What was the inspiration for “Love and Marriage in the Hexasun Lands” and how did the story develop?
“Love and Marriage” was the first story I had completed in a very long time, and coming out of that hiatus made it a particularly grueling work to write. I know I had the first image—flowers raining from the sky—months before the plot was formed, but a lot of the story came in drips and drabs. In terms of worldbuilding, I was inspired by Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series to try creating a world completely free of the standard expectations of fantasy. Hence the unusual biology (green hair, grey skin) and physics (the titular six suns). The “Indian” feel to some of the names came from a desire to see more non-Western sounding names in fantasy; a lot of the time fantasy worlds seem inventive in every aspect of culture, society, and geography, except for their names, which still seem like something Tolkien would have come up with. And while Tolkien is, and always will be, amazing, we can do more.
Does your background in philosophy show up in this story in specific ways? Does it often show up in your fiction writing, or are they very separate for you?
I think they’re pretty separate. There are definitely ways to do philosophy through literature, however. One day I’d love to write a story that’s both deeply entertaining as fiction but also engrossing philosophically, like Jo Walton’s fantastic Thessaly trilogy. I have a few ideas—let’s hope they pan out.
You also have a background in science, particularly physics. Your previous Lightspeed story “The Djinn Who Fought to Kill the Sun” (August 2014, Issue #51) draws on legendary creatures and tales. Do you write science fiction as well?
I’ve definitely written a little science fiction! But it tends to stray away from being realistic; a part of me just wants to have laser swords be laser swords. Like with philosophy, however, I would love to write something that serves as both science education and fiction. There’s definitely a niche of SF readers out there who, if you told them that a plot point involved solving a series of differential equations, would immediately go and work it out for themselves. (I know because I am one of them.)
Hexasun feels like a large backdrop with the potential for many epic tales. Will we be seeing other works that take place in this world?
To be very honest, I hadn’t thought about reusing the world at all until you mentioned it. I think I would have to work out the mechanics of having six suns first. It seems like the kind of thing that would have significant consequences for broader society that a good story should take up. We’ll have to see . . .
What is important or special about this story for you? What do you really want readers to know?
The most important part of the story, for me, is the concluding section where Schyan and “the other woman,” Varabhata, sit down for a chat. When a relationship ends, there’s always two sides, two injured parties, to tell their stories. “Love and Marriage” grew out of an anxiety about this: How do you know that, in the other person’s eyes, you weren’t the bad guy? That your self-absorbedness hid the consequences of your actions for someone you loved? And while I’m not advocating for Schyan as the victim of her marriage to Adhamrya, the disparity of their accounts really brings out (for me) the two-sidedness of love. Maybe it’s not as clear-cut as having a singular, discernible “bad guy.”
Has your work as an Editor-in-Chief for UC Review had an impact on your own fiction writing?
This is my first year serving as Editor-in-Chief for the UC Review, the undergraduate literary journal of University College at the University of Toronto. Just seeing the diversity of content and style among student writers has been really inspiring for me. Reading people’s literary art that they’ve fashioned out of their own experiences has reminded me why I got into writing in the first place. And it emboldens me, encourages me to write my own life.
Who are the writers (or what are the books/stories) that inspire you right now?
Oh boy. You know how you forget every book you ever read, once anyone asks you what you’re reading? Jo Walton’s aforementioned Thessaly trilogy blew me away when I read it last year. I’m still thinking about equal significance and the road to excellence today. On Water by Thomas Farber gets honorable mention for Book-I-Only-Started-Didn’t-Finish-But-Cannot-Forget. There’s this phrase among all the gorgeous reflection of the ocean: “Earth-the-misnomer.” I squeee’d! when I read it and it’s still as delightful.
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