Author Interview: Yoon Ha Lee on Revenant Gun

If you’ve followed me for a while, you’ll probably know I’m a huge fan of Yoon Ha Lee’s Machinaries of Empire series. The final book in the trilogy (*sob*) has been released, Revenant Gun, and while it is incredible, I’m besides myself that the series is over.

Luckily, I can prolong my hexarchate obsession a bit longer! I was invited to be part of the Revenant Gun blog tour and able to interview Yoon Ha Lee about the series.

REVENANT GUN BLOG TOUR -PosterFor readers who may be unfamiliar with it, can you tell us about your novel Revenant Gun?

Revenant Gun picks up nine years after the end of book two, Raven Stratagem.  The oppressive star empire known as the hexarchate has been shattered by revolutionaries as the culmination of a centuries-old plan by an undead traitor, General Shuos Jedao. Unfortunately for the revolutionaries, one of the old hexarchs survived and is bent on reconquering the realm. And his secret weapon is a new copy of Jedao–except this copy has amnesia and begins to suspect that he’s fighting for the wrong side. Even worse, the woman who has the rest of his memories is trying to assassinate Jedao before he destroys the fledgling democracy that has risen up in the hexarchate’s ashes, even though the two of them may have a common cause.

FC (REVENANT GUN) (1)So many stories end with the evil empires being toppled but don’t show what happens afterwards. Do you think creating a new society is easier or harder than overthrowing the old one?

My default position is that blowing things up is generally easier than building new things. I’m looking at the American Civil War, whose divisions still reverberate through the United States even today, as one example. (If you tell me racism is dead in the United States, especially today, I will just laugh at you.) Creating a functioning new society is especially difficult when some or all parties have just been at war with each other.

Why did you decide to have a servitor be a central point of view character in Revenant Gun?

A couple reasons. First, I became aware that a significant portion of readers really enjoyed the servitors, so I was pandering.  🙂  Second, I wanted to move the focus a bit to the nonhuman characters in the setting, which includes servitors. And finally, this particular servitor, by virtue of having lived in a very isolated place, almost serves as a kind of outside perspective on the hexarchate and what it’s become.

Is the Jedao we meet in Revenant Gun a different person than the one in Ninefox Gambit? And which was harder to write?

Definitely a different Jedao. The one in Ninefox Gambit was a four-hundred-year-old undead general. The one in Revenant Gun has the memories of a seventeen-year-old cadet and is very confused when he wakes up and is told that he’s being given an army. The latter was easier to write for a couple reasons.  First was just the fact that I’ve had more practice writing Jedao by book three than I did in book one. The other thing is that four-hundred-year-old Jedao is supposed to be trickier and more cunning simply by virtue of all that lived experience. (As an aside, the next time I write a general, it’s going to be a stupid fuck-up general, not a brilliant one.  I am not a brilliant military anything so as you can imagine, writing a “brilliant general” was kind of a challenge.) Seventeen-year-old Jedao was entertaining to write because he’s working on instinct and figuring things out as he goes along.

If Revenant Gun had musical accompaniment, what would it sound like?

The song in my iTunes playlist I thought of many times as I wrote it was The Bloody Lovelies’ “Hologram,” but I also went through a lot of Linkin Park.

Do you have any favorite queer science fiction or fantasy books?

I grew up on Mercedes Lackey’s The Last Herald Mage and Valdemar books in general and am very slowly working through a reread of her Arrows of the Queen trilogy, which is great comfort reading. I also really enjoyed Eleanor Arnason’s Ring of Swords, although I think it’s out of print; Becky Chambers’ The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet; C. J. Cherryh’s Cyteen; and C. S. Pacat’s Captive Prince trilogy.

In addition to your novels, you are also a prolific short fiction author. Which of your short stories would you be most likely to recommend to a reader new to your work?

Depends on what you like in short fiction!  I think “The Starship and the Temple Cat” is pretty representative and even has a happy ending, especially if you like cats. “Foxfire, Foxfire” has mecha and a shapeshifting fox, mixing Korean folklore with science fiction. And for a more depressing take on space fantasy and imperialism, there’s “Effigy Nights”.

Now that the Machinaries of Empire trilogy is finished, what’s next for you? Do you have any new releases we should be looking out for?

My middle grade novel Dragon Pearl will be coming out in January 2019 from Disney-Hyperion. It’s a space opera based on Korean mythology and folklore, and features a teenage fox spirit on a quest to clear the name of her brother, who has allegedly deserted the Space Forces to search for a powerful magical artifact that can remake worlds.

After that, I’m working on a story collection set in the world of the hexarchate, which will include both reprints and new material, including a story about what happens to Cheris and Jedao after the end of Revenant Gun.

About the Author

yhl-photo-300x300-72dpiiA Korean-American sf/f writer who received a B.A. in math from Cornell University and an M.A. in math education from Stanford University, Yoon finds it a source of continual delight that math can be mined for story ideas. Yoon’s fiction has appeared in publications such as F&, and Clarkesworld Magazine, as well as several year’s best anthologies.

Follow Yoon Ha Lee at @motomoratai on Twitter.

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