, practicing medicine, doing good science, and so on. I think it’s Harry’s position as a member of the royal family that restricts her even more than her identity as a woman. Still, the real Princess Maud of Wales was no wilting flower. She spoke something like six languages, was a patron of International Ladies Chess Congress, and was considered a tomboy by her family. There’s a reason I picked her to be my alternate-history heroine!
Any hints on what’s next for Harry and Marlowe? And what else do you have coming up soon that readers can look forward to?
I’ve got a couple of missions for Harry and Marlowe in mind. The next stories will probably have some big changes in store for them, moving the whole sequence further along rather than filling in gaps in the past.
My most recent novel is The Wild Dead, a post-apocalyptic mystery and the sequel to my Philip K. Dick award-winning novel Bannerless. I’ve got a bunch of short stories and a couple of novella-length pieces due out over the next few months, so keep an eye out for them.
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