Caitlín R. Kiernan is the author of nine novels, including The Red Tree and The Drowning Girl: A Memoir, along with several volumes collecting her short fiction. She’s a five-time nominee for the World Fantasy Award, two-time nominee for the Shirley Jackson Award, and has been honored by the James Tiptree, Jr. Award. She also writes Alabaster for Dark Horse Comics. She lives in Providence, Rhode Island with her partner.
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 Caitlin! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. For you, how would you define Dyslit or what are its essential characteristics?
CAITLIN R. KIERNAN: Wow. I’ve never before heard the term “Dyslit,” and I don’t think I’m comfortable with it. But I’m not comfortable with most genre categories. Or even the idea of genre. But, that said, writing about dystopian or post-apocalyptic worlds doesn’t appeal to me. I write a lot of it, but it’s not because there’s an appeal. There are many reasons, but that’s not one of them. I’ll pick one at random and say there does seem to be a responsibility to write about what could happen, maybe, if humanity doesn’t take a little more care with its technological advances and population. Generally, I dislike science fiction as a predictive medium, but certain outcomes seem almost inevitable, given the present course of our civilization. Here, obviously, I’m referring to stories that focus on more realistic threats – ecological collapse, global warming and climate change, bioweapons, nuclear war, and so forth. So, yeah, I can say I feel a responsibility to write this sort of fiction, as a warning, and especially as a warning to YA readers. They’re inheriting a pretty messed up world, and they need to know where it might be headed, and how they may be able to avoid the very worst of the consequences of their predecessors’ actions. Maybe they’ll be smarter than us.