How did this story come about?
Y’know, I’m usually clearer on a story’s provenance, but I’m struggling to remember the exact thing that inspired this one. I hate to say it was a dream, but I think it was a dream. I’m not going to say which dream or how close the fictionalized version was to the actual experience.
I always get lost in dream dictionaries — did you consult one at all for this story? Did it ever threaten to take over?
I only consulted a dream dictionary for the section where she goes online and does a cursory search for dream symbolism. I did the same cursory search that she did; since she wasn’t paying any attention to the credentials of the sources, I didn’t either. These are dreams being influenced by an outside source, so I don’t feel that they’re subject to the usual interpretations, and I didn’t want to be influenced by the question of how they might be interpreted by someone who believes in that sort of thing. I’ve always had vivid and strange dreams that don’t map well to interpretation. I’m interested in the idea that dreams are the brain’s way of working out something that is going on in the present by applying past experiences. That makes more sense to me than the idea that a dream of a wind-up toy monster spitting sparks across a backdrop of Georgia O’Keeffe skyscrapers would somehow mean the same thing to everyone.
So what did Taya’s note mean?
Taya works with animals. She’s applying things she has studied and read to the situation as she sees it.
Tell me about the title of the story.
The title and Taya’s note are related. The title is from King Lear:
The hedge-sparrow fed the cuckoo so long,
That it’s had it head bit off by it young.
So out went the candle and we were left darkling.
This story has a fantasy feel but we’re told to read it as science fiction. Did you consider pushing it one way or the other?
The challenge here is that I know the explanation, but the story is told in a very tight first-person perspective and the characters don’t know. There are clues in the story, and there are people seeing things more clearly than others. Arthur C. Clarke said, ”Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.” I guess I’m working on the premise that a phenomenon with a biological explanation might be indistinguishable from fantasy to the people experiencing it.
Any new projects you want to tell us about?
My answer to this is always short fiction. Sometimes I pretend I’m working on my novel, but the siren call of the short form is too strong for me to ignore. I’ve got a story in the new Accessing the Future anthology that came out last month, and others coming down the pike. I just got back from the Sycamore Hill workshop with a story that I’m very eager to revise and send out into the world.
Spread the word!