Interview: Sunny Moraine

Sunny Moraine is a doctoral candidate in sociology and a college instructor, living just outside Washington, DC. Their short fiction has appeared in Nightmare, LightspeedClarkesworld, Tor.com, and also in their debut collection Singing With All My Skin and Bone. Moraine is also responsible for the Root Code and Casting the Bones trilogies, and the horror fiction podcast Gone. This story is their second appearance in Uncanny Magazine, the first being “Love Letters to Things Lost and Gained.” In “Your Slaughterhouse, Your Killing Floor” they explore isolation and rage, and things that can happen when “a girl walks into a bar…”

Uncanny Magazine: “Your Slaughterhouse, Your Killing Floor” is a darker, grittier take on people with superpowers. The characters are feeling isolated and angry, and they’re struggling to make their way through the world, all of which makes them feel very human even as they are causing superhuman amounts of destruction. Do you see this as a story about the ways in which society fails people? How does your background in sociology influence the characters and societies you create?

Sunny Moraine: I think I don’t see it so much a story of social failure on a mass level as a story about how impossible overwhelming rage and pain can be to deal with. Clearly being a member of a marginalized community is going to influence that a lot, and a huge amount of the story was drawn from my experience as a queer outcast kid wrestling with burgeoning mental illness. Social power and marginalization and oppression are a backdrop for it, but I wasn’t consciously thinking of those things as I was writing it. My primary focus was simply my own rage and feelings of helplessness.

As with this story, I’m usually not going explicitly to a sociological lens when I write. But I think being immersed in it for as long as I have is always going to affect how you tell stories. Among other things, I think I’m probably more inclined than I would be otherwise to always be sparing some attention for the contexts within which characters exist, the larger forces that drive and shape them, even if it’s not always on a conscious level. You obviously don’t need to have training in sociology to write that way, but like I said, I do think it makes it come easier.

I also got into sociology in significant part because I wanted to understand how and why people are so messed up. So that probably influences how I go about things as well. ϑ

Uncanny Magazine: One theme in the story is the isolation and loneliness that comes with being different. Your horror fiction podcast Gone also examines this theme. What draws you to explore isolation and loneliness—is it something you deliberately return to, or does it just show up in your work?

Sunny Moraine: I don’t choose to go to it most of the time; it shows up of its own accord, and I’m guessing it’s in part because I’m working through some pretty serious personal issues. Isolation has always been a big part of my own experience, unfortunately. I didn’t have many friends as a kid and often played alone. Now I find myself alone a lot of the time for anxiety reasons, while at the same time I recognize that it’s not good for me to go for a long time without human company (cats are great but they can only do so much).

Uncanny Magazine: “Your Slaughterhouse, Your Killing Floor” has a compelling voice, full of raw emotion, with lots of rage. This quote really resonated with me: “They teach us not to be angry. No one likes a bitch. Be nice. Smile.” If you could change that lesson to something else, what would it be?

Sunny Moraine: I think it would be just to embrace the anger, to let it power you. The thing about that is that the results are probably not always going to be positive. Possibly the majority of the time they won’t be, in fact. But I think right now, particularly with the #MeToo movement, we’re seeing how long-term destructive it is to go ahead and keep your head down and play the game. People have resisted coming forward because of legitimate fears about the consequences, but we’re also seeing what happens when collective rage hits a tipping point, and what happens is the world begins to change—which is a process we’ve seen before.

It’s somewhat ironic that I would say that, because in the story itself, the consequences of embracing the rage are indeed terrible. But something I think I only realized after the fact is that there may be a message in there about claiming ownership of your own rage rather than letting someone else claim it for you.

Uncanny Magazine: The story has an interesting structure, repeatedly circling back to the “girl walks into a bar” joke. Why did you choose to structure the story this way? Did you have this structure in mind from the start, or is it something that came later in your process?

Sunny Moraine: I honestly have no idea where that came from. It emerged completely organically and it felt right, so I followed it, but I never intended it and I’m still not sure what it’s doing there. Fun when that happens.

Uncanny Magazine: Speaking of bars, do you have a favorite bar (real or fictional)?

Sunny Moraine: Real, there’s a place called the Scratcher in East Village, NYC that means a lot to me for some super personal reasons, in addition to being generally great (dive bar, dim, old wood, Irish pub feel). Fictional? I think it would have to be Quark’s on DS9. More diverse and more pleasantly seedy than Ten Forward.

Uncanny Magazine: What are you working on next?

Sunny Moraine: I’m currently poking at a novella that I hope I’ll have some news about soon. I’m also (please PLEASE) working through the final rounds of edits on Lineage, a novel set in my Root Code universe which will be out in late 2018 or 2019 from Riptide Publishing. And always I’m trying to make short stories happen. Finally, I’m wrapping up the first season of Gone and refining what I want season two to look like. I’m excited about it.

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

Caroline M. Yoachim

Caroline M. Yoachim lives in Seattle and loves cold cloudy weather. She is the author of dozens of short stories, appearing in Asimov’s, Lightspeed, and Uncanny 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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