Last week, I started what I hope will be a long-running thing on my blog — interviews with Plasma Frequency authors. I’ll be interviewing one or two of Plasma Frequency‘s authors from every issue. Questions will generally revolve pretty closely around the stories we publish, but may deviate to allow us to get to know these talented authors better! For PFM’s 14th Issue, I selected two authors to interview. Last week, we chatted with Damien Krsteski about his story “City of One.”
This week, I’ve got Sylvia Anna Hivén here to talk about her story from Issue 14 — “At Twenty-Two Hundred Hours.”
Sylvia Anna Hivén lives and writes in Atlanta, Georgia. Her fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Daily Science Fiction, EscapePod and others.
Just a heads-up–if you haven’t yet read “At Twenty-Two Hundred Hours,” I definitely recommend reading it before proceeding as there are some spoilers ahead. It is free to read, just click the link in the story title. This was another of my favorite stories in Issue 14. It’s a story with a lot of heart–something that’s hugely important to me as a reader. Many thanks Sylvia for taking the time to answer my questions. Now, full steam ahead!
Alexis A. Hunter (AAH): When I first read this story, one line instantly hooked me. “Girl in the moon, come on down.” What inspired this particular line? What inspired you to write “At Twenty-Two Hundred Hours”? Tell me about how this story began to take shape.
Sylvia Anna Hivén (SAH): What inspired the line “Girl in the Moon, come on down” is a rhyme in my native language Swedish. It doesn’t rhyme in English, granted, but it’s special to me and an homage to the language I grew up speaking. What inspired the story overall is Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s reboot of Carl Sagan’s Cosmos. I’m crazy about all things space, and time travel theories in particular. I wanted to find a way to use time travel in the most tragic way possible, and the twist in this story seemed the most heart-breaking scenario I could come up with.
AAH: Tinder’s name stood out to me from the get-go. Do you feel her name has any significance or meaning, or was it merely a pretty name that caught your eye like it caught mine?
(SAH): I suppose the name Tinder is a reference to how she made Cory feel. He was in a dark, dreary world, and Tinder lit a spark of hope that he could get away from it.
AAH: The use of a 3D printer plays a fairly large role in this story. I like how it isn’t an easy answer for their separation—how it works for her to send him things, but not vice versa. What drove you to add that sort of technology to their worlds and their relationship? Do you think it strengthens their relationship?
(SAH): 3D printing seems to be something that’s going to be integrated into our lives in the very near future, and it made sense to me that it would be a casual part of everyday life on Cory’s and Tinder’s worlds. I liked the idea that even if they couldn’t touch, they could share intimate things with the printer. Also, I try to be very efficient in letting a reader know what the setting is, and a 3D printer mentioned in the first few paragraphs will hopefully help orient the reader to what sort of place my characters are in.
AAH: I loved the Star Trek reference: “I’m a botanist, not a space station commander.” Are you a Trekkie? Are there other references or hat-tips in this story that I missed? How much influence, if any, do shows like Star Trek have on your work in general?
(SAH): Yes, I am definitely a Star Trek fan. I would probably not even write science fiction unless someone had dragged me to a Star Trek movie when I was sixteen. I think it’s impossible to be a science fiction writer and not find at least some inspiration from Trek ideas and concepts. So much of Star Trek’s science concepts has almost become standard cornerstones of most fiction, and nobody is going to bat an eye if you have a food replicator or a transporter in your story.
AAH: Throughout the story, there is a great deal of contrast between the life and greenery on Tinder’s planet and the cold confines of Cory’s world. Does that hold special significance in this story? What, if anything, does that contrast mean for you or for the story?
(SAH): The contrast in Tinder’s and Cory’s worlds is there to really twist the knife in Cory’s heart further at the end of the story. She isn’t just a girl he cares about, but she’s his ticket out of a miserable place. When he realizes what happened to Tinder’s planet, he didn’t just lose Tinder but also the promise of a better life.
AAH: The connection between Cory and his sister, Artie, is especially well rendered. Just the right amount of affection and attitude. Do you have any siblings? Do you find any of your family working their way into your stories—whether in a larger representative role or in bits and pieces?
(SAH): I have five siblings, and while my relationship with them are all strong in different ways, I can’t say Artie is a representative of anybody I grew up with. I tried to make their relationship sympathetic and supportive just to show how tough space-station life was for Cory–if he was willing to sacrifice his relationship with his sister, his life situation has to be pretty bad. I didn’t want it to be too easy for him to leave.
AAH: This story has such a powerful last line. I wonder what Cory decides to tell her. Did you have anything in mind or is that a question left for you as well as for the reader?
(SAH): The first story draft concluded with Cory’s and Tinder’s last conversation, and that ending did show Cory’s decision. However, I found the story would linger better with a reader if they were left to wonder what the right thing to do would be. For me, it’s more fun to leave the reader thinking about the conflict of the story, than tying up an ending with a neat bow as if I have all the answers to what would be right.
AAH: Do you feel “At Twenty-Two Hundred Hours” has any particular themes, messages, or meanings? If so, did you set out to write a story with those themes/messages/meanings?
(SAH): I think the story is about how time and space doesn’t really change basic human needs of love and connection. It’s also about the perceived idyll of times gone by–like looking at old photos of people that you’ll never meet, in places that are gone forever.
AAH: What upcoming stories or projects are you excited about at the moment? Where can our readers find more of your work?
(SAH): I have a short story called “The Sixth Day” coming out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies in 2015, and I’m extremely exited about that. My current work in progress is a Christian science fiction novella about how God would reach out and connect to alien civilizations.
And that’s the end of our November/December interviews. This segment of my blog should resume in January with Issue 15 of Plasma Frequency.