“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their Inspirations and Influences. In this feature, we invite writers to talk about their new books, older titles, and their writing overall.
Hello everybody! We recently published a new novella, A Glimmer of Silver by Juliet Kemp. Today, the author is here to talk about the inspirations and influences behind the story!
I’m really excited that after a lot of writing, editing (thank you to my writers’ group, the Catherders, who told me to write a proper ending), and more editing (thank you to the fantastic Book Smugglers, who improved the whole thing beyond reason), A Glimmer of Silver is going to be out in the world!
My protagonist Jennery appeared in my mind fully formed, floating on xyr back in the sea and feeling tremendously fed up about something. Or possibly about everything. Jennery’s voice was clear right from the start, but what I didn’t know was what xe was doing there, what xe was so annoyed about, and what would happen next.
I love the ocean, and there was Jennery, floating in the ocean. I often find myself drawn to extremes in worldbuilding—so what if this wasn’t just a planet with an ocean, but a planet that’s all ocean? (I hadn’t read Stephen Baxter’s Flood when I wrote this, though I have now.) How did humans get there? How would they build a society there? And what would happen if they ran into something they didn’t expect?
Like, for example, if they discovered that the planet-sized ocean on their new planet was in fact sentient, and had its own opinions about how to sustain itself and the new arrivals on its surface.
I have a soft spot for stories about aliens and first contact; but I’m even more interested in what might happen after first contact. I’m interested in how two wholly different species might communicate and learn to live together; and in how they might both make mistakes and, crucially, find ways to get past those mistakes, and try again. So I didn’t set A Glimmer of Silver during first contact, but a few decades later, once everyone’s settled into—and become emotionally committed to—their new normal.
Then I created a problem, and let my characters—Jennery, in particular—try to sort it out, only to discover that things were rather more complicated than they’d expected. Instead of just needing to enforce an agreement, Jennery might instead need to rethink xyr understanding of that agreement. Not to mention convince everyone else to rethink it as well. That’s far harder than setting the agreement up in the first place.
It’s especially hard if, like Jennery, you didn’t want anything to do with it in the first place, and expended a certain amount of effort in trying to avoid the whole sorry business. But having had to make the decision to accept xyr job, Jennery’s faced with whether or not to do it properly. Xyr job is all about listening, to Ocean. But who else should xe listen to, is xe really hearing Ocean as clearly as xe thinks, and are the beliefs about the world that xe’s been brought up with as true as everyone else believes they are?
Challenging your existing beliefs is hard, as is really listening to other people (and beings). But I believe that it’s always worth doing. Like Jennery, I don’t always manage to live up to that, but I hope, like Jennery, I keep trying.
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Juliet Kemp lives in London with their partners, child, and dog. Their novel The Deep And Shining Dark (Elsewhen Press) came out in 2018, and their short fiction has appeared in assorted magazines and anthologies. In their free time, they go bouldering, tend their towering to-be-read pile, and get over-enthusiastic about fountain pens. They can be found on Twitter at @julietk.