Welcome to Fantasy Magazine! We’re so pleased to run your story, “Saviour of the Light Market.” Can you tell us something about how this story came to be?
I was doodling a fish in the moon and thinking about magical markets when the world came to me in a montage. (Cliché but true.) The fish was using the moon as a pond. I imagined it endlessly circling its surface in an image reminiscent of the moon and ocean spirits in the Book One finale of Avatar: The Last Airbender.
I’d always wanted to write about a coastal city with a secret. The story would have a heroine that had access to the magical market and an anti-hero who didn’t. I realised I wanted to write about the anti-hero.
The idea of the Light Market developed from conversations I had with a friend from high school. We would speculate about whether black markets were physical places, and whether they were actually magical. How did they get their name? What if black markets were actually full of walking shadows? What if they were a time and dimension only open to a chosen few? When I revisited these musings, I’d been exposed to conversations about subverting the idea of blackness as evil, so I wondered what the Light Market would look like.
The image of a fish is a recurring one in the story: the city’s shape, the view of the Light Market from the outside, and the language that your characters use always refers back to it. What can you tell us about the symbolism of the fish as it relates to the world you’ve built?
The fish is the world’s source of life. This world both depends on and fears its ocean, so its society has come to worship the ocean’s life-giving resource.
The curved shape of a turning fish is also reminiscent of a circle, so the inhabitants of this world have come to associate the turning fish with the moon’s cycle and influence over the ocean’s moods.
The masculine Guardian was born out of a need for a benevolent protector so these people could thrive on the vulnerable coast or precarious slopes of their city.
This story revolves around themes of class, privilege, and expectations; Muka’s parents are always pushing her to be the best, and Muka’s father even goes so far as to deny his own origins (“We’re different from her kind,” he says when Muka points out that he’s from the Guardian’s Tail himself). Are these themes that you find yourself revisiting in your work?
I’m more interested in exploring unbelonging and how that intersects with class, privilege and migratory subjectivities. In another of my short stories, “That Which Smells Bad“’ (FIYAH), I introduced a character that pushes herself to be the best because she thinks it’s the only way she’ll belong in her parents’ country. In “Who Defies the Watcher” (Apparition Lit), the main character dedicates herself to protecting dragons in part because it’s the only way she can feel connected to her heritage. In “Light Boy Blue Lake” (Djed Press), the narrator befriends a boy in a reflection because they share a migrant background and a similar loneliness.
I’m also interested in exploring the precarious position that an immigrant might occupy in a society, especially the idea of needing to prove their right to live in it. Muka’s obsession with meeting everyone’s expectations is not just born out of a desire to please her parents. It’s also a response to her position as an outsider in the Guardian’s Head.
The story ends with resolve, rather than resolution–an ambiguous ending that leaves the reader imagining the possibilities for Muka’s future. Can you tell us how and why you chose this ending, and are there plans to further explore the nature of the Light Market in future stories?
I chose this ending because resolve is a thrilling way to end a story. You know there’s more to this character’s journey than that, but there’s a sort of resolution in knowing that your main character has decided on a course of action. There’s satisfaction in knowing they’ve found a bit of themselves in the events that led them there.
As for the how, I knew that this story would be about how Muka became connected to the Light Market. As an origin story of sorts, the natural way to end it was in her resolve to destroy the place she used to admire.
There’s also much more to explore in this world. There’s also Lisa’s perspective to consider, and even Tarek’s. We haven’t even ventured inside the Light Market yet.
What are you working on now, and what can we look forward to seeing from you in the future?
I’m working on an urban fantasy novel about a mysterious magician thief, a shady corporation and a main character trying to find their missing crush.
I want to speculate more Black joy like in “That Which Smells Bad” and more Black love like in my most recent attempt, “Their Eyes Were Chasing Sun” (demos journal).
I also want to write stories that feature more Frenglish. I haven’t read any stories with copious amounts of Frenglish and welcome any and all recommendations.
Spread the word!