Interview 2 with Aliette de Bodard

Aliette de BodardAliette de Bodard’s short story, Through the Obsidian Gates, appears in the Autumn 2006 issue of Shimmer. Read her web site or send her an e-mail

Questions About The Story

Where did the idea come from?
This is a very old story of mine, so I’m not quite sure where the idea came from. I think I’d been reading on Aztec customs at the time, and I remembered the ritualized ball game that they played, which gave me this idea of a supernatural ball game with a ball of fire, and I took it from here.

How did the story change as you developed it?
This went through more rewrites than I’d care to mention. It was one of the first stories I wrote, which means it wasn’t very good. It had lots of potential, but I wasn’t capable yet of seeing where it lost its way. It did the rounds of quite a few magazines, always ending with a very polite rejection: “good, but not quite enough”. I was ready to give up, but I thought I’d try Shimmer first (it was over their word count and I wasn’t sure they wanted a long story like that). I did, and promptly got rejected again. However, this time, it came with a detailed rewrite request that highlighted most of the problems people had been having with it. I took it in stride, rewrote the entire middle section, tightened up a few nagging problems, and Shimmer bought it.

You know the advice “Sometimes you have to kill your darlings.” Was there a scene or line that it really hurt to cut, but cutting it made the story stronger?
Most of it got expanded rather than cut…I didn’t really have a darling scene. I suppose I was wary of touching the story because I could see it was good already, and didn’t want to make it worse by tinkering with it (I’ve made that kind of mistake before). Notably, the second quetzal bird showed up out of nowhere, and this made it weaker because it just didn’t have any motivation.

How is this story like your other work? How is it different?
This has the classic themes of my writing: a mythological arc borrowed from a non-Western culture, writing that I tried my best to make sing, and a comment on heroes who go down on impossible quests but really do it for themselves rather than for others. Different…well, it’s pretty much real-word: for once, the names of the gods and the features of the underworld are taken straight from Mayan mythology, although of course I did put a different spin on it…Normally I make names up because I’m too lazy to do my research. Also, I don’t normally do lovers because I find it hard to make them realistic, but in this case I had to.

Questions About Writing

Who do you write for? Yourself or someone else?
Myself, definitely. Not writing would be like not breathing. I’m always finding new story ideas, spinning them around… But of course I have to write for others too or I won’t have any readers *grin*.

What writing projects are you presently working on?
I’m working on several new short stories, and I’m hoping to get around one day to a novel, my third one. It would be set in a Hinduesque world, but I don’t feel comfortable enough to attempt it now.

What time of day do you prefer to do your writing?
Well, I’ve started working recently, so I don’t have much free time. I manage to do my revisions in the evening, but full stories tend to get written on weekends (hopefully I’ll find a better arrangement soon).

Favorite book read when you were a child?
Hum. The Chronicles of Narnia, I think. A very close second would be The Chronicles of Prydain, the ending of which always leaves me in tears.

Random Questions

If you could trade places with anyone, who would it be?
I’m fine where I am, I think. I don’t see the point of roaming further.

Watch much TV? If so, what shows do you watch? Which shows are guilty pleasures?
Uh, no. I don’t have TV at home, and I don’t usually much care for it. I’ve recently started watching Stargate, starting from Season 1, and I’m having tremendous fun at the expense of the screenwriters (mostly because of the science, but sometimes because of plot holes so big you could run a tank through them). Oh, and enjoying it, sometimes 😉

Favourite restaurant?
“La Matta”, an Italian restaurant close to my parents’ home that does tremendous pizzas.

Cat or dog person? (or something else, like birds, iguanas, or even evil robot monkeys?)
Definitely evil robot monkeys. Where would the world be without them (ok, a lot safer, but think of all the excitement the evil robot monkey invasion has brought us… 🙂 )

If you had a working time machine what advice would you give a younger self?
Don’t ever let anyone tell you that writing is something you will grow out of.

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