Issue 046 Author Interview: B. Zelkovich and “That Which Illuminates Heaven”

Anyone want a triple helping of Issue 046 author interviews? We’re here with B. Zelkovich to finish off the week with her thoughts on “That Which Illuminates Heaven.”

LSQ: This is so beautiful! What a delight, and I loved the little mystery in the beginning as I came to realize just who Amaterasu was. What gave you the inspiration for this fantastic story, and especially for Amaterasu?

B.: Thank you! I really tried to make that particular mystery unravel in an organic way which was a fun challenge — I’m glad you enjoyed it! I don’t think I can pinpoint any one source of inspiration for the story. I knew I had these two women who were in love, but couldn’t be together, and wrote almost 4000 words of story shifting between their two perspectives, but it was coming out very “Ender’s Game” and it just really fizzled out until I had no interest in the piece. But I loved Ezra and Ashton and refused to give up, so I tried changing POV characters and tenses, but nothing stuck. And then, one early morning, I sat at the computer and my mind whispered, “tell it from the ship’s perspective.” I thought that was crazy and it would never work, but I had nothing else to try so I gave it a shot. I think the story came together in about two days after that.

With Amaterasu, I was really intentional about picking a name that wasn’t from the Western Canon. In Science Fiction so many spaceships are named for Greek and Roman mythology or European or American historical figures. I wanted to avoid that, and had heard of “Amaterasu” from Kieron Gillen’s graphic novel series “The Wicked + the Divine”, so decided to do a little more research into the name. The literal translation is “That Which Illuminates Heaven” and I knew instantly that would be the title of the story. I was also playing a lot of Mass Effect: Andromeda at the time, so I had fully realized AI on the brain.

LSQ: There’s so much goodness packed into this it’s hard to pick my favorite parts, but I love the idea of speaking to different people in languages only they can understand. If Amaterasu had to speak to you, what language would they use?

B.: Oh my goodness, what a doozy of a question! I want to say something writerly — keyboard tapping, coffee dripping, the susurrus of pages flipping — but really it would probably be nature sounds. I’m really fond of hiking, especially anywhere near the ocean. The wind in Sitka Spruce trees and the sound of waves crashing on cliffs is probably the most direct route to my heart.

LSQ: The revelations in this story still surprise me even though they’re not the jump-scare type. I got a real Alien vibe for a second, and was pleased you went a different way. Have you thought about revisiting Ezra and Ashton and their adventures?

B.: I definitely wanted the tension of the story to hinge on the relationship between Ezra and Ashton, so I tried not to delve too much into what happens outside of the ship. For me, I haven’t really considered revisiting these characters. While I tried to make it clear that there’s still a lot of work for Ezra and Ashton to do to repair the hurt between them, to me theirs is a happy ending. Amaterasu accomplished her goal. Although, it could be fun to see more of their adventures, so I’ll never say never!