Genevieve Valentine‘s first novel, Mechanique: A Tale of the Circus Tresaulti, was nominated for a Nebula. Her short fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, Subterranean, and more, and the anthologies The Living Dead II, Running with the Pack, Teeth, and others. She has written articles and reviews for NPR.org, Strange Horizons, and Weird Tales. Her appetite for bad movies is insatiable, a tragedy she tracks at genevievevalentine.com.
SF Signal had the opportunity to talk with several authors involved in the new anthology, After: Nineteen Stories of Apocalypse and Dystopia, edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling, and featuring stories asking: If the melt-down, flood, plague, the third World War, new Ice Age, Rapture, alien invasion, clamp-down, meteor, or something else entirely hit today, what would tomorrow look like? Some of the biggest names in YA and adult literature answer that very question in this short story anthology, each story exploring the lives of teen protagonists raised in catastrophe’s wake—whether set in the days after the change, or decades far in the future.
CHARLES TAN: Hi Genevieve! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. For you, how would you define Dyslit or what are its essential characteristics?
GENEVIEVE VALENTINE: I would say that the vast majority of dystopias hinge on some fault (or faults, there are always plenty) in a particular society, extrapolated and emphasized to reveal the monsters in the machine. This can be as obvious and gradual as a government that has come to spy on your every move, or as bizarre-yet-pervasive as the youth culture in Logan’s Run, because both of them are showing us what’s inherently wrong with us, now – which is the true point of a dystopia.
GV: At least for me, part of the appeal of dystopian literature lies in watching characters handle a world even worse than the one we’re in. I also like to think that this genre is particularly important to YA readers right now because they realize that these dystopias often build on problems that exist in this world – problems that they might be inheriting, and that they should be paying attention to, and I think that YA readers who enjoy dystopias are aware of the deeper message behind the fiction.
CT: I know about your passion for film but what made you decide to include the microcosm of the showbiz industry as the focus of your dystopia?
GV: So much of any culture’s hold on the people is through its popular entertainment, I think. And news channels are creating a narrative with every report, and since propaganda is as effective as ever for whoever can wield it most convincingly, it doesn’t seem an impossible leap that the news becomes any other network, showcasing the most compelling content it can. And since the world is a rough place, how long before society’s forgotten, extra children are called before the camera to demonstrate it?
CT: What were the challenges in writing “The Segment”?
GV: I watched a lot of the “For only fifty cents a day, you can save [downtrodden minor in another country] for fifty cents a day” commercials filmed entirely in teary close-ups and slow motion, where systemic poverty is being exploited by people who might mean well, but are somehow also making it a far-off problem that you can solve for fifty cents a day. The more you pick apart the forces at work behind those and the sometimes-accidental messages they send, the easier it is to think about a news culture like “The Segment,” but that doesn’t make it any easier to watch the commercials to start with.
Charles Tan is the editor of Lauriat: A Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction Anthology, the Philippine Speculative Fiction Sampler, and Best of Philippine Speculative Fiction 2009. His fiction has appeared in publications such as The Digest of Philippine Genre Stories, Philippine Speculative Fiction and the anthology The Dragon and the Stars (ed. by Derwin Mak and Eric Choi).