The genre of Post Apocalyptic fiction has had a resurgence of popularity in recent years. Thematically, many of your short stories fall in this realm. What do you feel is fueling this resurgence?
I think both apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction throw human nature into sharp relief, and that’s a large part of its appeal to so many writers and readers: under such stark conditions, people’s strengths and weaknesses have an immediacy heightened by the desolation around them.
Your first novel, “Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti”, will be published this spring. Did your short story “Bread and Circuses” serve as inspiration for the novel? Will we see any of the same characters? What would you like readers to know about the book?
“Bread and Circuses” actually came after the book was written; I wondered what had happened to Valeria, who has a small part in the novel itself, but who disappears into what the other characters hope is a good life. I also wanted to explore the idea of the Circus Tresaulti itself through the eyes of a stranger; the Circus has a profound effect on its audience, and I wanted to write a story about two people trying to live in the wake of something ephemeral that has changed them both, in different ways.
Your fiction weaves together a narrative that encompasses many different genres. Do you find publishers are now more accepting of mixed genre pieces than in the past?
My instinct is to say “Yes,” but then I think about how many con panels have turned into scenes out of West Side Story, so maybe we’re still dealing with some barriers between genre definitions. I certainly think that the right genre piece can capture the imagination of people who aren’t habitual genre readers, or entice genre readers over turf lines. But the rise of more slipstream and interstitial fantasy and science fiction in the last few years is definitely something I enjoy, both as a writer and a reader.
The setting for “Wondrous Days” published in “Descended From Darkness: Volume 2” features a stark setting, a bleak and lonely vision of a future earth. Society is all but gone and humanity holds on by a thread. What is your process for creating such a disturbing vision? Do current events inspire you?
Unfortunately, it’s not so much that current events inspire one as it is that they descend on one. The real world has more disturbing visions than most fiction writers can keep up with, and these days, imagining that everything around you is falling to pieces isn’t much of a stretch.
In “Wondrous Days” the stolen diary seems to be a turning point for the characters. If the diary had never been stolen do you believe the outcome would have ultimately been the same?
I enjoy the ambiguity of the idea that there’s a turning point past which everything else is inevitable; it’s a nicely nihilistic cycle both in real life and in fiction. Sometimes I think pulling back from the brink is possible. But I’m cynical enough to feel like it’s more likely the same conflicts between two people will arise again and again, even if a discrete moment in time is removed. So with or without the diary, the time will come when he threatens her and she realizes he’s not worth saving; the moment might change, but he never does.
For first time readers of your work, sum up what to expect in one sentence.
There’s a scene in a Futurama episode in which Bender the robot stages his own funeral so he can hear the wonderful things his friends will say about him. When one of them lacks the affect he’s looking for, he sits up from inside the coffin and shouts, “Louder and sadder!” Not that this is what readers should expect from all my fiction, but there are moments in which that hits home.
Thanks for being such a great guest! Where can we go to learn more about you and your works?
You can check out my website at genevievevalentine.com; there’s a full bibliography there, more information about Mechanique, and a truly embarrassing amount of blog space devoted to bad movies. (I regret nothing!)