Welcome to another OUT NEXT!, where we highlight the most exciting new releases that have just came out to grace our shelves and lengthen our tbrs.
Without further ado, what’s OUT NEXT! all about?
OUT NEXT! is a blog feature bringing you some of the best stories in the bookish world. Every month, authors come to the Wyrm to talk about their latest books, intent on gracing us with some of the most exciting new releases in the community. Sit back, relax, and hear from the megaminds (yes, this is a reference to a fantastic movie) creating the stories we love to explore. Let this feature be the Guide to your (next) favorite author/read!
I’m very pleased to have Charlie Jane Anders on the blog to talk about the author’s just released YA sci-fi novel, Victories Greater than Death. This electrifying space opera follows Tina —the human clone of an intergalactic alien hero—, as she fights to honor the legacy of her genetic code while figuring out her own place in the world(s). Victories Greater than Death discusses identity, resilience, and empathy, at the same time building a world sure to satisfy lovers of the more “science” side of SF.
Meet Charlie Jane Anders
Charlie Jane Anders’ latest novel is The City in the Middle of the Night. She’s also the author of All the Birds in the Sky, which won the Nebula, Crawford and Locus awards, and Choir Boy, which won a Lambda Literary Award. Plus a novella called Rock Manning Goes For Broke and a short story collection called Six Months, Three Days, Five Others. Her short fiction has appeared in Tor.com, Boston Review, Tin House, Conjunctions, the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Wired Magazine, Slate, Asimov’s Science Fiction, Lightspeed, ZYZZYVA, Catamaran Literary Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency and tons of anthologies. Her story “Six Months, Three Days” won a Hugo Award, and her story “Don’t Press Charges And I Won’t Sue” won a Theodore Sturgeon Award.
Charlie Jane also organizes the monthly Writers With Drinks reading series, and co-hosts the podcast Our Opinions Are Correct with Annalee Newitz.
Visit his author’s website: https://www.charliejaneanders.com/
- Welcome to the blog, Charlie! With Victories Greater than Death being such a personally intense character-driven story, I thought we could start off by the nexus holding it all together: Tina. She’s not just the human clone of an alien hero, she’s this teenager who longs to become who she believes she’s meant to be, while dealing with frustrations stemming from who she is and others’ expectations of her. What makes Tina such a powerful character and how does she grow into herself?
I love how passionate Tina is about chasing the dream of the person she wants to be. Because she grew up first wondering about her origins and then knowing that she was destined for greatness among the stars, she’s kind of built it up in her mind and turned it into the thing that will complete her. But the other thing about Tina is, she really wants to be someone who fights for others — she can’t stand to see people in trouble and not do something to help, and she hates bullies and creeps. Even while she’s still on Earth, she’s always finding ways to stand up to the worst people.
- I saw the blurb describing this book as “Star Wars meets Doctor Who, and buckle your seatbelts”, which immediately had me on the edge of my seat. How will those influences surface in the book and what do you hope will get readers to “buckle up their seatbelts”?
The love of space opera series like Star Wars and Doctor Who (and Guardians of the Galaxy, and Steven Universe, and She-Ra) runs through my blood. I adore them so much. I wanted to do my own thing with Victories and not just copy these other franchises, but I did make sure to include awesome space battles and big mysterious alien ruins and cool alien friends and allies. I wanted to create something brand new that still had some of the same flavor as my beloved space opera stories.
- One thing that always calls to me in sci-fi are alien civilizations. I absolutely love to read about them, the imagination that goes into them, and the imagined interaction between humans and other species. There are quite a few interesting alien cultures in Victories. What intriguing bits about these species can you give us a peek at?
I spent hours and hours making up different alien civilizations and coming up with fun stuff about them. Like the Aribentors, who look sort of like skeleton people because they’re covered with a thick exoskeleton to protect them from the acid rain on their homeworld — I came up with a ton of fun stuff about Aribentors, like the fact that they worship doubt. (The more you can doubt everything you’ve been told, but also everything you see and hear, the closer you are to god.) And “poet” and “priest” are the same thing in their language — so their poets are also priests, and their religion involves writing poetry. I’ve also had a LOT of fun with the Irriyaians, who have a complicated society with a bunch of different clans, or nations. Irriyaians love mud, a lot. Mud is more valuable than gold on their planet.
- Ohhhh, I love those ideas. Besides the imaginative alien species, what are some of your favorite worldbuilding elements in the story?
I’m very happy with a lot of the fictional technology I came up with, including the orbital funnel ( a kind of elevator that takes you from the surface of a planet up to a spaceship) and all the different weapons. I came up with a thing where the starships can travel extra fast across the galaxy by using something called “spaceweave,” which basically weaves two points in space together. But about 40 years or so before this novel takes place, an alien scientist came up with a much faster form of spaceweave — the only trouble is, it doesn’t work for bigger ships, because the energy costs go up massively as the ships get bigger. So the biggest and most powerful starships always show up too late to make a difference, when there’s trouble. I thought that was a fun way of putting the good guys (who have access to some huge powerful ships) at a major disadvantage. When the Indomitable, the ship in this book, gets into trouble, there’s nobody out there who can come to the rescue right away.
- On the topic of creation and worldbuilding, you gave this amazing Ted Talk on writing about the future, dreaming about the future, and essentially hoping for the future. I found one of the core themes of Victories seems to be empathy and hope. Is this togetherness something essential for you to build into your futuristic worlds?
I feel like empathy and the need for human connection are constant themes in my work. I feel like if people could have more understanding toward each other — especially toward people who are from very different cultures or backgrounds — the world might be a better place. And if we had more kindness towards non-human creatures and didn’t treat them as disposable and less worthy of life and happiness, that would also be a good thing. I keep coming back to this theme again and again, because it only feels more urgent as time goes by.
- As you spoke about your process, I was incredibly amazed by it (and by your sandwich metaphor), and I was also struck by your awareness of psychology, sociology, evolution of technology, and History when building your worlds. How do you handle research coming from all these different places, balancing imagination and reality? In such a thoughtful, complex process, where do you even begin?
Research is one of those things that you never really finish doing! I try to read widely online and pay attention to science news as well as conversations about history and the social sciences. New Scientist magazine is a great thing to read every week. I feel like a lot of my process is to just poke around learning about random stuff until I can start building a story. And once I’ve got a complete draft, there will be huge holes in the world and in the plot elements, which I have to keep filling in by finding out more about specific things. For the sequel to Victories, I just spent ages on the phone with a physicist who helped me understand some stuff about black holes better — it’ll be a couple of throwaway lines in the book but it’ll make more sense than it would have otherwise.
- You ended the talk on a fantastic note on the importance of imagination in sci-fi. What, to you, are other important building blocks of your science fiction in general, and Victories in particular?
Imagination is really important to me, especially when it comes to telling fantastical stories. I feel like our imaginations can see things more clearly than the supposedly rational, analytical parts of our brains sometimes. I’m often happiest when I can make some improbable leaps that get me to something kind of unexpected and weird. I feel like daydreaming is a huge part of my process.
- Without giving too much away, what can readers expect from future installments in the series?
The second book is basically done! The heroes from Victories end up in the Firmament, the seat of power in the galaxy, and start getting more involved in the larger struggle against the Compassion. Basically, all of the mysteries in book one are solved by the end of book two — and then there are some new mysteries that are going to be unraveled in book three (which I’ve outlined in great detail and written a chunk of.) I never want to make people wait too long for the answers to questions I raise.
- Lastly, do you have any upcoming projects you want to/can tell us about?
I’m hard at work on another adult novel, and I’m very excited to get back into it once the sequel to Victories is locked down. 🙂
More about Victories Greater than Death
ℹ️ Released today (April 13, 2021)! | Genre: Sci-fi, space opera | Series: Universal Expansion #1
A thrilling adventure set against an intergalactic war with international bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders at the helm in her YA debut—think Star Wars meets Doctor Who, and buckle your seatbelts.
Tina has always known her destiny is outside the norm—after all, she is the human clone of the most brilliant alien commander in all the galaxies (even if the rest of the world is still deciding whether aliens exist). But she is tired of waiting for her life to begin.
And then it does—and maybe Tina should have been more prepared. At least she has a crew around her that she can trust—and her best friend at her side. Now, they just have to save the world.
From internationally bestselling author Charlie Jane Anders (All the Birds in the Sky) comes a thrilling adventure set against an intergalactic war—Anders’s long-awaited YA debut.Synopsis
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