The Pride StoryBundle is always packed full of wonderful authors and stories. And who knows better about that than the authors themselves? To entice you to check it out, we contributors are interviewing each other. You can find the full list of contents and purchasing information here: https://storybundle.com/blog/2020pridemonthbundle/
Today’s featured author is Melissa Scott, whose historical fantasy The Armor of Lightis included in the bonus bundle. Melissa Scott is a queer Southern writer who abandoned academia for SF/F back in the mid-1980s and never looked back. She has published more than 40 novels, and is noted both for her worldbuilding, and for her emphasis on queer themes and characters. She has won the Lambda Literary Award for LGBT SF/F four times as well as four Gaylactic Spectrum Awards. She currently lives in Chapel Hill, North Carolina, among a tangle of family, friends, and cats. Her most recent novel is Finders, space opera about a team of salvage operators.
HRJ:I read The Armor of Light, your contribution to this year’s StoryBundle, back when it first came out in the ‘80s. Why don’t you tell the readers what it’s about and why authors love to play with the figure of Christopher Marlowe.
Melissa Scott: The Armor of Light is essentially an alternate history novel set in Elizabethan England — in 1595, specifically — in which Sir Philip Sidney, poet, courtier, and soldier, survived the Battle of Zutphen and saved Christopher Marlowe, poet, playwright, and quondam government agent, from being murdered by other government agents. Both are accomplished magicians, though of very different schools, and when James VI of Scotland is threatened by magical attack, Elizabeth sends the unlikely pair north to save the man she has reluctantly accepted as her heir.
As for why Marlowe… Well, he’s one of those historical figures that readers would disbelieve if if he didn't exist. He reinvented English drama with the first part of Tamburlaine, was considered Shakespeare’s superior through the 1590s, wrote six plays that are still performed today (and probably contributed to several more), and was involved with Sir Walter Raleigh’s circle of mathematicians, scholars, and magicians known as the School of Night. (It is that last, plus the evidence of both Dr. Faustus and testimony offered against him at the time of his death, that suggests considerably knowledge of hermetic science and Neo-Platonic philosophy: Marlowe the magician.) He was also almost certainly employed by Elizabeth’s secret service as an agent in France and the Netherlands, and was murdered at the age of 29 while under investigation for atheism and treason, while in the company of men who were also known government agents. He was also about as out and proud as a man could be in Elizabethan England: his play Edward II is the first sympathetic portrait of gay relationships on the English stage, and his poetry is full of homoerotic descriptions even in the middle of ostensibly heteroerotic subjects—his Hero and Leander features an interlude in which Neptune attempts to seduce Leander as he swims. Among the accusations pending against him at his death was that he had said “all those who love not tobacco and boys are fools” and that he had claimed that “St John the Evangelist was Christ’s bedfellow and leaned always in his bosom, that he used him as the sinners of Sodom.” There’s just so much to play with, and all of it can be justified by the historical sources.
HRJ: Why do you think LGBTQ/queer fiction speaks to all readers -- other than the obvious answer that we’re all human and nothing human should be uninteresting to us?
Melissa Scott: One of the things that I think queer fiction offers to all readers is a vision of identity as mutable, conditional, and as often playful as serious; it’s capable of being chosen and created rather than simply being, and one may wear more than one at a time. And, yes, some of this ability to shift identities is grounded in oppression and the need for secrecy, but the community and culture have embraced that mutability and made a virtue of it. There are thousands of roles and archetypes within the community and we treat them with great seriousness and tremendous irreverence simultaneously, but always with the awareness that they are constructs and are therefore at least somewhat under our control. I think that’s one reason that queer SF/F works so well: the imagined futures and other worlds foreground this part of the queer experience.
HRJ: You’ve written in a lot of different corners of the SFF landscape, but I suspect that people who enjoy The Armor of Light might also enjoy your Astreiant series. It has an Early Modern feel to it, although it’s set in a completely invented world. Can you give the readers a sense of the flavor of that series?
Melissa Scott: The Points novels (Point of Hopes, Point of Knives, Point of Dreams, Fairs’ Point, and Point of Sighs) do indeed have a strong Early Modern sensibility to them, though they are set in a secondary world in which astrology not only works but is the underpinning of the society. The magic is similar to that in Armor in that it’s part of the background of daily life. Nearly everyone knows their horoscope, and knows how it fits them for their profession; there’s a thriving business of legal (and illegal) broadsheet prophecy, astrologers serve as counsellors, and alchemists also investigate the transformations in dead bodies. The novels are set in the city of Astreiant, capital of Chenedolle, and are in essence fantasy police procedurals exploring the relationship between Nicolas Rathe, Adjunct Point (a sort of senior policeman; the policing system is in the process of being created in these novels) and Philip Eslingen, a mercenary lieutenant turned bodyguard turned… several other professions.
* * *
For StoryBundle, you decide what price you want to pay. For $5 (or more, if you're feeling generous), you'll get the basic bundle of four books in any ebook format—WORLDWIDE.
If you pay at least the bonus price of just $15, you get all four of the regular books, plus seven more more books, for a total of eleven!
This bundle is available only for a limited time via http://www.storybundle.com. It allows easy reading on computers, smartphones, and tablets as well as Kindle and other ereaders via file transfer, email, and other methods. You get multiple DRM-free formats (.epub, .mobi) for all books!