Deborah Davitt is back. The winner of the 2021 Anlab award for best novelette returns to Analog with a new short story called “Beneath the Surface, a Womb of Ice,” which was inspired by the author’s research on Martian water. Read Davitt’s new story in our [November/December issue, on sale now!]
Analog Editor: How did this story come to be?
Deborah Davitt: This story began with several articles on the possibility of finding water underground on Mars—and then I sat down with several online resources and traced a route through the impact basins and outbreak instances of the southern polar regions, doing my best to depict the way in which water would originally have flowed through the area when it was an active hydraulic system. This was one of the most fun parts of writing the story. . . and then I read up on cave climbing accidents, which was the most sobering part of the research. The story of Nutty Putty cave, and the finding of Altamura Man, were both direct inspirations for the fate of one of the Martian researchers.
AE: What is your history with Analog?
DD: This is my second story to appear in Analog. I was delighted, proud, and very, very humbled to win the Analytical Laboratory contest for my last story, which appeared in 2021—”A Shot in the Dark.” I hope that readers enjoy this tale as much as they enjoyed my last appearance!
AE: Are there any themes that you find yourself returning to throughout your writing? If yes, what and why?
DD: I find myself often dealing with loss, grief, and the recovery from both. I deal a lot with soldiers recovering from wounds or PTSD. Quite a bit of both comes from my father, who was a veteran of Korea and Vietnam, and the lessons I’ve learned in overcoming the grief of his loss fifteen years ago.
I was delighted, proud, and very, very humbled to win the Analytical Laboratory contest for my last story, which appeared in 2021—”A Shot in the Dark.” I hope that readers enjoy this tale as much as they enjoyed my last appearance!
AE: What is the weirdest research rabbit-hole that working on a story has led you down?
DD: There have been so many. I’ve looked up how eighteenth century carousels worked, and which poisons were available in first-century Rome. I’ve had to work out what the terminal velocity on the asteroid 4 Vesta would be. But I think the oddest would be for one of my alternate history Edda-Earth novels, in which I researched how Chinese explorers could have reached the Roman Empire during the era of Augustus, and the state of gunpowder technology at the time, to determine that, yes, it already existed, and totally could have been used to blow up a statue of a god to imply to awestruck witnesses that the gods didn’t like the message being proclaimed by a given orator. That the perpetrators of the event had to drill into the statue’s hindquarters to leave the charge of black powder simply added to the humor of the event—in my mind, at least!
AE: If you could choose one SFnal universe to live in, what universe would it be, and why?
DD: If I couldn’t live in Stargate (which always has a happy ending, due to the competence of the main characters) or Babylon 5 (which generally has a hopeful vision of humanity’s future and has great alien cultures to learn to interact with), I’d transport myself to the Miles Teg era of Dune, if I could be on a no ship, safely away from the Honored Matres, because the world is just so damned interesting, and it’s a universe of open possibilities.
AE: What careers have you had and how do they affect your writing?
DD: I’ve been both a professor of English composition and a technical writer, working for a Navy subcontractor on nuclear ballistic missile submarines, a NASA subcontractor, and a major computer manufacturer. Thus, even in my poetry, I believe my job is to convey my meaning to my reader as clearly as possible. If you don’t get my point, I’ve done a poor job, hehe.