“For Solo Cello” demonstrates a great insight into what internalized ableism can do in a person’s life. What was it like digging into these themes?
There are so many different ways in which society can put blinders on a person. We often don’t realize that we are participating in our own oppression. You see this across a wide range of axis of oppression. For me, one of the things that “For Solo Cello” was doing was exploring what it does to our self-identity.
For me, the image of Cheri at the outset, sweaty with morning sickness and backlit really got me seeing the story. I know it’s been a while, but was it an image that began “For Solo Cello” for you? Can you recall from the mists of 2007 anything surprising about the writing process?
This story was a real turning point for me as a writer. The initial draft of it was significantly sparser in sensory details. That moment was initially simply, “Cheri sounded tired.” Damien Broderick, the fiction editor at Cosmos, suggested adding the sense that she had just vomited moments before. He pushed me on adding “sensory specificity”. This is what a good editor can do.
You’re a professional puppeteer as well as an award-winning writer. You also do voice work; I can imagine there’s lots of wonderful ways that the different modes of work complement each other. Do they ever interfere with each other? Do you work on multiple projects at once, or do you find yourself working on each discretely?
I work on multiple projects all the time. It’s part of being a free-lancer. I find that my design brain and my narrative brain are pretty much the same thing, so when I am designing a show my fiction output drops enormously. Likewise, when I’m writing I have very little desire to work on puppetry. Performance is the exception. I find that performance only makes me more excited about the narrative underpinnings.
What’s next for you, Mary?
To demonstrate what I mean about multiple projects . . . I’m designing puppets for a stage adaptation of Alastair Reynolds’s “Diamond Dogs,” narrating Michael Underwood’s Genrenauts, and writing a pair of sequel novels to my story “The Lady Astronaut of Mars.”
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