Jessica Reisman discusses their influences, their love of Hong Kong cinema, and the importance of community in their writing in this exciting interview. Be sure to read Reisman’s new story “Aconie’s Bees” in our [May/June issue, on sale now!]
Analog Editor: How did this story germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?
Jessica Reisman: Both, really. The precipitating moment of “Aconie’s Bees” came as a deep image—by which I mean a visual moment with a sense of world, history, a freight of character and intimation within it—all at once. That image was the villager coming to Aconie’s mountain cave and calling her witch, though she is really no such thing. This is how a lot of my stories start, with such an image. The work of unpacking the history, world, and characters deep within that moment was, conversely, very slow and took many months.
AE: Is this piece part of a greater universe of stories?
JR: I do have stories set in a larger science fictional far future universe, the same universe as my two published novels, The Z Radiant and Substrate Phantoms, but this story, if it’s part of that universe, is off in its own little corner of it, not overtly connected to the other works.
AE: Who or what are your greatest influences and inspirations?
JR: My earliest reading in fantasy and science fiction, as a kid, was Ursula Le Guin and Samuel Delany, then Tanith Lee, Patricia McKillip, and C.J. Cherryh. So they’re my greatest literary influences. I would also add Star Trek, since I was very wee and impressionable when it first aired and we watched it as a family. Also film and television in general. As a young adult I was an arthouse film projectionist and fell in love with Hong Kong movies. I am currently working on deepening my understanding of wuxia as a genre. More generally, I am inspired by beauty, wonder, possibility, hope in the darkness.
AE: Are there any themes that you find yourself returning to throughout your writing? If yes, what and why?
JR: Yes. Transformation seems to be a big one for me. I guess why probably traces back to a pretty unhappy childhood (that family Star Trek viewing gave way to a dissolved family by the time I was six) and a constant seeking to become my better, happier self. Relatedly, alternative family, finding a place of belonging—home—and a longing for community are also themes that weave through my writing pretty consistently.
AE: What is your process?
JR: I’ve always been a very slow writer. I do actually enjoy the process of writing, more than the part that comes after—trying to sell it, publicize it, etc. I’m even slower these days and my process is just to keep at it, most every day, even if it’s just a paragraph or a tweak or notes, or a break to write a poem or peck at something else. Writing is art for me, not product or business, which means I’ve never depended on it for the bulk of my income in our capitalist world. I’ve worked full-time at other jobs.
AE: What inspired you to start writing?
JR: Well, reading. And all the wonder I saw and imagined from my very young years but didn’t have the art skills to realize for sharing with others—my sister was (and is) an accomplished illustrative artist and I held my skills up to hers—so I decided to learn to use language to conjure those wonders and terrors and beauties into being.
Writing is art for me, not product or business, which means I’ve never depended on it for the bulk of my income in our capitalist world.
AE: What other projects are you currently working on?
JR: Currently I’m working on the sequel to a very alternative Earth 1600s-cognate corsair fantasy adventure novel, as well as another science fiction story, one set in our future, in which we got it together after much disaster and gave nature a hand instead of decimating it—a climate utopia sort of story.
AE: If you could choose one SFnal universe to live in, what universe would it be, and why?
JR: There’s a story in my collection The Arcana of Maps, on a future earth with sea trains and a traveling carnival; I’d like to live on that train with my carnie family, traveling the oceans and doing shows on the aggregate islands where humanity lives.
AE: What SFnal prediction would you like to see come true?
JR: Transporters, dammit. Visiting beautiful and interesting places and being with people I love is so essential—but the getting there is so disagreeable (unless you’re super wealthy, I suppose), especially if you’re older and/or have health challenges.
AE: What are you reading right now?
JR: A Hero Born, the first book of the wuxia classic series Legends of the Condor Heroes, in translation.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
JR: My website is storyrain.com. On Twitter I’m @jesswynne. I’m pretty easy to find if you’re looking for me!