“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.
A few days ago we released Accelerants by Lena Wilson, a fantastic new novella in our Novella Initiative. We are delighted to host the author here today talking about the Inspirations and Influences behind it.
When I first wrote Accelerants in my Smith College dorm room during the sweltering summer of 2014, I had just finished an intensive round of exposure therapy for my phobia of vomiting. The experience, though ultimately helpful, was (and still is) one of the strangest of my life—a kind of measured torture that led a crooked path to healing through hurt. Here’s an excerpt from my journal at the time:
I had a weird, existential moment leaving the hospital for the second time that day—but in a good way. I thought about how the dude next to me on his laptop at Starbucks had no idea that the girl sitting next to him was going through a very intense and special therapy, or that the book she was reading (Divergent) was weirdly relevant to the experience. I just thought about how everyone at any given moment contains an elaborate and poignant story, and it actually felt like a beautiful possibility instead of a terrifying one for the first time in a long time.
The Treatment described in Accelerants is not based in the reality of exposure, but rather in the most extreme, primal feelings it evokes. Though some of Accelerants is based on my own experience (as an anxious lesbian who hates the beach), Mi-na and her world happily took on a life of their own when I began putting words to page. Just as I have grown and been shaped by my experiences over the past few years, so too has this story.
When I began writing this work about an anxious, gay teenager with superpowers, I wanted to accomplish a few things. Not only was I looking to make sense of my own experience and explore the world through varied perspectives, I also wanted to diversify the superhero genre. Though I was a huge fan of superhero movies at the time, I was frustrated with the stories in films like X-Men that touted superhero-dom as a marginalized experience without acknowledging how that might interact with real-world marginalized identities. I wanted to write a hero who blatantly grappled with familiar experiences of “othering”—as a woman of color, a closeted lesbian, and someone battling mental illness—and acknowledge how that might affect her experience of superhero sidelining. I also wanted to include a gay love story between two teenage girls, because there can never be enough of those in the world.
Now, the story takes on additional meaning. Though Accelerants has been evolving since 2014, the current relevance of its internment camp setting cannot be ignored. I couldn’t have predicted the state of American politics four years ago, but I have always tried to be cognizant of the ways in which our leaders have, throughout history, sought to eradicate and segregate those deemed unfit for society, from American indigenous genocide to Japanese internment to the current human rights violations enacted at our Mexican border. Accelerants also takes on an eerie tension as we process recent misogynistic, anti-immigrant, and anti-LGBT legislation from our government and await further conflict. Though short and character-focused, I hope this story does our sobering reality some justice.
Accelerants is meant as a story of resilience and solidarity as well as a fresh superheroic tale. I hope it moves you to read it as much as it moved me to write it—and that you’ll forgive me for the Taylor Swift references.
Lena Wilson lives in New York City with her dog, Young Neil. When not crafting cultural criticism for sites like Slate, Bitch, and The Playlist, she writes fiction about marginalized women and lesbian experiences. Accelerants is her first novella.
Buy the book