November already? It’s true what they say: time really does fly. But Issue 043 is still going strong! Today we have for you a thought-provoking interview with Anne Elise Brinich on her story “Assyrian Machinery“.
LSQ: Your story is centered in the detailed mechanics and journey of one particular character. Are there engineering or historical influences from your life that set to inspire your MC?
Anne: I just wanted to use this story to talk about how the gripes we have with technology today are issues we’ve probably had since we started making and using tools on a large scale in our civilizations. Without diligent attention to its possibilities, good and bad, the power technology harnesses can be abused to stroke the egos of people who either don’t know, or don’t care, about the consequences of its use.
LSQ: The world-building in your story is immediate and rich. Could you explain the differences between this story and historical Assyria? What about the connection between religion and engineering? Anything else you would like to explain about your world?
Anne: This is a story very loosely based on ancient Mesopotamia. There are references to places, materials, practices, tools, and people who existed on wildly different timelines. I am not a historian, and my understanding of ancient history is totally amateur. From my very inexpert research, I know that of the Mesopotamian Empires, Assyria’s progress was very much focused on conquering neighboring regions, and a lot of the technology developed then was related to the military. I like to think of this story as occurring in a Sumer-like civilization before the rise of an Assyrian-like Empire, and with the destruction of so much technological documentation occurring in the story, perhaps even making way for it. Also, before the Assyrians, women were considered relatively equal to men, though it might be a bit of a stretch to think of a priestess as some kind of chief engineer.
And I’m usually completely game for a fictional story that discusses how science, technology, and religion deeply need each other. But in this case, Sumerian society really did assign religious leaders what we would consider secular responsibilities like developing agricultural technology. Which I think is really cool.
LSQ: The last action in the story is unexpected, but fitting. Explore more for us the responsibility the MC felt for the princesses and what the King had become.
Anne: I wanted the ending to be jarring. This main character has a hard time identifying what she’s feeling as seething rage. Her realm of expertise is not emotion.
At her sister’s request, she’s devoted her life to creating new and useful information and tools. When she speaks to the king at the end, she’s realized that he conceives of everything and everyone, including his own daughters, as means for making himself appear powerful. He doesn’t feel love for or obligation to his family. He doesn’t feel wonder at technological advancement. He sees opportunities to capitalize on others for personal gain. When she realizes that she helped create the image of himself that justifies this behavior, she makes a decision.
LSQ: How important is world-building in your writing? What else are you working on currently?
Anne: I also write comics, where it’s relatively easy to convey how sound, light, and texture feel to me. But I love including these sensations in my text-only writing, because the reader gets to interpret them however they imagine, and potentially much more vividly than I can convey in a static image. I hope by including intimate descriptions of how things look, sound, and feel, my worlds become animated to the reader.
A short comic of mine, “Cookie Pouch”, just appeared in Hobart Pulp. I have another comic appearing in Mookychick‘s upcoming Medusa Project, and a load of short stories slowly being chipped away at. Unrelated to writing, I host a podcast about bisexuality with my buddy Rose, called Hello Good Bis.
Also, I write a column about technology for this publication! It’s called Everybody and Their Motherboard .