Originally published at Rachel Swirsky. You can comment here or there.
Thanks to S. B. Divya for granting me a silly interview!
S. B. Divya is one of those people who is talented across many areas: science, engineering, art, fiction, music, and extreme sports. She’s got a shiny new novella available from Tor.
1. Your bio says that “S.B. Divya is a lover of science, math, fiction, and the Oxford comma.” I am here to tell you that the Oxford comma has, unfortunately, been put on trial for its life. However, you are its defense attorney! Make your case.
Your honor, I humbly present the Oxford comma, also known as a serial comma. It is abastion of orderliness in a sea of grammatical chaos. This comma is an exemplary citizen, always obeying a simple rule: that it follows each item in a list until the last. Let us not create an exception to the rule! Let us not say, “It follows each item in a list except for the second to last and the last, which shall be joined by a conjunction.” Nay, let us stand fast against such unwieldy rule-making – such convoluted thinking – and embrace the simplicity that is embodied by this innocuous punctuation mark.
2. Any good debater should be able to do both sides of the debate, right? If you had to, how would you argue that the Oxford comma should go to death row?
We all know that prisons and pages suffer from overcrowding. Why not make room by removing … ah, no, never mind. I can’t do it! I can’t betray my ideals and play devil’s advocate in a convincing fashion. “It’s a waste of space” seems to be the best this side has to offer, and really, in this glorious age of digital documentation, who cares? No trees were harmed by the insertion of one little comma.
3. Your website has a headline showing five eff words: fact, fiction, feminism, future and family. Do they all figure in your writing?
They do. Of course they feature in my blogging, but those are common themes in my fiction as well. Let me break them down one by one, starting with the word “fact.” I love science, and I love incorporating it into my fiction. This is not to say I haven’t dabbled in the magical arts, but my favorite stories are the ones that involve a kernel (or more) of plausibility.
Fiction – this one speaks for itself! I’m getting to the point where I could write about being a science-fiction author, to tie this one back to the fact side.
Feminism: the “f” word that started it all. Yes, the female (and gender neutral!) characters in my fiction are equals to the males. Ultimately, that’s what feminism is about so far as I’m concerned. Equal opportunity – it sounds simple on paper, but it’s a beast to wrestle in the domain of social change.
As to the future, that’s the realm of most science-fiction. It’s probably fair to say that I speculate about the future more than the average person. This doesn’t always work in my favor (think disasterizing on a regular, involuntary basis), but it does give me plenty of ideas for stories.
And family? None of us would exist without one. Even the lone wolf character is defined by the absence of family support. Whether by blood or adoption or romance, family is what drives us at a fundamental level. This is what shapes our personalities at an early age, where we learn who we want to be.
4. You have a novella coming out from Tor.com Publishing. What was the best part about writing it?
That nobody had any expectations of it – not even me! I wrote it on a lark, an attempt to write something longer after working at short fiction for nearly two years straight. This meant I could throw in a lot of my favorite topics – gender divides, social inequality, hackers and tinkerers, the beauty and danger of nature – and out popped a mess of a story (my first drafts are like that) with a main character who I loved and a compelling plot.
I didn’t know what to do with the thing after I wrote it so I let it lie for a while, figuring I’d eventually edit it and submit to the usual magazine suspects. I went back to short fiction for a few months until I heard about the open call for novellas from Tor.com Publishing. Writers (like most people) can use a good motivator. This one got me to revise and submit the novella because, why not? I had nothing to lose!
5. What was it like working with Tor.com’s new arm?
When Tor.com Publishing offered me a contract, I was blown away. My editor there has been extremely patient and thoughtful while working with me. I knew very little about the world of book publishing, and that was what I was dealing with. I took a bit of time to find a wonderful literary agent, who was also very patient and understanding, and then the ball’s been rolling merrily downhill since then.
I’d say the whole experience has been extremely smooth. My husband and I have been doing a major home renovation over the same months that I’ve been working with Tor, and the latter has been much easier to deal with! They handled the cover art and design (which I love) and have been proactive with marketing and publicity. I haven’t published any other books so I have nothing for comparison, but I would certainly recommend them to any writer.
5. You do a lot of what I guess I should call extreme sports. In our house, we mostly call them adventure sports, and the only one I do is SCUBA diving. What draws you to these hobbies? And if you want to tell a story or two… I certainly wouldn’t *complain.* ;)
I love being outdoors. Nature is my temple, and being out in the wilderness restores my sanity in wonderful ways. As for the adventure sports, I can lay some of that at my husband’s feet. He was a diver before we met, and he convinced me to try it. I loved it! Still do. I place a lot of faith in the technology that lets us stay underwater, and I hope we make some advances there before I’m too old to dive. My best and worst dive experiences were during a week-long liveaboard trip in the Maldives. The best: huge manta rays swimming just inches above me on their way to a cleaning station. The worst: currents! Holy fast currents, Batman, those were tough for me to deal with.
Mountain biking was another one that my husband drew me into. I love easy cross-country rides, but I’m not an aggressive rider. I never learned to jump or ride ramps – the Slickrock trail in Moab defeated me after two downhills – but I love where these rides take me. You can go a lot further on a bike than on foot in the same amount of time, which means you get to see more amazing scenery. Sure, some of it whizzes by, but I walk all the scary sections so I get plenty of time to take it in.
(And then there was that time we almost got lost in the desert…as the sun was setting…and it was raining…and I nearly strangled my beloved husband for not backtracking in time…but we made it out alive. We did damage the delicate cryptobiotic soil during our exit, which I’m not proud of, but you know, survival takes precedence. Not as dramatic a story as 127 hours – thank goodness! – but exciting enough for my tastes.)
To flip the narrative a bit, I did get my husband into snowboarding, and I’m usually the impetus for backpacking trips. I also arranged a trip for us on deep-sea submarine off the island of Roatan. Our deepest point was around 1100 feet. That was an incredible experience. Everything is still and silt-covered – it looks like undisturbed dust. We lost most of the marine life around 300 feet, and then we saw lots of strange little translucent jelly-things.
I’ve done a decent amount hiking in and around Yosemite, and I got up Half-Dome the year before I got pregnant. Those cables are scary, but the exhilaration of being up there – awesome! I stole from these experiences shamelessly for Runtime, and I wish I had access to the technology that my main character does. My biggest weakness in sports is literally that I’m weak. I don’t have a ton of strength or stamina so having gear that enhances my body’s natural abilities would open some amazing doors.
The one “extreme sport” I’ve wanted to do for a long time is skydiving. Now that I’m a parent, though, I feel like it would be irresponsible to do it until after my daughter is more grown up.
6. Upcoming projects and any other notes you’d like to make–please insert here!
Since I’ve written about it above, this is probably where I should mention that my novella, Runtime, will be available from Tor.com Publishing on May 17. You can pre-order it now from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and iBooks.
I’d also like to put in a word for Escape Pod, the science-fiction podcast and magazine, where I work as Assistant Editor. I hope people will go listen to some great stories (or read them on the website if that’s their preference). A lot of what we publish is original fiction and I hate to see it missed because it’s not a traditional genre magazine.