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Literary sci-fi queen Kameron Hurley shares her inspiration, talks geek feminism

We love highlighting fierce women in pop culture here at Pure Fandom—see our last feature on The Originals writer Carina MacKenzie, who is also helming the Roswell reboot. Our latest feature takes a dive into the literary world with award-winning writer Kameron Hurley.

An author, futurist, geek, and Hugo Award-winner Kameron is behind some of the most fascinating sci-fi novels of today: The Stars are Legion, her fantasy series the Worldbreaker Saga, and her first series, The God’s War Trilogy. Kameron has also published the essay collection, The Geek Feminist Revolution, which entails powerful narrative on feminism and geek culture. If you haven’t read her novels—pick them up. Her award-winning work fills the craving of all lovers of sci-fi. Plus, she calls herself an intellectual badass, and that’s reason enough to get on board. See The Verge’s review of her latest novel released in February 2017:

“Every now and again, you’ll pick up a science fiction or fantasy novel that will absolutely blow you away because of how boldly it imagines an invented world. N.K. Jemisin’s The Fifth Season did that for me. So did Ann Leckie’s Ancillary Justice, and Jeff VanderMeer’s Annihilation. These books reassemble the well-worn conventions of their genre in wholly original ways. The latest example is Kameron Hurley’s The Stars Are Legion, a strange, brilliant story set in the depths of space on a group of planet-ships populated exclusively by women.” —The Verge

I had the pleasure of interviewing Kameron on her inspiration behind creating the worlds behind both of her sci-fi series, as well as get her take what it’s like to be a woman in geek culture. Kameron also provides a transparent lens into her life as a writer and how she has worked to make it a full-time gig. (Hint: It’s not as easy as you think!)

PURE FANDOM: Pure Fandom was first founded by diehard supernatural and sci-fi genre lovers. We’ve expanded our fandoms to cover everything from LOL sitcoms like The Good Place, to the world of WWE, to novels like yours. What are some of your favorite fandoms, books? Authors you look up to? Are you strictly a fan to sci-fi?
KAMERON HURLEY: I got into fantasy and science fiction as a teen, but I’ve always read fairly broadly. Over the last few years, I’ve gotten into mysteries and thrillers. I’ve read all of Sue Grafton’s Alphabet Series, all the bestselling literary thrillers like The Girl on the Train and Girl in Cabin 10, and I’m obsessed with shows like Trapped, Fortitude, The Bridge, Midsomer Murders, Columbo, even silly old stuff like Mike Hammer. Private eye shows, mercenary shows, stuff like Leverage and Firefly and Farscape, I enjoy that stuff. The Dark, Stranger Things, Annihilation, Wayward Pines (before the dumb reveal)—I enjoy work like [that] showcases the unexplained. There’s still magic and wonder in the world; there’s a lot we don’t understand, and I’m fascinated with how genre stories can be leveraged to explore that. I’d love to write a Weird 80’s Murder Mystery series at some point. It’d be a nice mash-up of all the fandoms I love.

The Geek Feminist Revolution—what a brutally honest collection of narrative on women in geek culture (#preach). In your introduction you say that you “would tell any woman writing in online spaces today that this is one of the best times to be a geeky woman creator on the internet.” You mention blockbuster comicbook films attributing to this when your book was first published in May 2016. Would you say today this is still true, and how so? How has it changed?
I still think this is true. We are still dealing with many of the same issues here in 2018 online as we did in 2016, only they are even more transparent now. Propaganda, organized mobs, yeah, those things were already in full force. At least we recognize them now. We still have far more access to one another, to platforms for our work, more outlets to get our voices heard than ever before. There is, of course, more noise we have to cut through. But that was true in 2016 as well.

Fans love the Worldbreaker Saga and The God’s War trilogy. How did you create these mythologies—what was your goal in building these worlds? Is it difficult to not pull from other famed sci-fi sagas?
When writing fiction, there’s generally a couple things you’re doing (or I’m doing, anyway). One is writing in all the worlds and people and stories and things that you never saw in other people’s work. I write the sort of stories I always wanted to see. The other thing I do is, of course, homage writing. So I will write scenes and easter eggs and such that call back to other works I really admire, or that I thought were really fun. I’ve often talked about Nyx, the mercenary protagonist of God’s War, as a female Conan.

How does your non-fiction work influence your fiction?
I’ve been asked this a few times, and I’m still not sure. They are certainly very different types of writing, though to be successful, both need to have some sort of narrative frame. We are creatures of story; there’s a theory that our consciousness is, in fact, created through story. I’d argue I’ve learned a lot about structure from the nonfiction writing that I have been able to bring into my fiction, certainly.

I freaking love your honesty. You are the living definition of keeping shit real. Your blog series on your writing income is the transparency all of us writers crave but don’t know who to ask to where to look. What inspired this? (Also, thank you!)
I wrote fiction for a very long time before I was ever published. I also knew a lot of writers. Yet I found myself completely unprepared for the realities of publishing and being a published writer when it actually happened. The media loves to focus on a very particular type of “writer” story, and those are all full-time writers with six or seven figure contracts and movie deals, and for some reason none of them worry about health insurance. I wanted to share my experiences – in this business, and in life – to let folks know that those aren’t the only stories out there. In fact, those people make up a tiny, tiny, tiny fraction of writers. Many writers who position themselves as a 1% writer rely absolutely on trust funds, investments, spouses with day jobs, speaking gigs, rolling movie options, and more in order to writer full time. Most full-time writers I know are making $20-40k a year and pick up a lot of freelancing and speaking gigs to make ends meet. But it took a long time to get to a point where I was close enough to other writers to hear these stories. There’s a certain expectation about what “being a writer” means, and in passing at conventions and during appearances and such, many like to keep up the ruse for fans.

I’m reminded of a story by Cheryl Strayed, the author of Wild, whose book had just been optioned and featured as part of Oprah’s book club, but of course, none of the money had hit yet. You only get paid royalties twice a year. So here she is on this book tour, outwardly hugely successful, the living dream, and her husband calls her to let her know their rent check bounced. That story is just such a perfect illustration of the perception of being a writer versus the reality that I laughed and laughed. Most people don’t know that I pay to go to pretty much every convention at I appear at. I have a day job. I struggle a lot to balance all the important things in my life. I want other writers to see this and understand that not only can it be done, but that they aren’t failures for having to do it this way. It’s simply the reality for most of us.

What can we expect in 2018? You have several projects in the works!
I have a new book out, Apocalypse Nyx, in July. This is a compilation of short adventures featuring my head-collecting mercenary, Nyx, who splashed into the world first in the God’s War Trilogy. Those books are also being reissued this year in paperback. In 2019 my time-traveling military SF novel, The Light Brigade, will be coming out. Just finishing up that one right now. My hope is that later this year I’ll also finish The Broken Heavens, the last book in my Worldbreaker Saga. If I can wrap all that up, I’ll have a clear plate and an opportunity to explore even more exciting new projects. So, fingers crossed!

Get updates on all of Kameron’s projects on her website.

Featured image: The Verge

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Liz Prugh

Liz is the co-founder of PureFandom.com, an always aspiring #fiercefemale, and loves geeking out over any and all sci-fi/fantasy. She believes Luke Skywalker is the most underrated Jedi and still thinks vampires are cool. She hosts several Pure Fandom podcasts on The World of Game of Thrones, The CW's 'Roswell, New Mexico', and Star Wars. You can find her currently covering 'Legacies'. Nerd out with her on Twitter @lizprugh.

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