Tell us about “The Sill and the Dike.” What inspired you to write it?
I wanted to write about a particular time and place, but in a short story you don’t have space to actually explain the history and if it’s not one of the handful of historical contexts you can generally expect a broad anglophone readership to be familiar with, then you might as well write it as an SFnal secondary-world fantasy. So I did.
The main character in “The Sill and the Dike” refers to the invaders as “aliens,” but this piece seems more historical than science fictional. Are you deliberately playing with readers’ heads a bit here?
My answer to the previous question kind of gets at this too—I think more than anything else this is me trying to figure out how to write this kind of story without turning it into something very different. That said, it is quite literally an alien invasion! It’s just set in the mid-1600s when alien invasions were commonplace. I’ve always considered the SFnal trope of the alien invasion as a fairly direct reference to that history in the first place, so in a sense this just closes the circle.
What are you working on these days? Any upcoming publications or exciting projects you’d like to tell readers about?
I’ve just had a very busy couple of months with a lot of new stuff coming out at once, including my first interactive fiction story in sub-Q! You can find that and all sorts of other stuff at vajra.me/publications.
Were you frightened by ghost stories as a child? What’s the scariest one you can remember?
I did take the invisible world very literally as a child, and yes, it was terrifyingly crowded with ghosts and gods, spirits and demons. Still, the worst stories were always the true stories—when someone’s possessed, killed by demons, cursed with black magic, that sort of thing. When I was very young that sort of thing was frightening because it represented a breakdown of the logic of the world. A worldbuilding incompatibility that cast doubt on the author’s grasp of the narrative, as it were. Eventually I grew up and saw the invisible world as a rhetorical device to avoid ever talking about violence, cruelty, and responsibility, and that didn’t make it any better. That’s just another way that the world breaks down. The scariest story is never the colourful demon, but the hidden grey thing behind it.
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