Welcome to Issue 038!!! We’ve got thirteen fabulous speculative fiction short stories by thirteen fabulous women-identifying authors for your hungry eyeballs and we couldn’t be more pleased. But yet, we are more pleased. Because we got to chat with Issue 038 author Tianna Ebnet about her short story “Wired.” And we get to share it with you. Right here. Right now. So dig in and enjoy!
LSQ: The concept of the System taking advantage of/abusing those less fortunate for the “good” of the whole feels very realistic, making this story believable in the somewhat near future. Were there elements of today’s society that influenced this story?
Tianna: Oh, definitely. America has a long history of systematic oppression. I think the easiest thing to point to is slavery, but actually I had more modern concerns in mind. I view the Wired system closer to the plight of migrant workers and laborers in sweat shops. These institutions are the product of desperate, underprivileged people. We all know they exist, but it’s an issue many avoid thinking about because most benefit to some degree from that labor. Ryan is an example of this sort of person. He knew this oppression was happening, but justified it and justified it, until he couldn’t anymore when he came face to face with the reality.
LSQ: Losing one’s identity in becoming part of a whole is something sinister behind many facets of life, including social media. Tell us more about your exploration of “self” in this story and Adrien’s journey through loss/regaining self via his interactions with Ryan.
Tianna: Adrien’s lack of self-identity was the reason I opted for second person point of view. He’s trying to hang on to who he is, but he’s had to detach himself to survive. Ryan, for all his flaws, reminds him what it means to be human. He’s the first person to care about Adrien beyond a cog in a machine, which constantly surprises him. He lets down his guard around him and allows a connection to form for the first time in a long while. It’s a blessing and a curse, because he gains a lot – love, a rediscovering of identity – but it also creates something to lose.
LSQ: There are many different layers to this story: the immediate relationship between Adrien and Ryan, Adrien’s history and what that says about class/political climate, hints at environmental disasters, run-away technology at the expense of the less fortunate, just to name a few. How did you manage this seemingly effortless complexity into a short story?
Tianna: Lots of staring at blank Word documents to start with. I’m terrible at writing things down – ironic, being a writer – so I largely worked the logistics out in my head. The story started pretty simple. I had the basic concept, and I knew I wanted to focus on an LGBT relationship – writing queer protagonists in speculative fiction settings is especially important to me. But as I was writing it, I realized I needed more world building. There were questions that needed answering. The other threads started unraveling from cause and effect. I brainstormed Adrien’s backstory based on what I felt would push someone to become Wired. The environmental thread came about when I imagined why a society would create this kind of system. And if the environmental issues were why this happened, the class dynamics were how this happened, the systematic justification for this oppression. It all came spiraling out of the core idea. But the relationship was the most important thing, which is why most of these details are revealed through that interaction.
LSQ: Not to spoil the ending for the readers, but did you know the ending at the start of your writing or did things work out as they did as you wrote?
Tianna: I actually had two prospective ways I thought this would end, both of which I wrote out. There’s an alternate ending sitting on my laptop that was more nuclear and tragic. I don’t think I can go into more details without spoilers, but no one comes out alive in that version. And I liked both for different reasons, but the one I ended up going with felt right. It seemed less predictable (dead queer characters, as we know, are nothing new), made more sense both thematically and logistically, and was a slightly happier ending than what could have been. Despite it all, at least Ryan and Adrien still have each other.
LSQ: What was the most challenging part about writing this story and why?
Tianna: The world building was the hardest part. Like I said, I have a lot of threads, and they were difficult to balance. I wanted to create a complex world, but I also risked those details to overrunning the relationship that I wanted to be the story’s heart. It was difficult to figure out where I should add more and where I should pull back. Ryan in particular risked getting lost. Adrien was easy for me to write, I had his voice figured out early on. But while this is Adrien’s story, it is also a love story, and for that to be believable, Ryan needed to be a complex secondary character. I nearly doubled my draft page count trying to get it all to work together.
LSQ: Can you name a few authors who are influential to your own writing?
Tianna: This is a question I always have a hard time answering, because I’m not always aware of what’s influencing me. It tends to vary depending on what I’m writing. Neil Gaiman is a huge one. For this story in particular, I took cues from Ursula K. Le Guin and Margaret Atwood. I get a lot of inspiration from movies and TV shows, as well.