Q&A With Christopher L. Bennett

Christopher L. Bennett wrote his latest story back in 1997, but thought it might be too “fantasy-like” for Analog. Fortunately, he was wrong, and we’re pleased to have “Aleyara’s Descent” in our [May/June 2023 issue, on sale now!]. In this Q&A, Bennett discusses his penchant for procrastination, his current projects, and his mentorship under our previous editor Stanley Schmidt.

Analog Editor: What is the story behind this piece?
Christopher L. Bennett: “Aleyara’s Descent” is something very different for me. It’s essentially a work of historical fiction—but not about human history. It’s an adventure quest in the preindustrial era of the Biauru, a colorful and flamboyant alien species inhabiting the canopy of a vast rainforest on a planet dominated by dinosaur-like fauna. They’re a people with a rich mythology and spiritual life, so the story has the feel of high fantasy even though it’s hard science fiction. It’s a deep dive into a whole alien world—its people, its biology, its customs and beliefs and songs. It’s my first published story with no human characters (although my Patreon story “Growth Industry” has no speaking human characters). It’s also the longest story I’ve ever had in Analog.

AE: How did this story germinate?
CLB: I tend to begin with worldbuilding and derive story ideas from that. I developed the Biauru and their environment back in college, as a counterpoint to the common assumption that convergent evolution would produce humanoid aliens. I wanted to create a plausible alien race whose evolutionary history paralleled ours, yet who still turned out extremely different from us. I was intrigued by rainforest environments, the way most of their life resides in the canopy rather than on the ground, and I took that to its logical extreme in creating the Biauru’s world.
I put a lot of thought into developing the Biauru’s history and cultures (plural) in detail. “Aleyara’s Descent” depicts one key development that occurred far earlier in the Biauru’s history than it did in ours. Now that it’s finally seeing print, I hope it sparks interest in more Biauru tales.
Incidentally, the species’ name was spelled “Biaru” until recently, when I discovered there is a small indigenous community of that name in Papua New Guinea. I changed it to “Biauru” because it can be pronounced almost identically. My best friend in college thought their name sounded like the call of a tropical bird, and I didn’t want to lose that.

AE: What made you think of Analog for this story?
CLB: Ironically, I didn’t, not for a long, long time. I wrote this story way back in 1997, just months after my very first Analog story, “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide.” I didn’t submit “Aleyara” to Analog at the time, probably because I felt it was too fantasy-like for a hard-SF magazine. After my initial failed attempts to sell it, I convinced myself there weren’t enough markets for a story of its length, and I decided to incorporate it into a novel instead. As my career took another direction, and my original novel plans remained mostly unrealized, the story gathered dust on my shelf.
Over the past couple of years, I’ve been too busy with audio novels to write new short stories. Needing something I could market, I took another look at “Aleyara” and decided that I had to stop letting my tentative plans for the future prevent me from using what assets I had in the present. I sent it to Analog first out of tradition, but I figured it was a long shot. I was quite pleasantly surprised when I got Trevor Quachri’s acceptance e-mail. I now wonder what might have happened if I hadn’t talked myself out of sending it to Analog a quarter-century earlier.

AE: Is this piece part of a greater universe of stories?
CLB: Yes, but barely. The Biauru’s world exists within the Arachne-Troubleshooter Universe, the setting of five of my previous Analog stories (“Aggravated Vehicular Genocide,” “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele,” “Murder on the Cislunar Railroad,” “Twilight’s Captives,” and “Conventional Powers”) and my novels Only Superhuman, Arachne’s Crime, and Arachne’s Exile. I’ve written a number of unsold stories over the years featuring Biauru in the interstellar age. But since “Aleyara’s Descent” is set in the distant past, none of its characters have any awareness of other worlds. There’s only one tiny detail that explicitly connects it to the rest of the universe, right on the first page.

AE: What is your process?
CLB: I’m one of those writers for whom procrastination is an inescapable part of the process. I find I often do the most work in the morning before I get distracted by other things. I rely very much on taking walks around the neighborhood or in the local park to figure out scenes and find solutions.
If a novel has two or more parallel plotlines, I often write first one and then the other, so I don’t lose momentum on each one. Otherwise I tend to be pretty linear, reluctant to jump forward in case an unexpected idea emerges along the way. That happened with the novel I’m currently midway through writing, where a minor antagonist from the outline kind of took over the story and ended up becoming a major protagonist.

AE: How did you break into writing?
CLB: It was Analog’s longtime editor Stanley Schmidt who cultivated me as a writer through the advice he gave in his rejection letters during my first few years of marketing stories. I eventually learned that his predecessor John W. Campbell cultivated Stan the same way, and he chose to pay it forward when he saw potential in aspiring writers like me. It probably didn’t hurt that we’re both from Cincinnati (in fact, Stan once lived on my current street). Eventually, Stan bought “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” in 1998 and “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele” in 2000. Those gave me enough credentials to catch the eye of Pocket Books’ Star Trek tie-in editors, leading to my ongoing career as a Star Trek novelist and eventually an original SF novelist.

I’m one of those writers for whom procrastination is an inescapable part of the process. I find I often do the most work in the morning before I get distracted by other things. I rely very much on taking walks around the neighborhood or in the local park to figure out scenes and find solutions.

AE: What other projects are you currently working on?
CLB: Most of my commissioned work is in a lull lately, so I’ve been catching up on some overdue spec novel writing, including a third Arachne novel. I’ve also written a 5-part serial for my Patreon page, actually the B-plot of a planned sequel to Only Superhuman. I’ve fallen behind in keeping up with my Patreon fiction, so I decided to kill two birds with one stone by writing a serial that would also count toward half of a novel.
I’m still contributing standalone campaigns to the Star Trek Adventures tabletop role-playing game from Modiphius Entertainment. As of this writing, I have two unreleased campaigns upcoming and I’m about to start writing a third.
On the horizon is a possible continuation of Tangent Knights, my original audio novel trilogy from GraphicAudio, a hard-SF homage to Japanese tokusatsu superheroes for young adult readers and above. It’s my hope that I’ll get the go-ahead for more books later this year.

AE: If you could choose one SFnal universe to live in, what universe would it be, and why?
CLB: It sounds selfish, but it would be my own Arachne-Troubleshooter Universe, which evolved from my adolescent daydreams of the ideal future I’d want to live in. Part of my incentive to write my own science fiction was my dissatisfaction with aspects of the SF universes I read and watched, either in their scientific plausibility or their values and attitudes. I decided to build a universe that worked the way I wanted it to. Of course, my stories focus on the parts that are still imperfect and prone to problems and conflict, but implicitly it’s a universe where most people lead better lives.

AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?
CLB: Don’t talk yourself out of submitting a story, like I did for too long with “Aleyara.” Never assume a market won’t take it, and never give up after the first couple of rejections. And keep every rejected story. You never know when you might get a chance to make use of it, either in part or in whole.

AE: Many of our Analog authors are interested in science. Do you have any scientific background, and does it impact your fiction?
CLB: I have bachelor’s degrees in physics and history, and I use what I know to try to keep my fiction plausible and informative. However, I haven’t done as much original fiction focusing on the work of science and exploration as I would’ve liked. One thing I like about “Aleyara’s Descent” is that it’s very much a story about exploration, discovery, and scientific thought standing against superstition and the fear of new ideas.

AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
CLB: Homepage: https://christopherlbennett.wordpress.com/
Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/christopherlbennett
Facebook author page: https://www.facebook.com/ChristopherLBennettAuthor
Twitter: https://twitter.com/CLBennettAuthor

Christopher L. Bennett is a lifelong resident of Cincinnati, Ohio, with a B.S. in Physics and a B.A. in History from the University of Cincinnati. “Aleyara’s Descent” is his thirteenth story to appear in Analog over the past twenty-five years. For twenty years, he has been one of Pocket Books’ most prolific and popular authors of Star Trek tie-in fiction, including Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Buried Age, the Star Trek: Department of Temporal Investigations series, and the Star Trek: Enterprise—Rise of the Federation series. He has also written two Marvel Comics novels, X-Men: Watchers on the Walls and Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder. His original novel Only Superhuman, perhaps the first hard science fiction superhero novel, was voted Library Journal‘s SF/Fantasy Debut of the Month for October 2012, and his original audio novel Caprice of Fate, Book 1 of the Tangent Knights series from GraphicAudio, won an AudioFile Earphones Award for January 2022. His other work includes the duology Arachne’s Crime and Arachne’s Exile from eSpec Books. His original short fiction is collected in Among the Wild Cybers: Tales Beyond the Superhuman from eSpec Books, as well as two collections from Mystique Press, Hub Space: Tales from the Greater Galaxy and Crimes of the Hub.


  1. Thanks for this excellent interview! It’s wonderful to see props for Stanley Schmidt as well — he was a very positive influence on a whole generation of SF writers.


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