Issue 043 Author Interview: Alexis Ames and “Halfway Through the Dark”

Another Tuesday, another Issue 043 author interview! Join us as we chew the rag with Alexis Ames about her story “Halfway Through the Dark.”

LSQ: In your story, Kate has an ability that seems to perfectly fit with her job at the morgue. What inspired your main character and her profession?

Alexis: I love writing stories about people with superpowers or otherwise unusual abilities, but those abilities are always more interesting to me if there is a catch or a cost to them. A time traveler who can only travel to certain places in time, for instance, or a superhero whose powers cost them something whenever they’re used. Kate can get into the minds of the dead, but can’t communicate with them–she can only see their last few instances of life. At that point, it seemed natural to give her a job in a morgue so that she could continue to use her abilities and put them to good use. A short story doesn’t allow for much exploration of a character’s backstory, but I wrote her with the idea in mind that she feels as though she needs to use her ability for some good, otherwise what is the use of having it? So she has found a way to incorporate her ability into a career, and makes it a point to aid people where she can, like David.

LSQ: You are very good at the mystery/adventure/steampunk genre. Is this genre what you usually like to write in, or does it vary?

Alexis: Thank you! This is actually my first mystery/adventure story. I have one other steampunk story out there, “The Edge of the World”, which was published this August in the From The Farther Trees ‘zine. While I do read a lot of mystery, I mostly write science fiction, and that’s what the majority of my published short stories are. I also have some science fantasy short stories out there, and I’m working on a couple of contemporary romance novellas. Steampunk in particular has always fascinated me because I love the idea of having modern technology (or a version of modern technology) in a historical setting. William Gibson’s The Difference Engine was highly influential in that regard, as was Cherie Priest’s Boneshaker. It seemed natural to take this steampunk world I dreamed up and make a mystery out of it, and set it in my hometown of Chicago in an era of that city’s history that has always interested me.

LSQ: Tell us more about the possible relationship between the mech man, Edgar, and David.

Alexis: I have always been fascinated by the portrayal of robots and androids in science fiction. Star Trek: The Next Generation introduced me to artificial life when I was a child, and it was hugely formative for me. Growing up, I also was influenced by androids/artificial life as portrayed in The Questor Tapes, Colossus – The Forbin Project, and Get Smart. All that to say, I have always been interested in the idea of artificial life and how it would relate to humanity, and how humanity would relate to artificial life if androids or robots ever gained sentience in reality. I love exploring that idea in my science fiction stories. So here I have a mech man, my steampunk version of a robot, and the human who has fallen in love with him (and though Edgar doesn’t feature much in this story, I like to think those feelings are mutual). So much of science fiction seems to focus on evil robots or malevolent artificial life. I prefer to write about artificial life that co-exists with humanity, and how their lives might mingle with ours.

LSQ: “Halfway Through the Dark” seems like an episode in a steampunk Sherlock Holmes universe. Are there more stories planned with these characters? Is there anything else you are working on?

Alexis: I don’t currently have any more stories planned with these characters, but I wouldn’t rule it out completely! Writing-wise, I’m mostly focused right now on my novels. I signed with an agent in 2019, and since then have been pursuing traditional publishing. I have one novel in the editing stage with my agent, about a time traveler on Mars in the 26th century, and another novel that is still in the drafting stage. That one is a science fiction horror story that takes place on an abandoned spaceship. Once my larger writing projects are out of the way, I hope to return to writing and publishing short fiction.