Family, friends, readers, and contributors,
If you haven't read Issue 1's short story "Basketball" by Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, then you're surely missing out on something special! Translated by the gifted Julia Meitov Hersey, the story explores free will, power, and consolation. Before engaging with the interview below, please give "Basketball" a read--you'll not regret it.
Marina & Sergey Dyachenko
Q: There are a great many themes that can be interpreted as Schopenhauerian in your short fiction and in your longer works (Vita Nostra). Does your work make movements toward subverting standard ideas of will and autonomy?
A: We can certainly relate to Schopenhauer's worldview; more importantly, we believe that we have a very similar understanding of the world we live in being far less than ideal. We do not deliberately try to refute the ideas of free will and autonomy; rather, we attempt to build behavioral models in our writing. As we build our models, we experiment with ideas, shifting them around like blocks of a children's Lego set. Speculative literature and certain aspects of fantasy world building provide ample opportunities for such experiments. For us, the most interesting concept is this irreconcilable contradiction: free will demands the existence of evil. Evil is horrible, death is inevitable, but in their absence there is no possibility of choice or will power. Intellectually, we understand that this is the most ancient principle of the world order, but to us it seems emotionally infuriating.
Q: Why did you choose a sports backdrop, specifically basketball, to explore free will, consolation, and power? There is a strong undercurrent of Foucault in this story, too—are his theories also ones you want your readers to explore?
A: We chose a sports backdrop for several reasons: first, our protagonist's past is a part of his personality, an outlet, an oasis where Anton finds harmony and meaning for himself. Second, if musicians or artists end up in prison or in the army, they can catch a bit of a break; good athletes in particular can sometimes qualify for better conditions. Third, we thought of a dismal locker room with boiling hot water coming from the taps as a pretty natural image of hell. As for Foucault, we believe that each reader finds something personal in Basketball; as authors, we’d rather not explain what we actually had in mind -- let everyone find their own truth in our narrative.
Q: You do a wonderful job of turning Western archetypes upside-down in your fiction. What do you most hope your reader considers when turning the last page of your stories?
A: Our writing is mainly based on intuition. We think of our books as our co-authors, because as we create the text, the text also creates us, itself, and the world around. We hope that as the reader turns the last page, their perception of the world resonates with ours: the world is challenging in its nature, but there is hope, you just need courage to see it.
Q: How does water (ice, showers, for drinking, rivers, oceans, sweating) come to play such an important role in your stories? Are you playing with Jungian notions of water as subconscious?
A: We have to admit that in this case, Jungian notions of water as the subconscious are playing with us! Water in all its manifestations is extremely important to us. Water is the source of life, fear, joy, threat, beauty. Water contains many metaphors within itself. No wonder we love it so much.
Q: Your longer, novel-length fictions deal with sexual awakening almost as a means to an end and do not linger on the impact of sexuality on character motivation. Is this distancing intentional?
A: We have written many novels that have yet to reach the English-speaking audience; in these novels, sexuality frequently affects our characters’ motivation. However, as a rule, we think of sexuality not as an independent factor but rather as a part of human relationships, affection, and love.
Marina and Sergey Dyachenko, a former actress and a former psychiatrist, are co authors of thirty novels and numerous short stories and screenplays. They were born in Ukraine, lived in Russia, and now live in Los Angeles. Their books have been translated into several foreign languages and awarded multiple literary and film prizes. Marina and Sergey are recipients of the Award for Best Authors (Eurocon 2005). Three of their novels, The Scar, Vita Nostra, and Daughter from the Dark, have been translated into English and published by Tor and Harper Voyager. Please visit them on facebook and twitter.