Science Book a Day Interviews Kameron Hurley

Kameron HurleySpecial thanks to Kameron Hurley for answering 5 questions about her recently featured book – God’s War: Bel Dame Apocrypha Volume 1

Kameron Hurley is an award-winning author, advertising copywriter, and online scribe. Hurley grew up in Washington State, and has lived in Fairbanks, Alaska; Durban, South Africa; and Chicago. She has degrees in historical studies from the University of Alaska and the University of Kwa-Zulu Natal, specializing in the history of South African resistance movements. – From Kameron’s Homepage

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#1 – What was the impetus for writing God’s War?

My academic background is in South African resistance movements, and the themes of war, resistance, and social change show up a lot in my fiction. The primary conflict in the book was inspired by the Iran/Iraq war, and other conflicts supported and perpetuated by outside powers and interests. Instead of focusing on the war itself, though (which I think plenty of other types of book do) I wanted to immerse readers in the actual guts of what it would be like to live in a world at war with itself, driven by the external goals of others, and explore how that had shaped and changed the characters and their society.

#2 – What sort of sci-fi world have you tried to create for your readers? Reviews suggest elements of religion, Dune, technology, religion and genetics!

I read a review at one point that said Umayma made Arrakis look like “Club Med,” which I think is a fair assertion… I wanted to create a world in GOD’S WAR that people hadn’t seen before, one powered by bugs, built on a variety of religious principles (instead of just one monolithic religion, which a lot of books do), and challenged the same-old, same-old social expectations of family life.

When it comes to worldbuilding, I’m pretty serious. I reimagine the place from the ground up: nuts, bolts, gears, pins and all. It can be jarring, for some people. From the first page, you realize you’ve landed on a world that’s seriously different, and it can take folks a while to get into it.

#3 – Your hero Nyx is a ‘kick-ass’ character. What can you tell us about your protagonist?

What I enjoyed about writing Nyx is that she appears, on the surface, to be a deeply amoral character. But she does actually have a code of ethics and morality – just not one many of us would recognize. It’s a deeply personal code of ethics, and it’s based on her experience as a war veteran, a bounty hunter, a black market organ dealer, a former assassin – a person whose business is bodies. When killing becomes business, it changes the way we look at the world, ourselves, and other people, and that’s what I tried to get at with Nyx. She is, on the surface, utterly monstrous, but on digging deeper, one can understand why and how she comes across that way. We can’t live through horrifying events, we can’t be survivors of trauma, without those events and trauma changing us in some way.

In part, I also created Nyx in response to a lot of the “kick ass” characters I saw in fiction who had all the benefits of being powerful and relentless without any of the drawbacks. The truth is that when bodies are your business, and you’re suffering from massive PTSD and self-medicating all the time, you’re going to have trouble relating to people, forming friendships, even simply interacting in mundane social settings. I wanted Nyx to bring those drawbacks to the table, too.

#4 – What is “bug punk”?

The world of Umayma is run on bugs – they’re the primary driver of technology. And what do you call a type of fiction where the chief technology running the world is bugs? Well… I called it “bugpunk.” I spent a great deal of time extrapolating how different kinds of insects could be leveraged or remade to perform basic tasks – from sniffing out explosives to power vehicles – which I talk a little bit about here.

#5 – Do you have any new books/projects you can tell us about?

My big news is I’ve got a massive epic fantasy on the horizon, with the first book, THE MIRROR EMPIRE , coming out in September. It’s about three unlikely heroes who have to unite a fractured world on the eve of a catastrophic event. It’s a sweeping, complex adventure story rife with flesh-eating plants, satellite magic, and wormholes (portals, whatever). This one was a ton of fun, and I can’t wait to see what folks think of it.

I also have work coming out in upcoming anthologies, including an iteration of The Mammoth Book of SF Stories, Speculative Fiction 2013, and a Special Issue of Lightspeed Magazine. So stay tuned for that.

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