Anne Corlett is the author of the new science-fiction novel The Space Between the Stars:
All Jamie Allenby ever wanted was space. Even though she wasn’t forced to emigrate from Earth, she willingly left the overpopulated, claustrophobic planet. And when a long relationship devolved into silence and suffocating sadness, she found work on a frontier world on the edges of civilization. Then the virus hit…
Now Jamie finds herself dreadfully alone, with all that’s left of the dead. Until a garbled message from Earth gives her hope that someone from her past might still be alive.
Soon Jamie finds other survivors, and their ragtag group will travel through the vast reaches of space, drawn to the promise of a new beginning on Earth. But their dream will pit them against those desperately clinging to the old ways. And Jamie’s own journey home will help her close the distance between who she has become and who she is meant to be…
In the following interview, we discuss Jamie’s journey across the void of outer — and inner — space.
Unbound Worlds: It occurred to me that your novel might be about “space” in two senses of the word: both the universe around us, and the distance we put between ourselves and others. Writing is a solitary profession. Do you ever have trouble managing space?
Anne Corlett: With three young children, it’s often difficult to find space to write. I’m finding my current project quite hard going at the moment, and somehow they always seem to sense when I’ve just got into my stride, and that’s when they all suddenly decide that they are going to do everything in their power to make sure I don’t have a minute’s peace!
UW: Likewise, stories about journeys often seem to be about inward journeys taken by the protagonists. Is this the case here?
AC: The story is definitely about Jamie’s emotional journey towards acceptance of her personal history and the way her life has turned out. I didn’t want her to reach a trite resolution, or have the book conclude with a happy-ever-after scenario, but I did want there to be a sense that she was continuing on a journey towards a more hopeful future.
UW: There are many ways you could have told this story. Why did you choose a science-fiction narrative?
AC: I wanted the book to be about a journey home across an impossible distance. The only way for the main character to really have to face up to the possibility of never making it home was to set it in space.
UW: The majority of humanity is killed by a pandemic disease, but it’s quite unique. Can you tell us a little bit about it?
AC: The disease is incredibly contagious, and mutates as it is passed from person to person. A single infection might be survivable, but most people are infected over and over as they have contact with other people. I wanted the survivors to be people who are isolated in some way, so that I could explore the different ways in which people put space between themselves and others.
UW: The journey to reconnect these isolated communities of survivors reminded me of similar situations here on Earth, particularly in the aftermath of Europe’s bubonic plague when entire villages disappeared. Were any of these historical incidences influential in your writing?
AC: I looked more at the future of disease than at the history. A deadly virus is probably our world’s most likely doomsday scenario. There’s some frightening information out there.
UW: Religion still has a place in the futuristic setting of The Space Between the Stars. How it is practiced and the conclusions people draw from its teachings become an issue between some of the characters. First, do you think that spirituality will continue to be an important factor in our own future, and secondly, did you base any of this on similar discussions we’re having in society today?
AC: In some ways I was less concerned with religion as such, and more interested in belief and the different way it manifests. Religion is the framework for belief, and I wanted the backstories of some of the characters to include shifting religious affiliations. Lowry is someone who has reached an accommodation with his own beliefs, while Rena is desperately searching for the ‘right’ religious framework which will let her make sense of the world. Even Jamie, who isn’t religious, is looking for meaning and patterns in the events of her life.
I don’t really know how things will pan out in terms of religion. It does seem to be one of the most divisive aspects of society- more so than gender or ethnicity or perceived social class. Perhaps it is something we will outgrow in time, as we come to understand more about our world and ourselves.
Author photo courtesy: Anne Corlett ©