How did “5×5” come about?
I wanted to tell the story of two high school girls who meet at a summer camp and become collaborators on their science projects, and, by nature of their collaboration, their relationship develops and deepens in way that neither of them expects. Furthermore, I wanted their collaboration to be antithetical to the competitive spirit of the science fair at the end of camp. It is my hope that, in this way, readers understand that Fox and Scully’s relationship defies expectations due, in part, to the expectations placed upon them by the fine sciences summer camp setting and the competition at the end.
During a summer where everyone is making scientific discoveries in order to compete for a college scholarship, Fox writes to Scully that she’s thankful that they discovered each other. That’s it. That’s the thing right there: When the awards, accolades, and accomplishments are stripped away, all we have is each other and that’s all that matters.
Ultimately, the story itself is a love letter to someone very important to me.
I loved the epistolary structure, modernized. What were the challenges / rewards of framing the story this way?
Personally, I worried that writing the story in this way was cheating myself out of writing a traditional linear story. But I tried writing that linear story and it was a lesser story for my efforts. Worse, though, was that when I wrote it in the way I thought I “should” be writing it, it privileged Fox over Scully in terms of point of view, and it was vital to the story I wanted to tell that the points of view be balanced.
It was important to me that, regardless of how effusive or long-winded Fox might be, Scully got to respond in equal measure—maybe not always in terms of length, because, as a character, Scully is more reserved and laconic. But that she gets to respond and push back against Fox is important to the dynamic they develop as friends and collaborators.
The glowworm scene is so cinematic: Were you tempted to break from the Bunk Note structure for this piece?
Absolutely. That final scene is partly why I wanted to write the story in a traditional, linear way. But when I remembered that Charlie Jane Anders published an article on io9.com a few years ago about whether or not science fiction could bring back the epistolary form—I finally gave myself the permission I needed to write the story in the way it was meant to be written, as opposed to the form I thought it “should” take.
Are there any epistolary stories you admire?
Epistolary stories tend to be my favorite types of stories, actually. Starting with Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Dracula by Bram Stoker, up to and including Stephen King’s Carrie; Angus, Thongs, and Full Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, and World War Z: An Oral History of the Zombie War by Max Brooks.
Any news or projects you want to tell us about?
I run The Brainery: Online Speculative Fiction Writing Workshops + Resources, and we’re gearing up for our summer session. In addition to expanding our services to include private manuscript consultations for people who can’t take the workshops, we’re launching a Kickstarter in September to fund our first anthology, which includes work from both alumni and previous guest speakers like Aimee Bender, Francesca Lia Block, and Cat Rambo.
My writing partner, KT Ismael, and I just got an audio drama project greenlit by The Ed Greenwood Group, tentatively titled Joe Fearless, which will follow a father and daughter team investigating and uncovering daemonic activity in small town local government. We’re also almost done writing and close to production on our personal audio drama project following a super villain love story between Slender Man and Cassette Girl set in the ’90s.
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