Author's Commentary "Empress of Shadow"
Sometimes things get a little bigger than you expect at the outset. But what else can you expect with a topic like "Godlike Aliens"?
The concept is a rich one for sci-fi writers, and well-trod ground for sure. That’s surely one of the boogeymen we humans like to think about when we think about going out into the dark of space. I think that’s life as an apex predator, right? “What if we meet somebody bigger and badder than us? Oh, no!” And the godlike figure, I can think of several from popular sci-fi stories off the top of my head. But just because it’s well-trod ground doesn’t mean you can’t do something new (and hopefully interesting) with the idea. I once took a poetry workshop from a great American poet who was a big supporter of structure (read meter) being a creativity generator rather than a hindrance, and there probably wouldn’t be a lot of poets out there who would see a new poem in an old meter and think, “How unoriginal! The villanelle’s been done already, loser!” The novelty is really more in how you use the form creatively. I’ve thought that with stories more generally but maybe less so with tropes like this one seems to be. I found myself blending so many tropes here that it can’t possibly be “original” in the sense that there’s one big new idea here. Hopefully the art of the thing is in the blend, like a nice dark roast but NEVER a scotch!
This week’s story got a little away from me in its scope and ambition. It’s not my intention to be taking home run swings on these, because the reality is, most of the time you miss. However, there’s really not a lot of time for equivocation if you’re going to put out a story every week, so what I’ve been doing is thinking about a concept for a few days, then working to develop that concept before I write so I have good idea about it, and then writing. By the time I had the chance to even think I’d bitten off a little more than I wanted to deal with in a week, I was halfway through writing it, and once you’re in the air, you’ve got no choice but to attempt to land the plane. This is probably why I haven’t seen a project like this from “serious” writers. There will be faceplants here, and I’m becoming more and more okay with that. Whether "Empress of Shadow" is one of those faceplants, I’m not sure. My initial impression is that I think I might have landed the plane, but ultimately that’s up to the story’s audience.
Hope you enjoy!