We interview M.L. Clark, author of “The Stars, Their Faces Uplifted in Song” in the Noir Fire anthology.
TFF: What does “The Stars, Their Faces Uplifted in Song” mean to you?
M.L. Clark: In my earlier fiction, I was trying to figure out how to manifest characters who better represented my own sense of a subject-position, as an enby who really hates labels. I wanted to capture the feeling of being someone who carries many different performances of self who moves through a world where oppression comes in the form of many stringent hierarchies. All of this is background for me, though. Readers should still be able to enjoy it as is, as the story of a world-weary AI detective on an interplanetary case.
TFF: You have achieved an unusual take on (near) immortality in this story, managing to avoid both cliché and pathos. Do you think it is possibly to be both deathless and human?
MLC: I think we humans often go through periods when life feels endless, which—while obviously inaccurate—is a point of view contained within the human condition. I feel the endlessness of our struggles sometimes, the acute grief and weariness of knowing that we won't fix all the crises that need fixing in our lifespans. Being fleeting in a world of oppression that will outlive us is a delicate but important tension to explore.
TFF: Would you like to visit another planet?
MLC: Oh good grief, no. I haven't even explored enough of this one. I love the photography from all our wonderful, fearless bots, though!
TFF: If you could give life to an inanimate object, what would you choose?
MLC: I think I have to go with a house, since I live in Colombia, a land with a pretty famous depiction of a magical house (care of García Márquez). But it would have to be the right house, one that seems like it would have a good personality if it came to life. And not too much self-awareness, not enough to resent being conscious but unable to uproot itself. That would be hell for the poor thing. In fact, let's not give me animation-powers. I'd probably Monkey's-Paw it, and add to worldly suffering.
TFF: Other than Noir and SF, what two (or more) genres would you like to see smashed together in a future anthology?
MLC: We've had solarpunk, but I think we really need more solar nihilism, because solarpunk can fall into this idea that having cool new gadgets is enough. I want to see more worlds focussed on the deeper complexities of building sustainable future societies, but with our expectations of long-term change made much more realistic. We can't "stop" climate change, but we can mitigate its effects and ease its impact on the survivors. What will that look like in the stories we tell?
TFF: What are you working on next?
MLC: Currently trying to finish editing on another AI detective story, this one a novel that tackles neoliberalism through a future in which a highly market-driven alien species paves (Earthly) paradise and puts up an amusement park. One of the attractions is an AI character generated from a near-future movie series with a Bond-esque man-of-mystery. As he starts to realize what he is, and what's happened to humankind, he also has a mystery to solve for his employer. Ideally the first in a series, but we'll see if the markets are favourable to a story critical of markets themselves!
You can find purchase links and more information about the Noir Fire anthology at http://press.futurefire.net/p/noir-fire.html