As this story does, let us start even before the beginning. What was the spark of inspiration led to this story’s creation? Was there a particular mythology or other system that you were drawing from?
This one has an unusual origin. I was on Codex, a message board for pro and neo-pro writers, and people wanted to see how to write a story from start to finish. From idea to sale. I have one very odd talent: I can explain what I’m doing and why, without damaging my process. So I tracked the brainstorming process, the plot development, the drafting, and the entire editing process. I kept every draft to show the differences. I might release it as a chapbook sometime.
Anyway, this story came about because I wanted to write more epic short fiction, like “The Orange-Tree Sacrifice.” I love discovering just how much can fit inside a short story. I didn’t have a particular myth in mind (though I’m a huge fan of mythology). I just wanted to discover space mythology.
The setting here is especially intriguing. Your prose adopts a traditional cadence, almost like a fable, but the actual setting around the gods and monsters is conveyed in terms of academic cosmology and physics. How did you come up with that approach? Were there any particular inspirations that you looked to in this regard?
I’m a scientific pantheist. Science is awesome—literally. It inspires awe in me, much the way that I suspect many people are inspired by more traditional religious teachings. So for me, it only makes sense to craft the stories our ancestors might have, had they known more about the universe we live in.
I was fascinated with the way this story takes place in a continuous temporal narrative but still shifts between lenses. On the surface, there is the immediate combat of Ammuya and the Monster, which reads at a breakneck pace, but, when we readers step away, we realize that these enormous entities are locked in a slow-moving dance that obliterates trillions of lives over long periods of time. This had the effect of making your nonhuman characters more immediate, but at the same time more distant. Was it your intent to create both empathy and distance for these cosmic entities and the concepts they represent?
Oh, I need to elaborate? Okay. Yes, that’s pretty much it. The epic becomes comprehensible; the specific becomes timeless.
This story presents an interesting exploration of the difference between creation, development, and change. The Monster is born different, but it seems to be the torment that he suffers at his siblings’ hands that leads him to develop into a “monster.” Ammuya changes over the course of the story, too, although her change comes through her own self-awareness and a self-reckoning that finds a seed of empathy present in the title. In the end, although the Monster and Ammuya are delivered into their final form—the birth of the new universe—it could still be read as seemingly against the Monster’s will, since he fell victim to Ammuya’s trap. Although set with love and seemingly validated through the last lines of dialogue, it has the same effect as the earlier torments—forcing the Monster into an unwilling change. Should readers ponder over whether the failure to let the Monster decide for himself will re-instate the circle of destruction in the reborn universe? Or can this kind of change lead to a positive outcome if the intentions are pure?
“The conclusion is left as an exercise for the reader.”
Though if you ask me, I’d call attention to the fact that while the Monster was trapped, the effect was that he perceived truth. He understood what was happening and asked for help. Whether or not he retains free will at this point is a question for the reader (or for advanced philosophy coursework).
Finally, what’s next on your horizon? Beyond any concrete plans or upcoming releases, are there any new and inchoate ideas that you’re eager to explore?
Currently I’m most excited about the formation of identity in pressured circumstances, telepathic love affairs, and the best new games on the Nintendo Switch.
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