“The Universe, Sung In Stars” is a beautiful study of creation as much through art as through glorious happenstance. Where did you take inspiration for this story?
Thank you so much! In a way, I had the inspiration for this story far before I ever thought about writing. It came from the idea of the music of the spheres — the idea that the movements of the moon and planets have their own tones or harmonies that are based on the proportions of their orbits. I first learned of the concept studying Shakespeare in high school, but it’s an idea that has fascinated me whenever I’ve come across it. I wanted to write a story set in a universe where, rather than just being a philosophical concept, the idea of the music of the spheres was a scientifically useful one.
The story dips its toes in poetry, a trait shared by many of the better stories in science fiction and fantasy. As a reader, who do you turn to when you find yourself in the mood for beautiful wordplay and intricate plots?
Well, I mean, let’s get Shakespeare out of the way first. And I read a lot of poetry — Seamus Heaney, T.S. Eliot, H.D., Mary Oliver, Mary Szybist, Adrienne Rich, Louise Glück, Craig Arnold — I could go on, but I really do try to read some poetry every day to get exposure to writers who use words more elastically than those of us who write prose. In terms of prose writers, I love the way Sofia Samatar, Kelly Link, Rachel Swirsky, Cat Valente, Liz Hand, Sarah McCarry, and Nova Ren Suma combine language and plot.
One of the central facets of the story is a science that defies real world expectations even as it is grounded in sound musical and physical theory, blurring the line between science fiction and fantasy. What are your thoughts on the use of genre labels in fiction?
I like them when they’re useful. I mean, when I want to read a romance novel, I like knowing that, yes, indeed, romance is a major component of the book I am about to pick up. I don’t like them when they become a grudge match over status. There are good stories and bad stories in all genres — one is not inherently better/smarter/more rigorous than then others.
You have created an intricate, detailed world in just a few words. If you were to return to this world in a future story, what tale would you like to tell?
As of right now, I don’t see myself returning to the world of this story, though of course I would never rule anything out. Maybe a symphony of universes? (Note to self: Find composer to collaborate with.)
With the sale earlier this year of your debut novel Roses and Rot to Saga Press, you became Kat Howard the novelist. How does this differ from being Kat Howard the short story writer?
In a way, it doesn’t feel any different yet. I had been working on Roses and Rot at the same time that I was writing short stories, and I’m still working on novel-length and shorter fiction right now. I’m sure that feeling will change as I get closer to my release date in early 2016.
What’s next for you? What tasty bits can readers look forward to in 2015?
I have some short stories coming out in 2015, and I’m also working on a new novel.
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