“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their Inspirations and Influences. In this feature, we invite writers to talk about their new books, older titles, and their writing overall.
Tomorrow, we publish the next novella in our ongoing initiative–a science fiction romance called Temporary Duty Assignment by A.E. Ash. So, today, we are delighted to have the author over to talk about her inspirations and influences behind the novella.
Please welcome A.E. Ash, everyone!
Ohai, readers… I’m so happy you’re here! After much thought, work, preparation, and awesomeness from The Book Smugglers, I am so very excited to share my novella Temporary Duty Assignment (or TDA, as my acronym-loving brain likes to abbreviate), my next installment in the Metro world.
In my Influences and Inspirations essay for “Nice”, the short story that started it all and which you can find as part of The Book Smugglers’ Quarterly Almanac: Volume Four, I talk about my world-building inspirations. I have long harbored an appreciation for narratives set in what I’m choosing to call post-dystopian worlds—worlds that have moved past the Big Bad Event and where people are working towards successful rebuilding—and I note in the “Nice” essay that I crave the megacity of the future that is a thriving, alive and hopeful place and not a grimdark, oppressive police state.
So I took those ideas and skipped or occasionally jogged with them. Enter the first imaginings for the events of Temporary Duty Assignment. After writing “Nice”, I spent some time in the next weeks imagining not just the veteran assassin hero of “Nice” in her bustling home, Metro, but also what might lie beyond the city’s borders. In “Nice”, Kitsune talks at one point about the post-war Seed Colonies, places beyond the hustle and bustle of Metro where people work tirelessly to revitalize the world and its food supply.
I thought about how that kind of environment—sometimes unforgiving, still healing from the wounds humanity inflicted upon it but expansive, bright, and well-loved—might affect a person long-used to teeming megacity skylines, noise and crowds and cramped spaces. Conversely, I toyed with the idea of how a person who grew up in these tiny, corporate-sponsored agrarian colonies might feel when adjusting to the quirks and challenges of a Metro lifestyle.
Following the theme of hope and a cooperative, sunny view of humanity’s future, I found myself populating the world I’d already created with a cast of characters who have thrived in both city and colony and who, different as they all are, must work together in ways they would never have imagined and find accord despite their initial prejudices, assumptions, or imperfect pasts.
I’ve been rewatching shows and movies that always got my thinky-thoughts going… Cowboy Bebop, one of the narratives I credit with most informing my nascent fiction career; Firefly, some episodes of Star Trek, westerns, sundry mech anime and others (not to mention playing the Mass Effect games). Add to that other more recent(ish) shows like the Voltron reboot from DreamWorks and the Clone Wars animated series—my mind really settled into its brainy-think mode. One thing that connects each of these narratives and that I come to again and again is the idea of ad-hoc family and how in a spec-fic world it can be the beating heart of a narrative, the locus from which the familiar becomes…not, grounding us in the moment and giving us something in which we’re invested.
With TDA, I wanted to show formation of ad-hoc family this in its earliest state while exploring some very human experiences—anxiety, PTSD, heartbreak, self-doubt, hope. I created Sam, a super soldier who has an affinity for sparkly kitten T-shirts and Caleb, a face from her past who is very much in the here and now and suddenly second chance romance, alliances of convenience, unlikely friendships springing up out of necessity took hold of my story. I engaged a couple of the tropes that I never tire of and that in life and fiction serve to assemble and cement these ad-hoc families I love so much.
My mission with this story (I totally chose to accept it) was to throw Sam, Kitsune’s prodigy, into this mix of people, to force her to sift through her own biases and instincts, her own prejudices and desires and in the spirit of Seed Colonies like Cornucopia (where the events of TDA culminate) have her come out on the other side not just stronger but with renewed trust in others, and with more hope than before.
Because I’ll be honest… second chances and hope are things I think the world needs in plenty and I would be so grateful and thrilled if in some even tiny way I can offer a little bit of this.
A.E. Ash is a writer, nerd, gamer, mooncalf but not a baker or candlestick maker (and nobody said anything about butcher). She writes speculative poetry and fiction because why not make good use of an over-active imagination? Ash lives in the Midwest with her super-rad husband and her lazy cats who do nothing at all to help her on the path to world domination. You can find her on Twitter at @dogmycatzindeed or on her blog, www.aeashwrites.com.
How to Get the Novella
Temporary Duty Assignment will be published officially on August 15, 2017. You can purchase the paperback edition and DRM-free ebook (EPUB, MOBI) that contains the story as well as an essay from the author available for purchase on all major ebook retail sites.
Want a little more TDA in your life before tomorrow? Check out prequel short story, Nice, available to read for free online now.