We’re entering the final week of the Kickstarter campaign for Aether Beyond the Binary, an anthology of 17 aetherpunk stories starring characters outside the gender binary, and we’re still going strong! As I write this, we’re $3,700 shy of our goal – an amount we definitely can raise, but the more help we get spreading the words about this project, the more people will know it exists, and truly that’s the single biggest barrier to hitting our goals: effectively spread the words. So, if you believe in this project, whether you’re a backer or not, we’d really appreciate you taking a moment to share/reblog/retoot/reskeet our posts about it!
Thanks for all your support! Now, let’s introduce another of our contributing authors…
About S. J.: S. J. grew up in a distinctly weird, distinctly southern hometown, then hied out West for grad school before landing in Texas, where they currently work as a planetary scientist. They’ve been writing original works and fanfiction since they could hold a pencil semi-correctly, and continue to write both whenever possible (as well as still holding a pencil only semi-correctly). In their clearly copious spare time, S. J. enjoys hiking, tabletop RPGs, jigsaw puzzles, and enthusiastically crappy sci-fi.
This is S. J.’s first time writing with Duck Prints Press. You can read another example of their writing by visiting their website to check out Anglerfish, a horror sci-fi story.
An Interview with S. J. Ralston
How did you pick the name you create under?
It’s a line from the opening of the Aeneid that’s stuck with me ever since AP Latin in high school: “On account of the mindful wrath of cruel Juno.” It’s a synchesis, where the adjectives have been swapped from where you expect them to be; it’s Juno who is mindful and her wrath that is cruel, but rearranging them in such a way elegantly implies the relentless, vindictive onslaught that is to follow.
What do you consider to be your strengths as a creator?
Dialogue and dread.
What do the phrases “writer’s block” or “art block” mean to you?
The state of wanting to create but not having the intellectual raw materials to do it.
Are you a pantser, a planner, or a planster? What’s your process look like?
I would consider myself a plantser. Typically I start with an IDEA, writ large, center of the page. Then some key scenes will populate around it–dramatic moments, fun bits of dialogue, cool setpieces. At that point I get out my corkboard and red string and start trying to piece everything together, and if I’m lucky, the shape of the story will reveal itself to me. Sometimes it’s the classic parabola of rising and falling action, other times it’s been a ring, a tri-fold posterboard, a descending spiral, or a series of concentric circles. Then I fill in until the structure is complete and hope like hell that I can stick the landing.
What are your favorite tropes?
Found Family, Robots With Feelings, Enemies To Lovers, Destructive Romance, Kirk Summation/The Man In The Room
What are your favorite character archetypes?
Brooding Loner Secretly Just Lonely, Lying For Fun And Profit, Badass With An Obvious Dump Stat, Too Old For This Shit, Taciturn But Bizarre, Himbo
Do you like having background noise when you create? What do you listen to? Does it vary depending on the project, and if so, how?
I make a playlist for almost everything I write that’s longer than a few thousand words. Sometimes it’s for listening to while I’m creating (in that case, it has to be primarily instrumentals or I’ll get distracted), and sometimes it’s just for daydreaming to (in which case, the vibes must be correct, so I can construct AMV’s in my head).
Share five of your favorite books. (You can include why, if you want!)
- Feet of Clay by Terry Pratchett – Eerie, funny, and poignant in equal measure; a police procedural done right.
- Piranesi by Susanna Clarke – Lush with joy, curiosity, and love, yet still remarkably dark, with an ending that will nestle in your brain forever.
- Artemis Fowl: The Opal Deception by Eoin Colfer – Fourth in the series and the absolute pinnacle thereof. A master-class in shit hitting the fan.
- Grandmaster of Demonic Cultivation by Mo Xiang Tong Xiu – Everyone, down to the most momentary background character, behaves more like *people* than any I’ve ever read before and it’s *disastrous* and I *love* it.
- The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson – The classic of classics. The horror of horrors. The transgenderism of it all.
What are your goals as a creator?
(1) To write something that’s better on the second read-through than it was on the first, and (2) To write something that stays with the reader.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
When you finish a first draft and you *know* you’ve got something really good, put it down. For a month, six months, a year; until the glow fades, or you’ve fallen in love with whatever you’re writing next. Then come back and re-read that first draft. Take extensive notes, diagram the plot, profile the characters. Notice the holes, redundancies, missed opportunities, and inconsistencies. Then open up a blank document and *start over.*
S. J.’s Contribution to Aether Beyond the Binary
Tags: bipoc, body horror, butch, character injury (non-graphic descriptions), classism, dehumanization, eye horror, horror, humans are the villains, mechanic, minor character death, misogyny, murder (accidental), non-binary, non-human character, past tense, sentient construct (magical), third person limited pov
The thing was damn near unrecognizable, not just as Marilyn Monroe, but as human. People had tweaked the proportions through the years—amateur artists who couldn’t put down the paintbrush. That kind of thing was bad enough on paper, but seeing it in person made Skipper’s butthole clench.
The dress and the curls were Monroe. The rest was something else.
“Shit my ass off,” Skipper said under his breath.
“Yeah,” said Charlie.
“This gets up and walks around?”
“Shit my ass off.”
Maybe it was a trick of the light, a too-heavy head on a too-thin neck, but the Monroe wasn’t staring across the aisle like the others. It seemed to be looking down at Skipper. It put out waves of dare-you-to-start-some-shit energy.
“Is it because they messed with the proportions?”
“Huh?” said Skipper, pulling out of the Monroe’s tractor beam.
“The reason she moves around so much. Could it be because of…” Charlie gestured to its whole body.
“Hell, maybe,” said Skipper.
The Monroe loomed like a landslide, just waiting for the rain. Skipper had a hammer on his belt. He felt like the Monroe was staring at it. If he broke the case, what then?