Welcome to Fantasy Magazine! We’re delighted to bring your story “SOC 301: Apian Gender Studies (Cross-Listed With ZOL 301)” to our readers. Can you tell us how this story came to be?
Delighted to be here! This story was the much-delayed result of something we could generously call a story idea, the sort of idea that I woke up one morning to find I’d haphazardly typed into my phone: what if women has bees. (Yes, that’s exactly what it said.) Absolutely incoherent, but I dutifully filed it away in my story-fodder document and forgot about it. A year or two had passed when one day I was scrolling through that document looking for something that spoke to me, and, I think, angry about something at the same time. (There have been a lot of things to be angry about in the last several years, so it would be hard for me to narrow down which of these exactly was on my mind at the time!) When I saw that previously incoherent-seeming string of words—what if women has bees—it immediately made sense to me. Yes, of course I have bees, and I can feel them buzzing inside of me at this very moment.
Poor Hannah is a hot mess, protesting a fundamental part of herself and being repulsed by her own honey. The surreal element leaves room for interpretation, but to me her bees represented what makes her unique (which is why I actually teared up when one of her bees is left behind to die!) But that’s just one reader’s interpretation. What was your thought process as you developed this world of symbiotic insects and scholars?
When I wrote the story, I didn’t want the insects to anchor too closely to any singular real-world equivalent; in fact I went back and forth a few times with how they worked, changing their logistics and building in some of the in-world fallout of having bees as a fundamental fact of life, in order to keep them from drifting closer to being one clear metaphor or another (because I found that drifting very easy to do!) Being a woman is a lot of things, personally and interpersonally, societally, and I wanted the bees to be a lot of things too.
What was the most challenging part of writing this story? What came easiest?
The hardest part was an ending that didn’t feel too pat; an earlier version that I tried had a much more rosy and clear-cut ending that I knew didn’t feel quite right even as I set it to words. It was quite a long gap for me, between when the story was “finished” and when it actually settled into this final form; a year or so, I think.
By far the easiest part was writing about a hot mess college student who had no idea who to be, or how, or with whom, because I was her twenty years ago and some things don’t fade that fast.
I’ve read a fair amount of your work, and what has always struck me is how wildly different each piece is from the last. Where does that broad range come from?
I am a hopeless magpie when it comes down to it—always flitting toward the next shiny idea. Sometimes it’s a silly story about a runaway computer virus that replaces important files with pictures of hot dogs; sometimes it’s about spending your whole life clawing away at a scientific discovery that you realize, too late, can never be achieved. Sometimes it’s flash, sometimes it’s a novella, sometimes it’s a great big whole book!
What are you working on now, and what can our readers look forward to seeing from you in the near future?
Right now I’m working on one of those great big whole books, which is (hopefully) on the funny side, but also tries to say some things that matter to me about stories and how we tell them to each other and the weight of expectations. As far as forthcoming works, I have a short story called “Mad Honey” coming out next month with Lightspeed, which is very much not on the fun-or-funny spectrum, about humankind and nature and sacrifice and the plans we make against the future we can only hope is coming. And I have a new novella coming out next year with Tor.com, which is a sort of a near-future mystery unraveled by an artificial intelligence in a difficult situation between xir parents-slash-developers, and which again tilts back toward the ‘fun’ side of things.
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