Welcome to Fantasy Magazine! We’re so happy to bring your story “Slow Communication” to our readers. Can you tell us what inspired this story and how it came about?
The story started with the idea of living one’s life as part of a conversation, without ever knowing the outcome. I think a lot about intergenerational discounting—the idea that we prioritize short-term gains over doing things that will help future generations. For example, let’s say I buy property and plant it with fruit trees from seed. I may not harvest that fruit in my lifetime, but my descendants (or whoever ends up owning the land after me) will. But why would I think about my children, or my children’s children, when I could just worry about myself? Why would I plant a tree that takes decades to grow, knowing that life is short and I can do something more immediately beneficial?
This story came out of a desire to challenge that line of thinking: the Revere women craft their questions to the leviathan as a gift to future generations, and are careful stewards of that gift. I think the world would be a vastly better place if more people thought like that, keeping an eye on the future even as we live in the present.
To me, this story nailed a lot of the concerns and issues that come from being a trans person in this world—I found myself thinking “this feels like a trans story” on page one, and was super energized to find that it was. How important was it for you to thread the trans experience through this story?
I come from a very matriarchal family: I was raised by a single mother, who was raised by a single mother. My mother, grandmother, and aunts pooled resources to look after me and my cousins. I grew up around badass women, who taught me to be a badass woman.
And, well, I’m trans! Coming into my gender identity entailed undoing a lot of the messages I’d learned about femininity and power while growing up. I had to find new ways to connect to the lineage of women who made me who I am, now that I’m no longer one of them. Darla is experiencing that same tension, and is ultimately assured that it’s okay for her not to be a woman. I wrote this piece out of a desire for that same reassurance.
“Slow Communication” is the story I wanted to read—and ultimately, the story I wanted to live—when I first came out to my family. My transness is inextricable from the story, so it was crucial for me to incorporate that experience throughout.
The leviathan is doing huge work as a metaphor in this story; appropriate, given the name—and, in some respects, it comes to me like “society distilled into a single voice,” with the omnipresent weight of what the characters believe to be the leviathan’s expectations always a factor. Did the idea of the leviathan come first, or did it evolve as the story took shape? Are there any other ways you wanted the leviathan’s pressure to manifest here?
The Revere family was the first and most important part of my process—I intended this to be a family story before it’s an alien story. I wanted the story to be about the weight of familial expectations, but it’s impossible to separate those expectations from the leviathan’s perceived expectations. I started with what Darla’s mother wants from her, then worked backwards to determine the family’s beliefs about the leviathan.
I do think that the family’s perception of the leviathan is colored by the society they’re steeped in. If gender were different in the world of the story, maybe the Reveres wouldn’t assume that femaleness is what ties them to the leviathan.
That the story ends on Darla’s question, unheard by us, is perfect but also critical—so much of the story revolves around Darla’s personal questioning. Are there any questions you would have in mind to ask, in a situation like this, or is this the sort of thing that can only be private and personal?
It would depend on what those who came before me had asked! I don’t think that it’s private, but it’s definitely too hypothetical for me to offer a solid answer.
Is there anything you’re working on now that you’d like to talk about? What can our readers look forward to seeing from you in the future?
My next project is Plant Girl Game, a TTRPG about a family of plant children working together to thwart ecological disaster. It’ll be crowdfunding next month, and you can find more info at dominiquedickey.com/pgg.
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