Mars is never far from our SF minds.
How could it not be? Mars has been influencing our imaginations and dreams for centuries, ever since mankind gazed into the night sky and wondered about the reddish dot that moved through the cosmos unlike the stars about it. It is perhaps the most common idea used in SF film, movie directors weaving tales about it on the silver screen every year to varying successes. With Matt Damon’s “The Martian” becoming a blockbuster though and the forthcoming teen SF movie “The Space Between Us” set to release February 2, pop culture can’t get enough of the Red Planet.
Mars is not relegated to just Hollywood though. SF books are the reason those films exist. And in her new book, Martians Abroad, Carrie Vaughn brings a personal story of Mars and of Earth, hearkening back to those Golden Age Mars books that we all fell in love with as young adults.
Vaughn has left her colony on Mars to visit Earth and answer a few questions!
Unbound Worlds: Martians Abroad is in fine bookstores now. Tell Unbound Worlds readers about it and its main character, Polly Newton?
Carrie Vaughn: Polly Newton is a third generation Martian colonist. Her dearest wish is to become a starship pilot, but that gets derailed when her mother sends her and her twin brother Charles to Earth for boarding school. Polly is not happy about this at all, and not just because remedial P.E. sucks.
UW: Sometimes science fiction can be short on the human element, focusing more on big ideas. How did you go about grounding Polly so the reader could relate to her?
CV: In some ways this is your basic “new kid doesn’t fit in at school” story. Tying such a familiar story to a science fictional setting turns out to be a great way to ground a science fiction story, making it relatable even if the setting is strange. In writing Polly I could draw on my own experience as a military brat, growing up and moving to a new place every couple of years and having to adjust, to make Polly a vivid, believable character.
UW: Martians Abroad is quite the change from your Kitty Norville books. Why venture so far away from urban fantasy? What need did writing Martians Abroad serve for you as a writer?
CV: I’ve always written across a wide range of genres in my short stories, so it was inevitable I’d eventually get to futuristic solar system SF in a novel. The inspiration for this one was the Golden Age SF books my mother gave me to read as a kid, the ones that she read when she was a kid. I wanted to capture that optimism and tone of fun adventure, but update the story with all the information we’ve learned about Mars, space travel, and so on over the last ten or twenty years. I also wanted to have a teen girl as the hero, because why not?
UW: Born a Martian, Polly has plans to be a starship pilot but circumstance pushes her to Earth. Did you ever have plans to be anything other than a writer and something changed your professional direction? Or was being a word-spinner always your destiny?
CV: In hindsight, I was probably always destined to write because I love it, and I could never focus on just one thing to study, which turns out to be great for a writer. But there was a point as a kid when I desperately wanted to be a field biologist – I want to go tag deer and band birds and spend all my time with animals in the wilderness. It turns out you have to get up freakishly early in the morning to do that kind of thing, and I’m not very good at mornings. I still birdwatch quite a bit, though.
UW: Martians Abroad could easily be the beginning of series, Polly being quite young and impulsive — although smart — in the novel, with a lot of room to grow into an adult. Given any thought to that?
CV: I have ideas for sequels – I always have ideas! But right now my deadlines are focused on other projects so we’ll just have to wait and see what happens.
UW: Well, what are you working on now? Share, share, share!
CV: The usual round of short stories. My next novel is a post-apocalyptic murder mystery called Bannerless, due out in July. I’m currently working on the sequel to that one.
Martians Abroad by Carrie Vaughn is in fine bookstores now! If you are looking for a wonderful and inspiring tale of SF, I think you will enjoy it a great deal.
Return to Earth!