Aliette de Bodard‘s latest book publication is the novella, On A Red Station, Drifting, published by the UK’s Immersion Press in hardcover.
Here, Aliette talks about the genesis and process of writing the novella, based on the Chinese classic Dream of Red Mansions:
So, it’s occurred to me I didn’t actually provide this for my latest release–accordingly, there you go, author’s notes for On a Red Station, Drifting.
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).
Dream of Red Mansions, meanwhile, a novel that was written in the 19th Century, has 12 central female protagonists (and an effeminate, somewhat ineffective male protagonist who often wishes he was a girl), a slew of relationships from husband-wife to various degrees of family closeness. Its Twelve Beauties of Jinling are very different women, from the fierce and domineering Wang Xifeng to sickly and grudge-prone Lin Daiyu. It is explicitly written as a homage to those women; and its focus is resolutely domestic. It concerns itself with the affairs of two related households (the Rongguo and the Ningguo houses of the Jia family), their day-to-day intrigues and relationships, while the great events of the period are relegated to the background (the very strong political upheavals of the time period are only alluded to when they impinge on the family’s everyday life). I thought it was an awesome way to write a book, and I decided I wanted to try my hand at a domestic plot. – continue reading!