“This Is as I Wish to Be Restored” opens with a gut punch from a shattered glass glove, vivid and unforgiving. What inspired you to tell this tale?
Wow, thank you! I’ve been fascinated by cryonics since I was a kid, when I first learned of it in Madeleine L’Engle’s book A Ring of Endless Light. That fascination was rekindled by an episode of This American Life several years ago, called “Mistakes Were Made,” which covered the story of a California cryonics pioneer who found himself stuck maintaining several “patients” on his own when the early foundation failed. (Spoiler alert: It did not go well for him.) I listened to that episode over and over. One image really stuck with me and led directly to writing this story: Marie Phelps-Sweet, one of the first women to be cryonically preserved, had optimistically left a photograph of herself as a young woman, along with a note: “This is as I wish to be restored.” Hence the title, and the premise.
This is a love story, a horror story, a science fiction thriller story. You managed to blend a number of elements into a vivid look at a possible near future. When writing, do you concern yourself with genre labels or perceptions or do you allow the story to take on a life of its own?
I write the story as it seems to want to be written, and worry about where to send it later. Generally there’s a mood, an atmosphere, and an image in my head before there’s a story, and they do tend to be pretty dark. I had started out in my twenties expecting that I would be a horror writer, because I loved horror so much when I was growing up. I took a turn into SFF instead, but a few of my stories do still seem to lean toward dark fantasy and horror.
A great deal has been said about writing “the other,” presenting a character that is not yourself in a respectful and understanding manner. In this story, I love that you offer no identifying features for the main character. The readers are free to identify, or not identify, with the main character in any way they choose. Did you intend the character to present itself in such a fashion? How aware are you of a character’s voice when you set a story to paper?
I definitely did that on purpose. With first-person narrators I want the reader to be able to put themselves in the story. I’ve done that a few times. It’s always interesting to me to see how the reader fills in the blank—this story was produced as an audio version at Escape Pod some years ago, and the narrator was male. When I was writing the story, the narrator in my mind was female. But ultimately that doesn’t matter—once I’m done with it, the story belongs to the reader.
As for voice—voice is everything. I’m an incredibly slow writer for that reason. I can’t finish a thing until I’ve found its voice, and sometimes that takes years. This story was an exception—that first line is exactly as I wrote it in the first draft. The whole thing was done in maybe three days, and a couple of revision passes later it was out the door. I wish they were all like that!
One of your not-so-secret obsessions is your love of fountain pens (even adding references to a pen in this story). How did you begin your love affair with fountain pens and fine inks?
That is one hundred percent the fault of author Kat Howard. She drafts longhand, and she was about to start a new story and said something about needing to choose the story’s color, which intrigued me. She pointed me to the amazing Goulet Pens website, whereupon I fell down the fountain pen rabbit hole and haven’t emerged since. It turns out that they’re not reserved for the wealthy! Decent fountain pens can be had for as little as three dollars (visit JetPens.com for that price point). My current favorite is a Jinhao 321, which cost less than five dollars. Right now I’m working on a historical fantasy set in my home town, and the ink I chose (Noodler’s “Golden Brown”) is the color of the hills in the summer. It makes the process of drafting so much more pleasant. I’m a writer who loves revising but hates drafting, so anything I can do to get through that first draft is welcome!
What’s next for Christie Yant? What projects do you have in the works for 2017?
I’m delighted to say that I have a story coming out next summer in the anthology The Sum of Us, edited by Susan Forest and Lucas Law, and another in Strange California, edited by Jaym Gates and J. Daniel Batt.
2017 will also see the publication of the first comic books I’ve written: Pet Noir #3, which I co-wrote with Pati Nagel, should be out in early 2017 from Kymera Press. Pet Noir is an all-ages comic starring Leon, a genetically engineered cat who is an undercover cop on a space station. I took over as writer on the title starting with Pet Noir #4, which I just turned in to the editor. I never thought I’d work on something like this—it’s about as far from my prose work as you can get—but it has been an absolute blast so far, and I look forward to writing Leon and his feline friends for a long time to come.
Spread the word!Tweet