Interview: Natalia Theodoridou

Natalia Theodoridou is a queer writer and editor, the winner of the 2018 World Fantasy Award for Short Fiction, and a Clarion West graduate (class of 2018). Theodoridou’s stories have appeared in Strange HorizonsClarkesworldBeneath Ceaseless Skies, Nightmare, Fireside, and elsewhereRent-a-Vice, his first interactive novel, was a finalist for the inaugural Nebula Award for Game Writing. His latest gameAn Odyssey: Echoes of War, is out by Choice of Games. “Georgie in the Sun” is Theodoridou’s second appearance in Uncanny, an interesting twist on a classic vampire story, set to the sound of the Beatles, off in the depths of space.

 

Uncanny Magazine: What was the inspiration for this story?

Natalia Theodoridou: I had wanted to write a vampires-in-space story for years. Then, during the Clarion West workshop (2018), Yoon Ha Lee remarked that most of my stories were quiet and sad, and he encouraged me to try and write “comedy, action, or adventure.” So that’s what I did. I went through my ideas file, combined the premise with a title I had saved for the future, and here we are. (“Adventure” for my Clarion West class is defined as get-the-thing-to-the-place, so, technically, I did it! Still quiet and sad, though, I’m afraid.)

Uncanny Magazine: This story does a lovely job playing with some of the standard vampire tropes—mirrors, sunlight, bats, etc. Is the subversion of speculative tropes something that you do frequently in your fiction?

Natalia Theodoridou: Thank you! I don’t set out to specifically subvert things, but I suppose it is something that happens often in my stories, either because of ignorance (sometimes I have the audacity/imprudence of writing in a genre without exhaustive knowledge of its mainstream history and tropes), or because of the specific cultural and political lens through which I approach things that often positions me outside the canonical.

Uncanny Magazine: In addition to short stories, you also write interactive fiction games. “Georgie in the Sun” blends those two forms, featuring a game that is played within the story. What are some of the advantages to writing games? What are the strengths of short fiction as a format? Did you run across any challenges in combining the two?

Natalia Theodoridou: Writing interactive fiction taught me a lot about plot, character change, arcs, and story beats. Writing for Choice of Games was particularly educational, because I was forced to think about the entire spectrum of possible decisions a character could make at any given point, as well as the several ways in which different personality types could go about actualizing these decisions. And the fun part was that, unlike what happens when creating non-interactive fiction, I didn’t have to choose one of these variations. I could write all of them. This is a kind of freedom, despite the restrictions imposed by the mechanics and structure of the format.

Short fiction comes with a different set of restrictions—you have to chisel away until you get to the core of the story, and there is potential for a lot of regret; what if the characters made different decisions? Where could the story have led? What opportunities did we miss out on? These restrictions, paradoxically and precisely because of the shortness of the format, provide their own sort of freedom: you can bend every rule and try pretty much anything without having to go back 50,000 words to fix something you broke, which can definitely happen in an interactive novel (ask me how I know).

The difficulty with combining the two formats—and their restrictions—in this story I think manifests in the ending: could I really write multiple endings without privileging one of them as the “real” ending (i.e. the last one, because the story is not actually interactive and so is necessarily read linearly)? Part of the joy of writing “Georgie in the Sun,” though, was that I got to combine both kinds of freedom as well—my protagonist refused to make a decision and, by forcing the format of interactive fiction onto his short-form reality, broke the universe.

Uncanny Magazine: Are you a Beatles fan? If so, what is your favorite Beatles song?

Natalia Theodoridou: I actually came quite late to the Beatles, because they were way outside the cultural landscape in which I grew up. Georgie loves them, though.

Uncanny Magazine: At the start of the story, the Țepeș is near Alpha Pegasi, a star in the constellation Pegasus. The name of the ship is presumably a reference to Vlad the Impaler—is there any particular significance to the star Alpha Pegasi? Are there any other references hidden in the story you’d like to highlight for your readers?

Natalia Theodoridou: References are strange animals, in that they tend to wink in and out of focus, appear where you don’t expect them, and slip through your fingers when you try to grasp at them. Sometimes I do weave references through my fiction on purpose, but most of the time they are automatic, resistant even to myself, and hidden, like undercurrents. If you try hard enough, you’ll find hints and references everywhere—but were they there in the first place, or did you will them into existence by trying to find a connection? I couldn’t tell you, and I’m not entirely sure it matters.

I can say, though, that “Andreas,” the name Georgie settles on but ends up never using, is a nod to K.M. Szpara’s “Small Changes Over Long Periods of Time.” That story means a lot to me.

Uncanny Magazine: What are you working on next?

Natalia Theodoridou: I am in a transitional period that comes with the stunning and terrifying freedom of possibility (I won’t say endless, because nothing is). At the moment, I feel the need to revisit some of the worlds and characters of my short stories and continue exploring. In particular, I am mulling over a novel set in the world of “Poems Written While.” Spending more time with Daddy and his crew fills my heart with joy.

Uncanny Magazine: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

Caroline M. Yoachim

Caroline M. Yoachim is the author of the 2017 Hugo and Nebula finalist short story “Carnival Nine.” Her fiction has appeared in Lightspeed, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Uncanny, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Clarkesworld, and Asimov’s, among other places. Her debut short story collection, Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World & Other Stories, came out with Fairwood Press in 2016. For more about Caroline, check out her website at carolineyoachim.com.

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