Thursday, January 9, 2014

Five Questions: "The Dragon in the Wardrobe", Betwixt Magazine, January 2014

It's time to open the lid on the candy box just a little, and let out my narrator PT so we can talk about another of my stories, this time "The Dragon in the Wardrobe" in Betwixt Magazine Issue 2.

AF: Yo, PT. Up and at 'em, sunshine.
PT: What? Oh gob, I'm not over my new year's hangover yet. Why you go be opening my cubby hole?
AF: You have one job to do. C'mon, rattle the think tank and gimme some questions about my latest story.
PT: Oh alright. Just pay in chocolate or pizza or whisky. *grumbling, crashing, moaning* Alright alright, questions, errrrm....

PT: You're open about this story being a tribute to Anne McCaffrey. Talk me through her influence.
AF: I've spoken in the past about how Anne McCaffrey opened up the world of SF to me at age 15. I won't rehash that history again, but I would like to try and put her influence into some context of my broader reading and writing skill. I am not someone who takes an influence and uses them to model my entire life on - that would be a very narrow view. At the time I was introduced to Pern, I had no inkling (nor was I taught any) of the huge diversity of women writing within SF. I did not understand the Unicorn or Exceptional Woman trope. While I naturally moved on to reading other authors, Pern still holds a dear place in my heart. Anne's treatment of dragons as benevolent creatures and women in strong roles were fantastic, but they were a starting point. Now that I read and write much broader and know more of the history of women in SF, especially of Anne's contemporaries, I can put her influence into a wider pattern. She was exceedingly formative of my desire to write, and I'll always cherish that push.

PT: So your influences have changed?
AF: They're always changing. I have contemporaries that I aspire be like. There are writers from other parts of women's SF history that I draw strength from. I've learned that idolizing one person can be more of a hindrance - they are only one style, one perspective, one part of writing history. It's a rare writer that their writing does not date, and SF is especially pernicious with its attention to technology and forecasting. 

PT: Is this why you chose the style and setting of your story?
AF: There is so much Pern fan fiction, I felt another would be pointless. I wanted to include some particular themes: a dragon with a name that ends in -th for a nod to Pern; a red dragon, to show I have moved beyond the "constraints" of writing Anne style dragons; the dragon kept in the wardrobe to signify how I cribbed my own talent for the longest time; and the mixture of fantasy and science fiction which Anne was so good at, and a theme I still like to explore.

Another huge influence on the story was current events in the week I wrote it. In the same week Anne died, the Curiosity Rover was launched to Mars. At the same time we were saying goodbye to someone who made me look to the stars, we were saying hello to a new era of exploration in our solar system. I was sad at the as well incredibly excited. There was much talk that if Curiosity succeeded there could be the possibility of human exploration of Mars, and this became the SFnal part of the story. It very much influenced the structure: the first part was saying goodbye to earthly, fantasy dragons, and the second part was saying hello to star- or extra-terrestrial-planet bound ones. 

PT: Will you write about dragons again?
AF: I'm always writing about dragons! I just haven't had those stories published yet. I wrote a sequel to "The Ten Thousand Steps" which was a novella going in depth to Katewin's post-Tower experience, and included gay dragons. I love gay dragons. I also like to imagine drag-dragons, they lend themselves to much fabulosity and sparkly bits. 

Dragon Aboard by Michael Whelan.
Tribute art to Anne McCaffrey
PT: How much are dragons a part of your life?
AF: I have dragons everywhere. I have a large dragon statue collection - I prefer artistic ones, like Michael Whelan or the glass Maleficent I got from Disneyland, than cheesy cartoon dragons, but dragons aren't so popular right now, and I haven't had a new dragon in quite a few years. Maybe the popularity of Smaug will revitalize a love for dragon statues and they'll become easier to acquire.

My only tattoo (so far) is a dragon, from the (Michael Whelan, again) cover of Melanie Rawn's Dragon Scroll. I didn't pick that dragon because I love the books (and I do!) but because it was a dragon in a non-combative pose. So much dragon art is about how vicious they are, and that is not how I prefer to see dragons. They are most mis-understood creatures...maybe like me. 

I have always wanted a beautiful painting of a dragon, again in the non-combative style, and the Anne McCaffrey tribute book and cover art was the perfect opportunity to bring my love full circle. Yes, Michael Whelan again! A lot of my imagery to do with dragons over the last 25 years is highly influenced by Whelan's art, so I am absolutely delighted to have one of his Pern dragons on my wall. A bucket list wish is to have one of my stories illustrated by Michael Whelan. 

PT: So I guess we could call you...the dragon lady!
AF: Yeah, I'm pretty much over being called that, and really that appellation belongs to far superior dragon-wranglers than I. I've yet to impress my first gold. Now, here...have a candy cane, and back into the box with you...
PT: Ooh! Candy Cane. Is it still Christmas?
AF: If you say so...

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