They're baaaa-aaacck! Let's pull my internal blog narrator PT out of their box and find out what questions they'd like to ask about "Blood, Stone, Water" (Beneath Ceaseless Skies #118, April 2013).
PT: Woohoo! Twice in two weeks! I'm on a roll! Doot dee doot dee doooo....
AF: Oy! Where do you think you're going? You can't walk out of the bounds of this blog.
PT: Aww, nuts to firewalls and edges and all that techno-ey crap.
AF: *eye roll*
PT: Okay, questions then. So, at it's core, what is "Blood, Stone, Water" about?
AF: It's a love story...
AF: Hush you. I didn't start out writing it as a love story. I was originally using it as a world building exercise with the friendship between Tau and Nhia, extension of their quest, and the "gathering" they attend. But as they do, characters have a way of taking over the story, and their banter created a lot of chemistry I couldn't ignore. It's a lesbian love story...
PT: Phwoooor! Now we're talking!
AF: Settle. Yes, it's a lesbian love story, but I didn't write it with the hetero male gaze in mind...
PT: But there are boobs and stuff!
AF: *stink eye* And who says boobs are titillation for men, or even titillation at all? Women are allowed a woman's gaze. And a woman is allowed to bare her body for no other reason than her personal comfort. Nhia and Tau take their clothes off coz it's hot and damp, and because Tau is experiencing womanly (time of the month, well in this case time of the year) discomfort. That's one of the subtle fantasy parts of this story - there are few body hang-ups, because this is a society that wasn't born from puritanical mores.
PT: Tee hee, you said titillation. And ew, periods. Really?
AF: Yes. Really. I wanted to think about what would happen to the evolution of fertile cycles if there were more than one moon. The story talks about menstruation. People get their periods. Deal. NEXT PLEASE.
PT: So they're hanging out in canoes talking about death and destiny and periods. Where's the fantasy in the story?
AF: You could possibly look at the world building with the slant of science fantasy. It's a water world. There are three moons, hence the title. The sun is different to our own - I describe the light as more orange and red. And it's a matriarchal society.
I came to the idea of a non-European fantasy world with three moons after reading NK Jemisin's Dreamblood series. There were two things she got me thinking about . First, she writes and talks a lot about how the fantasy genre needs more world building that's not white European or American centric. And second, in the interview at the back of "The Killing Moon", she gave the fascinating tidbit that her world was actually a moon to a gas giant. That put the weather, tidal forces, and worship of celestial bodies in a whole new, err, light.
If this is science fictional world, wouldn't it be great to imagine Polynesian people colonizing the stars? I chose a water world/Polynesian style world because I am familiar with that. New Zealand is a set of islands surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, Tasman Sea, and Antarctic Ocean. We're never more than a few hundred kilometres from the water. I grew up boating in the Marlborough Sounds. Our lives are very blue water. I can't say I'm an expert at it, but it's informed my thinking all my life, and the resources to research it are very close.
As for the language, I looked at base words in many Polynesian and South East Asian languages and dialects, including Maori, native Hawaiian, Fijian, Samoan, Thai, and Hindu, and built from there.
I'm fond of writing matriarchal societies, not because I'm anti-men (puhleeeease) but I want to build on the niche inhabited by many of my favourite genre writers. As much as I love the Russ, Tiptree, Tepper, Charnas et al matriarchal societies, they're stories told from the perspective of first and second wave feminism. Some of them are very combatant, anti-male, and biologically essentialist. In my world, men exist, are welcomed and loved, but the sex and gender divide is overwhelmingly woman. I do regret not having the space to include the discussion of trans*gender people in my world, but I like to believe they exist quite comfortably there.
PT: But...but...there are no dragons. Or magic. And all that fantasy STUFF.
AF: Who says there isn't magic in this world? Riddle me this: how do two women procreate?
PT: Um, errr...
AF: I didn't give the, err, nuts and bolts (bolts and bolts?) description of sex and sexual reproduction because I wasn't about to put gratuitous lesbian sex in just to satisfy curiosity and titillation - a sex scene wasn't necessary for the story, and I thought it might cheapen the ending. I still wanted a little "does she, doesn't she" to Tau's hesitancy.
I thought on my world the sexual reproduction might be a cross between the reproductive processes in Nicola Griffith's "Ammonite" and Storm Constantine's Wraeththu.
But then, it's a bit silly to call single sex reproduction "magic". There may be a science to it, beyond genetic engineering or intro-vitro fertilization that we just haven't discovered yet. There may be a species out there in the universe that can do it.
PT: Hehehe, you said titillation again...
AF: You're stepping very close to losing your last questions.
PT: What's with the water world? You got a thing for Kevin Costner?
AF: Ah, no. Before that clunker of a movie (even though I enjoyed the concept of the science), there was Anne McCaffrey's "Killashandra". In the second book of this series, the crystal singer Killashandra Ree is stranded on a water world. The description of where she swims from island to island searching for escape left quite the impression on me. I'd never read science fiction or fantasy set in a world that sounded like my own (islands, stranded at the bottom of the world). The idea of paddling from island to island grew from that image, but I also wanted the people of my world to know their geography in a different way - they read the waves, wind, sky and the stars much like earth sailors, but their islands also have an intricate mythology that not only informs their worship but also their map-reading/recognition skills, the "Chants". If you've ever heard Maori people singing while paddling a waka, you might know what I mean.
PT: Speaking of worship, their goddesses seem very...human.
AF: That was deliberate. I wanted their exploratory and artistic natures entwined with what they've learned from their ancestors, that the people they worship are not so far back in their history they are venerated as spirits, divine or untouchable. The mythology contains the mistakes they made settling the world as well.
PT: Annnnd....we're spent.
AF: Thank dog. Back in the cage for you, creepy narrator thing.
PT: What? WHAT? Nooooooo.......