Hello everyone! I’m thrilled to bring you an interview with Silvia Moreno-Garcia, author of the science fiction novella Prime Meridian.
For readers who may be unfamiliar with it, can you tell us about your novella, Prime Meridian?
Prime Meridian follows the story of Amelia, a Mexican woman who wants to travel to Mars but instead has to content herself with working horrible gigs and looking at ads about the Red Planet. It’s a quiet story about dreams and longing.
Do you share Amelia’s fascination with Mars? If it were possible, would you want to be a Mars colonist?
Nah, I’m too lazy and am too used to dining out to ever be a Mars colonist munching on rations wrapped in tinfoil. Mars is also very cold and I would be terrified of freezing or tumbling into a random crater.
But when I was a kid we had the Cosmos TV show and I read books by Carl Sagan. There was a lot of hope in those books, which I liked.
Can you talk some about Prime Meridian’s path to publication?
I didn’t set out to self-publish this novella, but it happened. I sent Prime Meridian out to publishers and when the answer was NO, YOU LOSER (I’m paraphrasing. And I did get a nibble from a small press, but I needed more money than what they were offering), I decided to do an IndieGoGo and fund the thing myself. The novella was finalized and sent to backers last year. Then lo and behold it got reviewed in Locus, which called it one of the best novellas of 2017. It made the Locus Reading List. Dozois’ included it in The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Thirty-Fifth Annual Collection. And it is now on sale to the general public.
So the path of publication: messy, as usual. I wish I could tell you I’m a beloved writer who does not have to struggle to get stuff out there these days, but that would be a lie. I am really eager to get that “breakthrough” novel people always say writers need to get, but until then it’s still a weird dance. I’m successful but I’m not. Which sounds odd, but it’s the honest truth.
The silver screen plays a large role in Prime Meridian. Where there any movies that influenced this book?
Lots. I love movies. It was one of the cheap thrills of my childhood, my parents gave me free rein to watch whatever I wanted and I watched a lot of horror films, but also a lot of sci fi. And I liked the older movies, the black and white ones or the ones from the 60s, rather than the ones in the 80s when I was a kid. Not that I didn’t watch Star Wars, but I adored all the Roger Corman films and the tackiness of that time period.
The 60s were very fun for sci fi in the US, but for Mexico it was the end of our movie industry. The beginning of the apocalypse. What was once a thriving movie factory collapsed because of American imports. It never really recovered.
I’ve told my husband this, but you can’t live off borrowed dreams. And that’s what we did in Mexico. We borrowed the American dreams, the American cinema, the pop culture, and that’s what we have now. Something dies in that process. So there’s that feeling in the novella.
Was there any particular inspiration behind Amelia’s job as a Rent-a-Friend?
The gig economy, in general, and how young people nowadays are expected to survive through it. ‘Hustle’ being considered a good thing. It’s not a good thing! There was some stat going around that half of Millennials have a ‘side-hustle.’ And, I’m sorry, but seeing how Americans have to start GoFundMes to pay for their medical treatment sounds like a dystopia.
In Japan you can actually rent ‘friends,’ although I didn’t know this until after the novella was finished. Actually, one of my biggest issues was how the things I wrote in this novella kept becoming real. I wrote about how one of the side-hustles of the protag is selling blood to old people and guess what, it happened. https://mashable.com/2017/06/01/parabiosis-blood-transfusions-startup-silicon-valley/#oCJmgUCX6Oqj.
Is the process of writing a novella different than for writing a novel?
It’s the same for me with the caveat I had to remember to keep it short. At one point I was going to do two POVs. One Amelia, the other a scriptwriter in the 1960s. They would alternate and the sections that are a movie script would be a buffer between them. But I thought it would double the length of it and it also distanced us from Amelia. It had to be just Amelia’s story.
In addition to being an author, you’re also an activist, working to raise awareness of Latinx authors of speculative fiction. Who are some of your favorite science fiction and fantasy stories by Latinx authors?
I don’t think I’m an activist because activists would do a lot more than I do. I do keep a list of Latinx/Latin American authors writing SFF here: http://www.silviamoreno-garcia.com/blog/latin2018/.
Aside from that, I love the old ‘literary’ writers like Cortázar who did stuff we might call spec fiction, stuff that exists between categories and margins. Stories like “The Aleph.” Also writers like Amparo Dávila (“The Guest”) or Rosario Ferre (“The Youngest Doll”). Novellas like Aura, by Carlos Fuentes. Those all fall in what I’d call the literary mold.
For more modern writers, I enjoyed Ernest Hogan’s books from the 1990s. They have a very punk, Chicano edge, and no wonder: he’s from LA. Hogan happened too soon. Just like Charles R. Saunders with his Imaro books in the 80s, which were African sword-and-sorcery. Saunders might have had a chance now, but back then it was almost impossible for him to get a foothold in the industry and the same happened to Hogan. Even nowadays, I’m not sure how many of us really have a strong, mainstream foothold on the industry. Maybe Daniel José Older? But that’s just one name. I’d be hard pressed to name another like him and the thing is Danny is big in YA. For adult SFF, it’s very hard to name a Latino novelist that is doing very well. We are still struggling.
What are you working on now? Do you have any other new releases we should be watching out for?
My novel Gods of Jade and Shadow, set in 1920s Mexico, about a young woman who must help a Lord of Death regain his throne, will be out next year from Del Rey. My agent is shopping around my first crime novel. It’s a noir set in 1970s Baja California, at a shark-fishing village. If that sells, I hope to write more crime books.
About the Author
Silvia Moreno-Garcia is the critically-acclaimed author of Signal to Noise—winner of a Copper Cylinder Award, finalist of the British Fantasy, Locus, Sunburst and Aurora awards—and Certain Dark Things, selected as one of NPR’s best books of 2016. The Beautiful Ones, a novel of manners with a speculative element, is her third book. She won a World Fantasy Award for her work as an editor.