Aliette de Bodard – On a Red Station, Drifting

    Aliette de Bodard : „I started writing On a Red Station, Drifting after one too many readings of the Chinese classic Dream of Red Mansions, and musing on old literature.

    It’s no secret that “classical literature”, at least the brand taught in French schools, is overwhelmingly male and concerned with “male” affairs: wars, violence, fatherhood, father/son relationships… I found the same preoccupation prevalent in SFF, to a point where it became unsettling–it’s a subject covered by Ursula Le Guin in her Language of the Night and by Joanna Russ in many of her writings. One of the things that drove this home for me was seeing the statistics compiled by Martin Lewis for the Clarke Award (among the highlights: around 90% of the books had at least a male protagonist, a good quarter featured no women main characters at all, and a good 81% of the books had the protagonist kill someone, while only under half the protagonists were in a stable happy relationship).

    Only, it had to be a space domestic plot, obviously–the closest future equivalent I could come up with for a great household was a space station. For convenience’s sake (and for pleasing fans ), I opted to set this in the larger-scale Xuya universe, which had human-borne AIs, the Minds, run spaceships. It was but a small stretch to imagine those same Minds used to stabilise space stations. And so was born Prosper Station, an isolated corner of a future Đại Việt home to the Lê family since generations (its name, Prosper, is a shorthand for Prosperity, as I imagined a loose alliance of space stations named after the Three Blessings of Longevity, Prosperity and Felicity).

    I imagined that a great war had emptied the station of its most able people, leaving only civilians unused to governing (the great war itself has more than a few echoes of the opening salvoes of the fratricide Trịnh-Nguyễn war). In this universe, there is no gender discrimination, but a discrimination on achievements: the most accomplished partner of a marriage is the greater partner (and has the right to marry several times); the other one is relegated to the more domestic tasks of the household. In the case of an understaffed space station, though, “domestic” could mean lots of things, as my main character Quyen discovers…

    I chose to make women the focus of this novella, and to split the point-of-view between two very different women: Linh is an official used to power; Quyen has been thrust into managing an entire space station and struggles against her own sense of her inferiority. The structure I arrived at is in three books, each centred around a visitor to the space station; each visitor bringing with them a particular upheaval to the already precariously balanced situation.”

    Out Dec 2012 from Immersion Press, a limited-edition novella set in the universe of Xuya (home of the award-wining “The Shipmaker”, Hugo and Nebula nominated “The Jaguar House, In Shadow” and Nebula-nominated “Shipbirth”): On a Red Station, Drifting.


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