We had a chance to sit down for a conversation with the truly terrific Miriam Seidel, whose first novel, THE SPEED OF CLOUDS, has just been launched by New Door Books. A short while ago we offered a brief review of the book by our Assistant Fiction Editor, Brittany Loeffler. But I saved the best for myself, getting to delve more deeply into Miriam’s thoughts about her book, about her choice of genre, and so much more. As some of you may know, Miriam is our beloved graphic design genius here at Hidden River. She has designed the covers of every one of our books so far. She designed her own cover as well. You can check it out right here:
Okay. So let’s get to the interview!
DLS: Can you talk about your personal fascination with speculative fiction and sci-fi? Has this been a life-long interest?
MS: Yes, I’ve always loved science fiction, although when I was younger it was more fantasy—A Wrinkle in Time, The Borrowers, The Lord of the Rings. I discovered Star Trek and sci-fi magazines in high school. Then when our son was little, I took him along to Cons. I told myself it would be fun for him, but it was really for me. What drew me to speculative fiction and fantasy was probably what draws so many people—the feeling that there’s more to the universe than what we experience day-to-day, and the chance to experience vaster reaches of space and time, and have your imagination stretched by other possibilities.
DLS: You present this world through the experiences of a female protagonist, which is unusual. This is a very male-dominated world. Could you talk about that a bit?
MS: Yes and no. Traditionally sci-fi was extremely male-dominated, but there have always been female fans (like me) and women writers. Women fans were central in the development of fan fiction, which started as a response to the first Star Trek series. And Mindy, the main character, is part of that tradition, having written fan fiction and editing her own zine. And you see other women fans in the story—she’s not just some token woman hanging with fanboys.
In the last decade or so the SFF field has seen a surge in women writers, including women of color, queer women, disabled women. Many exciting new voices are Asian women—Aliette de Bodard, Alyssa Wong, JY Yang. There was even an attempted backlash by a group of male writers who felt threatened by the changing demographics in the field, and they tried to skew the voting for the Hugo Awards. But now N.K. Jemisin, a brilliant African-American woman writer, has won the Hugo twice in the last two years, for the first two books in her Broken Earth trilogy. And on the fan level, lots of younger women are writing fan fiction and doing cosplay at conventions. So it’s really opening up.
Since we just lost Ursula K. Le Guin, I’d just like to say that she really led the way. So many people were inspired by her example, her stubbornly original way of approaching science fiction—different from the dominant, somewhat macho ethos of her time. There’s been a real outpouring of sadness since her death, partly because in recent years she was willing to speak up as the wise (sometimes stern) old woman writer.
DLS: Your main character is also disabled, which adds interesting complications to the issues she faces and the challenges she has to overcome. Can you talk a bit about your choice to create a disabled character?
MS: Mindy came to me all of a piece—disabled, irascible, and with this rich inner life that doesn’t match her outer self. I probably met some disabled fans at the Cons I went to, but I don’t remember any individually. Mindy has lived with her disability, spina bifida, from birth, but I know there’s a certain category of sci-fi fan that seems not to invest much interest in their physical body compared to their passion for imagined worlds. I know because I was that way when I was younger. By the end of the novel, Mindy has both connected with other people and learned to inhabit her body in a new way. Those changes were important to me.
DLS: What are your current projects? Is there a follow up to this novel?
MS: I’m in the early stages of a straight sci-fi/fantasy novel. I do think about Mindy, but haven’t seen her appearing in another novel—not yet, anyway.
DLS: Is there anything else you would like to say about the book, about this sci-fi fan community, Cons, etc.?
MS: In a way, The Speed of Clouds is about the difficulty and inevitability of change. All the supporting stories are about this too. But, thinking about this now, I’m seeing the world of sci-fi fandom as a place where you sort of develop a muscle for dealing with change, because with each new story, you have to learn a whole new world, or at least some new twist that makes everything different. Right now, we’re seeing the ugly results of people terrified of change, and trying to turn the clock back, which ultimately never works. Fans and writers in SFF operate in a different arena, and that gives me some hope.
DLS: Thanks so much, Miriam, for taking the time to talk with us!
For our readers – when she is no longer so swamped with book launch activities, we are hoping to convince Miriam to give us a guest blog on the craft of Speculative Fiction. If that is something you would enjoy reading, please make comments down below, and let us know if you have any particular questions you would like to ask Miriam for the blog!
For those interested in learning more, or in purchasing the book, here are some links for your perusal:
Speed of Clouds Media Kit
Author Appearances (And obviously, Miriam is available for readings, book clubs and other appearances.)
Miriam’s Goodreads page.