Welcome to Five Questions once more, the time where I let my blog narrator PT out of the box so they can run wild, spray paint the walls, and destroy anything that takes their fancy.
Okay, here goes, opening the box...
PT: Ta dahhh!
SFX: crashing noises, yowling cats
PT: It's so good to be needed.
AF: If you say so.
PT: You know you love me. Just call me Pandora.
AF: Just ask the questions.
PT: Alrighty then! "Black out the Sun". What came first, the edition theme or the story?
AF: The story. I actually wrote Black over two years ago, so it feels like an "old" story to me. I can see how far I've come even since then. I kept plugging away at submitting it, because I liked it, and I don't write much dark fantasy. When the theme came up at Innsmouth Magazine, it seemed like serendipity.
PT: Did you have anything that inspired this story?
AF: Absolutely. At the time I first started writing the story, August 2011, I was in a dark spot after the earthquakes. One of my favourite artists released a song around this time, a very dark story of love and loss without hope, with beautiful terrible video full of imagery of crows and hooded black creatures. There is one particular image from the video where crows burst away from a light source, maybe a sun, and there I found the imagery for the end of my story. I worked back from there, using themes of discovery and gender that I am fond of in my work.
PT: Speaking of gender identification, the story examines an older person dealing with those issues.
AF: Yes. Many coming-of-age stories to do with discovering sexuality and processing gender are about young people, teenagers, and I wanted an older protagonist who had still not found their comfortable niche, and their idea of gender was still fluid even in their 30s and into their 40s. Part of this fluidity was because they had been stunted in their emotional growth - distant parents, a bigoted foster parent, and a friend who had been afraid to work outside the rules. They discovered that sometimes what you had to do to survive is work with what you've got, and when that's not much, gender examination might not make sense until you're older and you have more information, guts, or support.
PT: The character, Ari, doesn't seem to have a lot of that support.
AF: No. It's an interesting theme I have been playing around with for some time. Even in a world of so many people, so many identities, and so much information, people can be very lost and alone. It's fascinating and terrible to be so alone in a crowd. And for Ari, she found her belonging amongst a group--the birds, a metaphor for genderqueer support--she had rejected as a teenager because she thought she was losing her mind, that there was no one like her.
PT: Wow, that's really sad.
AF: But also uplifting. She found her place, even after a lot of pain and rejection. I don't want to say all trajectories should be like that, but I don't want to invisibilize those stories either. A lot of people still struggle and self examine about gender as they get older. For example, a friend told me that after they'd had a hysterectomy, a nurse asked if she needed someone to talk to about how this would change her perceptions of gender. It dismayed me to hear that some women have actually asked that if it makes them a man if they don't have a uterus - it must be awful to be constrained by societal expectations of gender at such a stressful time. I hear the same stories about people who have mastectomies - look at the sexualisation, the pinkification, of breast cancer. Our society has put a lot of stock in gender signifiers like genitals (and this really fricken annoys me no end, it's so harmful), it takes a lot to unpack that.
The physical act of ageing and its consequences on gender presentation is a fascinating and difficult to negotiate. Our society does not give much space to sexuality or changing gender presentation in older people. Sexuality is something to be laughed at in older people, which I find such a shame.
PT: That was a bit of a ramble. Finally, have you ever wanted to fly?
AF: Hey, that's cheating! That's an extra question. But okay, I'll answer it. Sure, who hasn't? I dream of flying, but they've got less ever since I started writing. I think flying dreams were my subconscious call to arms, to find my calling. I'm flying now, each time I put words down, even if I falter, or take a storm head on, or crash into the sun.
PT: Woah, deep.
AF: About as deep as this box. Now, back in you go.
PT: Mmmm feather duvet...
AF: You're creepy, man.