Foz Meadows is the contributor for this week’s Take Five, a regular series in which we ask authors and editors to share five facts about their latest books. Meadows is the author of An Accident of Stars: available now from your favorite book retailer.
About An Accident of Stars:
Book I of the Manifold Worlds from Hugo-nominated author Foz Meadows.
When Saffron Coulter stumbles through a hole in reality, she finds herself trapped in Kena, a magical realm on the brink of civil war.
There, her fate becomes intertwined with that of three very different women: Zech, the fast-thinking acolyte of a cunning, powerful exile; Viya, the spoiled, runaway consort of the empire-building ruler, Vex Leoden; and Gwen, an Earth-born worldwalker whose greatest regret is putting Leoden on the throne. But Leoden has allies, too, chief among them the Vex’Mara Kadeja, a dangerous ex-priestess who shares his dreams of conquest.
Pursued by Leoden and aided by the Shavaktiin, a secretive order of storytellers and mystics, the rebels flee to Veksh, a neighboring matriarchy ruled by the fearsome Council of Queens. Saffron is out of her world and out of her depth, but the further she travels, the more she finds herself bound to her friends with ties of blood and magic.
Can one girl – an accidental worldwalker – really be the key to saving Kena? Or will she just die trying?
1. In Kena, the primary setting for An Accident of Stars, polyamorous marriage is the cultural default. While it’s perfectly acceptable for every partner in a marriage to sleep with the others, regardless of gender, it’s also just as common for some partners to have only a platonic or romantic relationship. The idea is to make a family with the people you care about most, in whatever capacity, which means you can also bring new partners into an existing marriage. As a result, Kenan culture has a very healthy concept of flirting between married and unmarried individuals, because there’s still the possibility of a future alliance or relationship there — whereas flirting between people who are both married is, with few exceptions, considered much more risqué. By the same token, the Kenan concept of infidelity relates more to dishonesty of intent, selfish action and callousness than to simply sleeping with, or becoming involved with, another person.
2. When building a culture, I always try to pay attention to language. In Kena, where fertility can be controlled by magic, polyamory is the norm, and queerness is accepted, it would make no sense for swear words to hinge on slurring sex or femininity, as they usually do in English, because there’s no historical negative baggage to exploit. Instead, I’ve drawn my insults more from class differences, religion and other places.
3. Viya, my favourite POV character to write, wasn’t originally meant to be in the story at all. But I needed an inside perspective on events happening in one place while my other characters were elsewhere, and she wrote herself onto the page so clearly, it was like she’d always been there.
4. As a portal fantasy, An Accident of Stars begins on Earth, where two of the POV characters — Saffron and Gwen — are originally from. Gwen, who’s been a worldwalker for decades, grew up in England, but Saffron is Australian, like me. I wrote An Accident of Stars entirely while living in the United Kingdom, and though I didn’t plan it that way, writing the Australian scenes, based on my own memories and experiences, became a means of coping with homesickness.
5. In an odd, personal sort of way, An Accident of Stars is a map to my queer experience. I’ve known I was bisexual since I was a teenager, but it wasn’t until last year that I realised I was genderqueer, and putting that all together informed the creation and editing of the book. Growing up, I encountered so few stories with queer characters that it was difficult to relate to that aspect of myself except in really toxic, stereotypical ways. Just about the only time I saw bisexual girls in films or on TV, it was a performative thing for the male gaze, and I internalised that in my own behaviour, because it felt like the only way to be bi that wouldn’t be overly questioned or criticised by the people around me. I never wanted to read ‘issues’ books as a teenager — and in honesty, I’m not that enamoured of them now — but at the same time, I’d absorbed so much negative stuff about queerness that seeing it portrayed, but not discussed, and especially in fleeting or background contexts, couldn’t really help to undo the damage. Which, as an adult, now informs my writing: I want to write queer characters — and to discuss what queerness means to them — in contexts where the stories are still about adventures and magic and politics and exploring new cultures. And hopefully, I’ve done that with An Accident of Stars.