Issue 039 came out two weeks ago and it’s filled with great speculative fiction short stories by women-identifying authors. Today, we chat with Issue 039 author Raluca Balasa about her story “Keep Moving.”
LSQ: The world you’ve created is afraid of voices, human connections, seemingly anything that might inspire feeling. Where did this idea come from? Can you tell us more about this world and how the society’s rules influence those in charge?
Raluca: This story was written as a prequel to an epic fantasy novel that I have in the works. The idea for the world came from my desire to write a fantasy around a complex magic system focused on music. In this world, legend has it that the goddess Arasu descended from the heavens to share her music with humanity, but humans were callous and ignorant of her gift, and so she cursed them. Music now has the ability to hurt people not only emotionally, but physically and magically. Only “royals” are immune — but even they aren’t foolproof. Musicians like Sarrai are thought to be Arasu’s Chosen: demons chosen specifically to inflict pain on those the devil-goddess hates.
LSQ: Tell us more about Sarrai. She moves from being led to think she’s royal to accepting fate as a monster. What does this confusion tell us about her character?
Raluca: While Sarrai is a caring and selfless character, she’s not particularly good at empathizing. She always knew she was different, yet being unable to understand most people’s fear of emotional and physical stimuli, she didn’t imagine she would be hated for that difference. So it was easy for her to imagine she was a royal, or some Chosen One, or both. Learning she’s considered a monster taught her that others can’t be trusted because of their limited understanding of the world, and that she must take her survival into her own hands.
LSQ: Children are taken away from their parents soon after birth but at the end, Sarrai chooses to raise a child by herself. What is her plan for the future? Are her plans benevolent or malevolent?
Raluca: Sarrai’s really not thinking about what she’ll feed the child, how she’ll clothe it, or how she’ll cope if it dies after she takes it. Unlike many of my characters, she’s very impulsive. Her intentions are good, and she genuinely wants to save the baby from an upbringing like hers, but the first year with it will be extremely difficult. That being said, she does develop a strong bond with her brother.
LSQ: What was the most challenging aspect of this story to write and why?
Raluca: The most challenging aspect of this story was figuring out how the magic works (and why). This story only touches on a sliver of what I hope to include in the novel.
LSQ: Are you working on any other writing projects at the moment? If so, can you tell us a bit about them?
Raluca: Other than the music magic novel? Yes! I’m working on publishing “Blood State,” a character-driven science fiction novel that combines culture clash with noble family rivalries, extreme environments, and genetic experimentation. The novel will be coming out in 2020 from Renaissance Press!