R.E. Stearn’s debut science fiction novel, Barbary Station, was a rollicking ride following space pirate girlfriends. Doesn’t that sound just like my kind of book? Anyway, when I heard there was a sequel, I knew that I a) wanted to read it, b) wanted to do an interview with R.E. Stearn. Lucky for me, she agreed, and I’m pleased to share the results with you.
Can you tell us some about Barbary Station and Mutiny at Vesta?
Sure! Barbary Station and Mutiny at Vesta follow the misadventures of Adda Karpe and Iridian Nassir, engineers and girlfriends (the romantic kind) who want to join a space pirate crew. In Barbary Station they find the perfect crew, but before they join up they have to rescue their new captain from a space station that’s falling apart and a deadly security AI. In Mutiny at Vesta our heroines do some actual space piracy alongside very unusual allies, complete with heists and more AI mysteries.
In my research for this interview, I discovered that James S.A. Corey’s The Expanse series is one of the influences behind your series. As a fellow Expanse fan, can you elaborate on what you like about the series and how you think it influenced your own work?
The Expanse is so intense! I love how every choice is dangerous and all the characters have understandable reasons for doing what they do. The setting is always out to get them, occasionally leaving the characters calculating how long they have left to breathe. I’m also very fond of Holden, who does the right thing without thinking through the consequences and turns all the populated worlds upside down on a regular basis.
I hope the setting in my books is equally challenging to the characters. The James S.A. Corey duo does a great job of balancing realism and narrative in the Expanse, which inspires me to aim for a similar balance in the Shieldrunner Pirates books. In reality, space is so weird and dangerous that I hardly have to make up any hazards at all!
Was the process of writing Mutiny at Vesta different than for Barbary Station? If so, how?
I already knew many of the characters in Mutiny at Vesta and, as with Barbary Station, I had an immense outline of the plot. Mutiny at Vesta was the first sequel I’ve ever written, so I was very conscious of this story’s place in the trilogy. I also took into account the elements people liked most in Barbary Station and (with my editor’s help) emphasized those elements in Mutiny at Vesta.
What do you find most interesting about AIs?
The goal of AI as it’s implemented in these stories is to create something that makes decisions which are better than a human’s could be in the same circumstances. These intelligences are not designed to think, exactly. They process information extremely quickly, and they go about reaching their goals in ways humans wouldn’t. These hyperfocused human creations may appear to be thinking but they’re not, by any human definition. So how are they making decisions? What will they do to reach their goals? How will they react when people try to redirect them?
Those questions make AI’s strengths and limitations really fun to explore in fiction, as evidenced by just how long we’ve been doing it. The play which coined the term “robot,” R.U.R. by Karel Capek, is almost 100 years old and that author was as concerned with AI and its consequences for humanity as we are today.
I love how Adda and Iridian are an established couple from the very beginning of the series. For some reason, it feels so rare to see established couples taking center stage. Do you agree? If so, why do you think that is?
The fact that comparatively few stories illustrate that character dynamic is one reason I chose to write about Adda and Iridian. My hypotheses as to why are as follows, with all due respect to my fellow authors and readers:
1) Some readers enjoy the “will they, won’t they” anticipation of new love, so a budding romance spices up a story for them.
2) It’s easy to tell a story in which one member of the couple becomes a plot device. There are plenty of stories about the Action Hero who does Action Things while the established significant other stays home and bakes pies or gets murdered by the Big Bad. Yuck.
3) Some readers like to imagine themselves dating the heroine, so it’s convenient to leave her single at the end of each story.
4) It’s fun to create new characters for the heroine to romance, but a story which includes them requires an open relationship, a cheater, or a single heroine.
5) Characters who are unlucky at love are relatable and inspire reader sympathy.
6) Some readers feel they have missed part of the story when they jump into an ongoing romance. The characters clearly have an off-the-page history together, and readers only find out the details during flashbacks or time travel.
Do you have any favorite queer science fiction and fantasy novels?
Ninefox Gambit by Yoon Ha Lee is extremely clever. Karin Lowachee’s Warchild books are high drama sci fi fun. Check out The Stars are Legion by Kameron Hurley if you aren’t afraid of viscera. River of Teeth by Sarah Gailey is a novella, but it’s super fun. For erotica fans, I highly recommend A. H. Lee’s Incubus series, which might best be described as a MF to MMF bisexual shifter romance with fabulous worldbuilding.
What are you working on now? Do you have any other releases we should be watching out for?
There’s one more book in the Shieldrunner Pirates trilogy! I don’t think any of the details are officially out yet, but it will answer some important questions for both readers and our heroine.
About the Author
R. E. Stearns wrote her first story on an Apple IIe computer and still kind of misses green text on a black screen. Her debut novel, Barbary Station (Saga Press, 2017), is the first in a trilogy about space pirates in love and dangerous AI. The sequel, Mutiny at Vesta, is out October 2018. When not writing, R. E. Stearns reads, plays PC games, and references internet memes in meatspace. She lives in Denver, Colorado with her husband/computer engineer and a large black and white cat. For blog posts that are mostly about books, visit restearns.com. For tweets about space, technology, and books: @re_stearns.
- Barnes & Noble
- Your local library (you can ask them to find you a copy if it’s not already listed)