Charlie Jane Anders on “Rager in Space”

All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders
All the Birds in the Sky by Charlie Jane Anders

Q: Tell us about your story in Bridging Infinity?

“Rager in Space” is about peer pressure, and that moment when you realize that maybe you’ve outgrown your best friend. Sion and D-Mei have been inseparable since they were kids, and they’re unrepentant party girls in a world where artificial intelligence failed for some reason that nobody understands. It’s a sad sort of world where nothing quite works, because the computers tend to go on the fritz whenever you need them. But then Sion gets an invite to go into deep space on the first interstellar spaceship, which is basically one big party bus in space. And then she discovers the reason why the Singularity (that moment where computers become smarter than us) never lived up to its promise.

Q: What was the inspiration behind your story? 

I had been tinkering with this story for a couple years, actually. I was interested in the idea of a couple of party girls going into space and maybe meeting aliens. For a while the story was called “YOLO,” which was absurdly dated even when I started writing it. It didn’t really click for me until I wrote the flashback to Sion’s childhood, where she’s struggling with the fallout from the failed Singularity and then D-Mei comes to her rescue. That made this into much more of a story about a weird friendship. And then I got obsessed with building out the spaceship and the A.I. politics and everything else.

Q: What do you believe makes a good science fiction story?

I’m tempted to say “the same thing that makes a good story of any sort.” Characters who go through something and are changed by it; a crux or conflict of some sort, that gets developed over the course of the narrative; a sense that the story is “about” something — some idea, some question, some thought experiment. Writing a science fiction story, I guess, lets you ask bigger and more ambitious questions, and build in a certain amount of complexity because SF readers are very comfortable with crunchy world building. And I love to start off with a crazy idea like “what if time travel was also space travel because of spatial displacement” and then build it into a personal narrative. Starting with the SFnal idea and then backing  into the personal story can be a lot of fun, as can the reverse. But I guess I’m admitting I have no idea what makes a good story, SF or otherwise, since every story is different. I guess a good story is one that lives on in your head after you’re done reading.

Q:  What are you working on now? And if people like your story in the book, what other work of yours should they seek out?

I’m working hard on my next novel for Tor, which is a lot less funny than “Rager in Space,” but hopefully just as weird. In the meantime, I should put in a plug for my novel All the Birds in the Sky, which came out back in January, plus I have stories in the recent anthologies Drowned Worlds and The Starlit Wood. If you can hunt down a copy of the summer 2016 issue of Catamaran Literary Reader, I have an incredibly weird story about a sex cult who creates their own afterlife. Oh, and it’s a ways off, but I have a story in John Joseph Adams’ space opera anthology Cosmic Powers, which might be the funniest thing I’ve ever written (or might just be kind of silly.)

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