Gwendolyn Clare is back with a new short story, “The Selves We Leave Behind,” in the current issue. Here, she offers us her inspirations, influences, and fears about a future we might not be prepared for.
Analog Editors: What is the story behind this piece?
Gwendolyn Clare: I spend an unreasonable quantity of brain-power worrying that when humankind finally encounters another sentient species, we’re going to fail miserably at understanding them. It might turn out okay, if the aliens are expert communicators . . . but what if our core assumptions are insurmountably different? What if we send all the wrong messages, and draw all the wrong conclusions? It’s a thought that keeps me up at night.
AE: How did the title for this piece come to you?
GC: Sometimes I really agonize over titles, but The Selves We Leave Behind just arrived like express-mail from my subconscious, even before the story was fully formed in my head.
AE: What made you think of Analog for this story?
GC: This one hinges entirely on weird alien biology and how that biology informs perspective, which I hope Analog readers will enjoy.
AE: Are there any themes that you find yourself returning to throughout your writing? If yes, what and why?
GC: Especially in my short fiction, I often write from nonhuman perspectives. Our minds are a product of our specific evolution, which means there’s nothing universal about the way we think—and no reason to expect that sentient aliens or even artificial intelligences would work exactly the same way. I am endlessly fascinated with the challenge of trying to envision what existence would feel like for a fundamentally different species.
AE: Who or what are your greatest influences and inspirations?
GC: In terms of richly envisioned alien species, I have to give a shout-out to Amy Thomson and Vernor Vinge.
AE: What inspired you to start writing?
GC: I’ve always enjoyed writing itself. The credit for inspiring me to try writing short fiction for publication goes to Analog-favorite Michael A. Burstein, who was a teacher of mine in high school.
AE: What SFnal prediction would you like to see come true?
GC: I’ll be very disappointed in reality if we don’t have humans on Mars within my lifetime. We ought to be there already, if only we’d prioritized space exploration.
AE: What other projects are you currently working on?
GC: My debut steampunk novel—Ink, Iron, and Glass—was released February 20th, and right now I’m finishing up work on the sequel.
AE: What are you reading right now?
GC: Noumenon by Marina J. Lostetter
AE: Many of our Analog authors are interested in science. Do you have any scientific background, and does it impact your fiction?
GC: I do indeed: I have a PhD in Mycology, and my current occupation is teaching college biology. It can be a mixed blessing for a writer. On the one hand, I often do find inspiration for stories in the natural world. But the real-life scientific process involves a lot of slow, meticulous work, many false starts and frustrations—so real science doesn’t always lend itself to the construction of a compelling narrative.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
Gwendolyn Clare holds a BA in Ecology, a BS in Geophysics, a PhD in Mycology, and swears she’s done collecting acronyms. Her debut novel—Ink, Iron, and Glass—is the first in a steampunk duology about a young mad scientist with the ability to write new worlds into existence, forthcoming from Macmillan/Imprint in 2018. Her short stories have appeared in Clarkesworld, Asimov’s, and Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and this is her third appearance in Analog.