LSQ: At first, Sana thought she was being rescued by a mermaid or a siren. Explain the idea behind Em’s prosthesis.
Rachel: That was actually the inciting image that inspired this story! I don’t know why, but the idea of someone appearing to be a mermaid, but whose existence could be explained by technical rather than magical means, just came to me one day. And I thought the idea of mermaid fin prosthesis seemed really awesome, to be honest. I’m not entirely sure how effective it would be in real life. But I liked the idea of a double amputee sort-of underwater recluse scientist making herself a prosthetic specifically suited to her environment.
LSQ: Talking about scars, Sana said, “It meant your survival was hard fought. Proof of life.” What does this say about Sana as a character? Or the society she lives in?
Rachel: Sana comes from a very corporate, capitalistic world, where the life and health of everyday people aren’t prioritized. It’s given her a survivalist mentality that, in some ways, reflects the society she was raised by—every person for themself. That said, I do think her perspective on scars is an optimistic one. It reflects the reality of her situation, sure—scars happen—but it also lends respect to those scars. Scars show the body’s ability to survive and heal. And for someone like Sana, they also show how hard you’ve had to fight to survive, all the times you’ve been shot down and gotten up again. She probably glamorizes them a little more than is healthy, though.
LSQ: Given the state of today’s oceans, how much of your story is meant to be a cautionary tale?
Rachel: I don’t know if it’s meant to be a cautionary tale so much as a reality, if a somewhat futuristic one. Part of the inspiration behind this story was when I stumbled across information on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a particularly polluted area of the Pacific Ocean where warm water currents from the South Pacific and cold water currents from the Arctic converge into this huge field of spinning debris. It’s mostly broken down microplastics that aren’t even visible to the naked eye. So that really does exist today.
I think it’s hard to see the reality of the effects we’ve had on the natural world and not think about where we’re headed. It’s not just up to individuals to make that difference, though. The fact that the corporate bottom-line matters more, in the end, than the choices either of these characters make is really telling.
LSQ: “Moonlight Plastics” is part science-fiction and part spy/thriller. What genre speaks most to you as you write. What was the part of your story that you found most exciting?
LSQ: Can you tell us about other projects you may be working on? Rachel: Definitely! I have several short stories in the works, ranging from alternate history to flash sci-fi, including a story being published in Andromeda Spaceways that I’ve been describing as a radioactive fairy tale. My agent and I are also working on finding a home for my YA contemporary fantasy novel about a magical coffee shop, as well as revising a YA book that’s basically my love letter to fandom set at a sci-fi convention. And working on several middle grade and adult SFF projects as well because I just have no chill, basically.