Issue 041 Author Interview: Devon Widmer and “Star Bound”

Dear readers! Meet Issue 041 author Devon Widmer as she discusses her story “Star Bound.”

LSQ: Astroherpetology! Please tell us where the idea for this story came from. 

Devon: Sea monsters… in spaaace!

There are so many fun hypotheticals to explore when writing about extraterrestrial life. It’s interesting to think about how life might evolve dramatically differently on other worlds (What if life developed with alternative chemical building blocks—silicon rather than carbon-based life, for instance? What kinds of creatures might crawl out of an ammonium ocean? Could a planet in a red dwarf system sustain life?). However, there’s something so exciting about the idea of being able to hop into a spaceship with your significant other and fly off together to explore an Earth-like world—somewhere reminiscent of home but full of new creatures and new discoveries.

In the real world, the prospect of extraterrestrial life has already led to the development of the field of astrobiology. In “Star Bound” I wanted to think about all the fun scientific disciplines that might arise in a universe where planets teeming with life are commonplace. Scientists in the field of astroherpetology, for instance, would study extraterrestrial creatures that had evolved similarly to Earth’s amphibians and reptiles. A marine astroherpetologist, like Dr. Vivian Huang, might specialize in ocean-dwelling extraterrestrial amphibians and reptiles—including any reptilian space sea monsters!Beyond all that, however, the idea for “Star Bound” could be boiled down to “space wives explore the universe making exciting new scientific discoveries while loving and supporting each other!”

LSQ: Loving female relationships are the backbone of this story and, in fact, there is an all-female cast, right down to the aquatic creature — a rarity. How did these characters start in your mind? Was one character easier to write than others? If so, why?

Devon: I’m a woman in science myself, so it feels natural to populate my sci-fi stories with women scientists. However, regardless of the type of story I’m writing, I make a deliberate effort to include a variety of female characters. There are a lot of stories out there with majority-male and even all-male casts, but it’s still relatively rare to find stories populated with more women than men. That means that female-female relationships (both romantic and platonic) haven’t as frequently been given the depth they deserve in fiction, so it’s a lot of fun giving those dynamics a lot of space in stories like “Star Bound.”

The characters of Terra and Vivi started as a way for me to explore my varied experiences as a researcher and then grew into their own people from there. Terra, like me, likes to keep inside her comfort zone, scientifically and personally, so it was fun to pair her with a character like Vivi who encourages her to try new things. Meanwhile Vivi has my enthusiasm for chasing down any new project that presents itself and thus needs someone like Terra to help reign her in so she doesn’t burn herself out by taking on too much at once. I had an easier time writing Vivi, ironically because she is less like me in terms of personality. Sometimes it’s difficult to write a character that shares some of my own insecurities!

I also wanted to use these characters to emphasize some of the aspects that I think are often missing from depictions of scientists. Both in real life and in fiction, scientists are expected to be all about the research, sidelining other aspects of their life like relationships or parenthood. Instead of pushing their relationship aside, I wanted Terra and Vivi to confidently showcase their love. They get to be brilliant and happy without having to choose between the two. They are also expectant parents who worry about giving their unborn child a good life but, importantly, not because being a scientist is somehow incompatible with being a fully committed parent. They get to be good parents and good scientists. This was an important aspect for me because I had my daughter while I was a graduate student in chemistry, which is not a common experience for graduate students in the sciences. There’s still some stigma around pregnant people working in scientific environments, so I wanted Terra to be able to continue traveling the universe and going on science adventures with her wife.

LSQ: Do you think you’ll visit Vivi and Terra again? How do you see their future play out?

Devon: I would definitely love to write about more of Vivi and Terra’s adventures. Any universe with the potential to stumble upon extraterrestrial sea monsters is a universe worth exploring. I would also be interested in checking in with them as new parents and later when their child is old enough to begin participating in their science adventures. I imagine growing up with two science-minded parents would be challenging—especially when each parent has their own field of focus/passion!

LSQ: Tell us a bit about your other writing projects.  

Devon: Most recently, my short story “The Passing of the Reaper Journal” came out as part of Pixie Forest Publishing’s At Death’s Door anthology just a few weeks ago. My horror short “The Manicurist” was also recently published at Theme of Absence.

A good selection of my other works can be found via my amazon author page (amazon.com/author/devon). I also have many more projects in the works, so please feel free to connect with me via social media if you are interested to see what is coming out next!

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