“Infinite Love Engine” hits overdrive in the very first paragraph and doesn’t stop until the last period. What inspired this character-driven roller coaster ride?
I originally wrote the story for the Cosmic Powers anthology, the remit of which was big, splashy space opera. I grew up reading those kinds of stories in comic books, and I had a lot of ideas for cool space stuff. I wanted to have fun with it, so the creative process was sort of like, think of a cool character, think of an interesting problem, then just kinda goof around for a while.
You chose a very distinct narrative voice for the story—a dollop of Phillip K. Dick, a splash of William Gibson, a dash of Hunter S. Thompson. How did you tease out this particular narrative tone?
The voice is actually pretty natural for me. I wanted the narration to be kind of casual, so it’s sort a representation of how I talk, or how I would talk if I could write all my lines ahead of time to maximize my eloquence. And then I wrote the dialogue the way I did because I thought it would be funny if these cosmic heroes and monsters talked like hipster zonkos.
As many of the best stories do, you blend a number of current social concerns into a near future narrative: racism; empowering women; STEM studies; religious strife; communication and cultural differences. What are your thoughts on SF/F/H stories as a means to explore political/social issues? Do you write with a particular message in mind?
Fiction is about expressing ideas, and ideas are political. “Ignoring politics” is itself a political stance. At the same time, fiction is limited if your goal is actually to convince people of one political point or another. You can explore ideas, but you’re often preaching to the choir. In most of my fiction, I write with a particular message in mind, although my last story in Lightspeed, “The Venus Effect,” was pretty political by design. Most of the time, I like writing about the things that interest me most—art, relationships, and identity—and the politics just sort of follow from there.
Okay. It has to be asked. What is Violet Allen’s definition of love?
That is a super hard question. I don’t know. I guess it’s the bond of kindness and humane intimacy that connects us to one another. Or maybe it’s just chemicals in our brains to keep us from murdering each other all the time.
What’s next? What can fans look forward to, whether musically or in prose?
I think I’m going to do some more Aria stories. This story was a lot of fun to write, and I’ve been interested in experimenting with episodic storytelling for a while. Besides that, I guess I’m hoping to get a novel going soon.
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