How did this story come about?
The story is a pseudo-sequel to a story I published back in 2010 in Interzone called “Saving Diego” about two estranged friends who meet on Gilder Nefan after a decade of being apart. I’ve always loved that setting and have wished to go back to it forever. Also, at the time I wrote “Still You Linger,” I’d been reading a lot of Carl Jung, specifically his book Man and His Symbols, which explores in great detail the symbology of dream imagery and the collective unconscious. I was also reading a lot about first-hand DMT experiences (which I have never tried) in which people describe meeting weird “alien” beings after “breaking through.” I think a lot of that stuff found its way into this story.
You’ve written that your fiction “tends to explore themes of loss, death, mourning, and rebirth.” Do you find your exploration of those themes to be evolving? Was there anything in “Still You Linger” that felt like new territory for you within those themes?
I think in “Still You Linger” I was definitely exploring themes of Existentialism. Like, in a universe without apparent or obvious meaning, what is the purpose of life? Gil struggles with meaning but in the end chooses to believe that love is something ineffable and beyond pure rational materialism—something to literally risk his life and sanity for. There’s that great line at the end of Camus’s The Myth of Sisyphus, where he says, “Imagine Sisyphus happy.” Basically, he’s saying that even in a meaningless universe, we do the work anyway, because we create our own meaning. That had a profound effect on me. Despite it coming from a place of deep despair, I find it highly optimistic.
Could you talk about the choices you made for the characters Gil and Tim?
I was interested in exploring the relationship between student and teacher, upstart and veteran and how our youthful idealistic visions often don’t live up to the realities of adulthood. Tim is book-smart, but inexperienced. She’s young and enthusiastic and believes she understands reality. Gil sees his younger self in her, but he’s grown bitter and cynical with his time on Gilder Nefan. Reality didn’t turn out as rosy as he’d hoped. Worse, the numen (Muu) he’s devoted his life to stole the love of his life in order to teach him a lesson. Gil is really trapped, and I think he is jealous of Tim’s freedom. This is why, at least at first, he is brusque with her. Their relationship evolves as Gil comes to terms with his own disillusionment.
Tim’s quest for enlightenment continues at the story’s end. Will there be more of her story?
Tim is a very interesting character and I could see writing more stories with her. I’m actually writing a novella now which takes place on Chadeisson Station, an enormous space station and port city mentioned in the story. In the novella, a sixteen-year-old girl (Jess) is abandoned on Chadeisson after her father is arrested for grifting. When he goes missing from the station prison, Jess hunts for him across the galaxy, trying to find where he’s gone, who’s taken him, and why. Tim may make an appearance in the novella, but the planet of Gilder Nefan definitely does.
Can you talk about the choice to serialize Queen of Static, the sequel to King of Shards?
The publisher who put out King of Shards laid off all their staff and downsized just as the first book came out. The book sold reasonably well, had overwhelmingly positive reviews, including one front-page NPR review that I was quite pleased with. But the novel is kind of niche: it’s a portal quest fantasy based on a Judaic myth. It’s not epic fantasy, nor urban fantasy, and it heavily mines Jewish mythology. It’s also pretty dark at times. Not quite horror, but definitely dark fantasy. I don’t think there is anything quite like it out there, which is good and bad. Good, in that King of Shards is original. But bad, in that being so different, it became hard to define.
The original publisher had offered a reasonably large advance for each book (as part of a trilogy) and, having just laid off all their staff and downsized, quickly realized that they couldn’t afford to pay me my promised advances. When they offered to release me from my contract after the first book, my agent said it was the right decision, especially after the Night Shade Books fiasco, in which they held authors’ rights in litigation forever.
I approached other publishers, but I found that unless you’re selling huge amounts of books like N.K. Jemisin or George R.R. Martin (which I am not), most were reluctant to pick up a series mid-book. So after a year or two of shopping the series around, I decided to release the sequel, Queen of Static, on my Patreon. It’s been an interesting experience. I’ve never had a Patreon before, and especially during this pandemic crisis and the ongoing protests against police violence, it feels self-indulgent to ask people to support my art when people are literally dealing with life and death situations. So I try to give back as much as I can through my Patreon, to uplift rather than take down. I really believe art has the power to heal and inspire, perhaps more than anything else.
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