Do we have a treat for you, dear readers! Here, look over our shoulder as we sit down and have a chat with Issue 038 author Celia Neri about her story “Vincent Coriolis, Father of the Nation.”
LSQ: The interwoven settings–a leisurely tour on a sunny day, and a grisly battlefield–are very jarring. Can you tell us why you used this method, rather than a straightforward timeline?
Celia: From the beginning, you know that it’s not actually the revolution that fails. Rather than building up a sense of suspense–will this revolution succeed or not?–I was more interested in the reveal of the fact that it is the ideals that will fail. This let me play with the sense of tragedy, that beneath the happy, sunny day, something still isn’t right. The tragedy of it and the iconoclasm were what I wanted to explore rather than an action-oriented story that would make you believe in a dashing hero.
LSQ: What were the challenges in writing the past and present scenes together?
Celia: The most challenging part was getting the voice right. When Marina talks about the past, it’s with a lot of sadness. When she talks about the present, there’s cynicism and anger. I had to work so that both voices weren’t too dissimilar despite the different tones, otherwise it would’ve felt like two different characters. At the same time, I had to keep them dissimilar enough so that a reader could follow where they are in time.
LSQ: They say history is written by the victors. It’s clear that Marina doesn’t consider herself a victor even though she technically won her battle. Can you comment on this?
Celia: Marina’s world is ready for a socio-economic change. Yet, despite the bloodshed, despite the readiness, nothing changes. They get some rights, but it’s nothing more than what we already have in the past in some countries. A revolution should lead forward, should mean progress. The fact is that many revolutions just consolidate old systems under new guises. So Marina isn’t a victor: her personal situation isn’t better and her society remains unequal, with an added cult of personality that blinds everyone to the reality.
LSQ: Are there any writers who have influenced your work?
Celia: I started creative writing at 39. Before that, I was (I still am!) an avid reader. So it’s difficult for me to disentangle which writers, which stories influence my work, because there are so many. Any list would go on and on and on. But I would say that my four “pillars” are Terry Pratchett, Octavia Butler, Iain M. Banks, and Ursula Le Guin.