High Five with Kameron Hurley: A Lowest Heaven Special

LH_PB_7All this week we’re celebrating the release of The Lowest Heaven, a sci-fi short story spectacular which features some of the hottest names in modern genre publishing and contains exquisite celestial photography from the collection of the Royal Observatory Greenwich.

For your reading pleasure we have a High Five interview with the amazing Kameron Hurley whose story in The Lowest Heaven is called “Enyo-Enyo” and is influenced by the celestial body Eris.

Khurley Author Photo

Kameron Hurley is the author of the excellent The Bel Dame Apocrypha series of novels which include the award-winning God’s War for which she was also nominated for both the Locus and the Nebula awards for best debut novel.

Kameron tells us that she spent much of her roaring 20s travelling, pretending to learn how to box, and trying not to die spectacularly but today she lives a comparatively boring life sustained by Coke Zero, Chipotle and lots of words. She continues to work hard at not dying.

Let’s get rolling…

1) To start this off, what was the inspiration behind your story in The Lowest Heaven?

I sat on the first half of this story for six or seven years. I had this image of a woman and her crew circling the galactic core in a massive ship containing a faceless prisoner for transport. I had this idea about how she kept encountering her children again and again and her crews kept dying, again and again, but I couldn’t figure out why any of those things happened; I had no frame for the story.

When Jared Shurin approached me about the idea for writing a story based on one of the bodies in the solar system, I chose Eris. After doing a bit of research into Eris and the history of its naming, I returned to those twelve pages of nattering and realized I finally had a frame to build the thing around. After years of tinkering with those first few pages, I wrote the rest of the story in a couple weeks.

2) What is it that attracts you to science-fiction as a genre and what one sci-fi thing, be it book, movie or real life event, has influenced you the most?

Science fiction lets us explore how things can be really different. Great science fiction doesn’t just say, “Hey, jetpacks, cool!” but actually takes the time to explore how having some bit of technology changes and our challenges our humanity. How do our societies change? How are they different? How are they the same? I like pulling human beings out of our current societies and placing them somewhere else with different social mores, different environmental challenges, and different expectations, and seeing what about us remains “human” and what becomes, perhaps, alien. Will we recognize ourselves in the future?

God's WarI was six years old when I watched The Challenger space shuttle explode over Cape Canaveral. For weeks, the news was full of harrowing stories about the crews final words, their final moments, and rumors about finding charred bodies and wreckage at the bottom of the ocean.

The crew’s last moments, the knowledge that something was very wrong, the burst of heat, the breaking apart, fascinated me for a long time. It was a sobering thing for a six year old to realize – that there are real dangers and consequences to space exploration, and that in order to go beyond the boundaries of our own solar system – even our own planet –there will be sacrifices, and it wasn’t just going to be one big ball of cotton candy heroics rah-rah patriotism. It was the first time I realized that we may have to become another sort of culture, with different values and priorities, in order to expand into the stars.

3) Okay, so you’re going on a mission in to space. What is your mission? What three people (alive or not so alive) will you take with you? And most importantly what cool name would you give your ship?

Like a lot of kids growing up in the 80’s, I wanted to be an astronaut. As it turns out, I ended up with an immune disorder when I was 26, so it’s a good thing I didn’t start down that path. Still, I have a longing for the stars – for adventure, for open space, for the unknown – even now.

My mission would most closely align with that of the original Star Trek crew – to boldly go where no one has gone before, seek out new worlds, new civilizations – a bit like I try to do in my fiction. I have no preference for crews (though one short on assholes would be nice). The name of the ship would, however, have to be Nyxnissa. For all sorts of reasons.

4) The age ol’ question, do you think we’re alone in the universe?

Each of us in alone in our own version of the universe. As to whether earth is the only planet inhabited by sentient species, I think it’s pretty arrogant to assume it is, and such a view relies on an earth-as-center-of-the-universe thinking that should have gone away a long time ago.

5) Finally, we say J for Jetpack, you say J for…?

Believe it or not, a good deal of my romantic partners and crushes have had first names that start with “J” so the letter has been a short hand for such folks for much of my life. So to me, “J” is shorthand for love, passion, affection, and partnership.

Thanks Kameron!

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If you want to know more about Kameron then catch her on Twitter at @KameronHurley and check out her website here.

The Lowest Heaven is released this Thursday 13 June 2013 from Jurassic London. For more information check out the website here.

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