Hi Karin, thanks for speaking with us! First off, how did your story, “A Fine Show on the Abyssal Plain” come into existence?
How did it come into existence? It’s one of those rare stories that knows what it wants to be right from the start. I was visiting a friend who’s also a writer. She had to take an hour to work on her current novel. I didn’t have anything else to do, so I wrote some random stuff in longhand without really thinking about it. When my friend came back out of her office, I had the first draft almost ready.
Your story follows a rather strange troupe, which begs the question: Much like a tree falling in the woods, if a play is held without an audience, is there anyone to appreciate it?
Apprentice is afraid they might be performing for empty seats, while Nestor is convinced that they’re out there, just invisible to the troupe. The question I would ask is, if the troupe has no audience, are they actually performing? I suppose it depends on whether you have an audience in mind or not. The troupe seems to be formed with the express purpose of performing for an audience, but opinions are divided on what or who that audience is. On the other hand, the troupe also believe they have the function of upholding the order of the universe. That kind of ritual needs no audience except creation itself. The actors may also be their own audience—a sort of ever-ongoing roleplay. Honestly? I don’t want to supply any ready answers. That’s up to the reader to decide.
There’s a real meta feel to this story, as Apprentice finds an audience caught in a situation very similar to the play that they’re playing. How much of real life is informed by stories, and vice versa?
I believe reality is a continuous narrative that we tell each other and ourselves; what we recognize as stories are just one of the shapes that narrative takes. I don’t think you can separate real life, or the human mind, from story. It’s a basic bodily function, like breathing.
You don’t always write in English; a number of your stories are in Swedish. What challenges do you face when writing a story in another language, and how are they different from a story in your native language?
Storywise, not so different. Language-wise, the two allow for different styles—the sounds and cultural baggage differ. When writing in a language not my own, it’s a question of being careful about over- and undertones, keeping track of what’s current usage and what’s outdated (because the Oxford English Dictionary won’t tell you), what’s British English and what’s American English. In short, it keeps you on your toes. I try not to worry too much, though. I can’t do the same job of it as someone who’s a native English speaker, and I don’t think I want to. Coming in from another language gives some leeway to play around with it, in a different way than natives get.
What do you have coming up that we should look forward to?
I have some stories coming up in Strange Horizons, Shadows & Tall Trees, and at Tor.com during the first half of 2013. I’ve written an entry for the upcoming anthology The Starry Wisdom Library, which should be out sometime in late fall. Also, “Reindeer Mountain,” one of the stories from Jagannath, is in Jonathan Strahan’s next Year’s Best antho.
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