Andrew Kozma’s interest in technology’s consequences rather than technology itself is on clear display in “Mars, the Dumping Ground of the Solar System” [on sale now]. He spoke with us about the particular consequences explored in this story, his literary influences, and the possibility of future stories set in this same world.
Analog Editor: How “Mars, the Dumping Ground of the Solar System” come to be?
AK: The idea for the story came from thinking of the difficulties involved in terraforming other planets, what could be one solution, and what would be the likely fallout from that solution. It was a pretty quick spark leading from genetically engineering humans to survive in the proto-environments on various planets to how capitalism would most likely simply discard those essential workers once they were no longer useful. And that’s where my interests mostly are targeted—not in the technology that allows something amazing to happen, but the unexpected consequences of that technology.
AE: How did the title for this piece come to you?
AK: After the initial idea, the title was the next thing to come. The central aspect of “Mars, the Dumping Ground of the Solar System” is the Engineered—those genetically-engineered humans—being abandoned like so much trash, and so Mars, where they’ve been relegated, becomes seen as a waste planet. Not to the Engineered, but to the greater masses of humanity who prefer not to think about how the Engineered made the rest of the solar system livable.
AE: Do you particularly relate to any of the characters in this story?
AK: The main character, Jonquil. I’m always taken by those who are trying to do their best in situations and institutions that are designed to ignore suffering, if not increase it.
AE: Is this piece part of a greater universe of stories?
AK: It is, although those stories are mostly just ideas at the moment. Most of my stories begin as one-offs in universes created just for them, but usually other ideas sprout off that initial one. In this case, in addition to other stories taking place on Mars, I want to explore the societies of the Engineered in the process of terraforming their worlds.
“. . . if you are writing about what you find fascinating, then the stories you create are likely to connect with other people, because the more invested you are in what you write, the more likely other people will react to your excitement.”
AE: Are there any themes that you find yourself returning to throughout your writing? If yes, what and why?
AK: How do people behave in extremes? How do they keep (or destroy) their humanity? What good can be extracted from disasters, either natural or as a result of human decisions? I am more interested in how people deal with the consequences of an action than I am in the process that created those consequences.
AE: Who or what are your greatest influences and inspirations?
AK: When I was first writing, my influences were Roger Zelazny, Samuel R. Delany, and Philip José Farmer. I identified with the experimentalism of the New Wave SF (that I was reading at least fifteen years after the fact) and how it made the humanities as important as the hard sciences. Now, in terms of writing I want to emulate, I’m drawn more to weirdness, darkness, and beautiful imagery of James Tiptree, Jr., Kameron Hurley, and China Miéville.
AE: How much or little do current events impact your writing?
AK: I rarely write to current events as they are happening, but often find those events reflected in my writing. Two of the stories I’ve written this year are about worlds overrun with garbage and various attempts to deal with that fact. But I suppose what I want to do more in my writing is reflect the current world, in its population and its problems, which means that current events naturally slide into the narrative in one form or another.
AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?
AK: Write about what interests you. Write something strange you can’t imagine anyone else wanting to read. Or write something “normal” that seems to fit in easily on your local bookstore’s shelves. Either way, if you are writing about what you find fascinating, then the stories you create are likely to connect with other people, because the more invested you are in what you write, the more likely other people will react to your excitement.
AE: If you could choose one SFnal universe to live in, what universe would it be, and why?
AK: I’d love to live in Becky Chambers’ universe of the Galactic Commons. It is both human and humane, and relatively small in scale, which makes me think I could live there without dying horribly. Not that there aren’t large and horrible problems in her universe, but the focus on the small-scale in her books gives a clear idea of what a normal, non-special person’s life would be like.
AE: What other projects are you currently working on?
AK: On my Patreon I’m finishing up a novella about a Dyson ring built around the Sun in the far future, long abandoned since humanity left to explore the stars. I am also writing a steampunkish novel in a world where magic depends on theft.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
AK: The easiest way to follow me is via Twitter at @thedrellum, and the best way to follow and support my writing is through my Patreon, also under thedrellum.