Andi C. Buchanan is a writer, editor, and part-time space lobster based near Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. Their work is published or forthcoming in Apex, Kaleidotrope, the Fox Spirit anthology Pacific Monsters, Glittership, and more. Andi also edits Capricious magazine, makes websites, and likes dinosaurs, cheese, and bookshelves. You can find them on Twitter @andicbuchanan or at andicbuchanan.org.
They wrote "Blaze" in issue 2 of Vulture Bones. Below is an interview about their awesome story.
“Blaze” seems very steeped in cultural reclamation, and in the idea that sometimes we have to perform elements of private culture for broader consumption purely for survival, but that there is a cost of doing so. The story also suggests that taking those pieces of ourselves back from the gaze and reach of oppressive outsiders can be a step towards healing. I’d love to know more about the origins of this story.
Yes, absolutely. I think there were multiple elements that came together to form this story—the most obvious is that I asked friends for story prompts and was given “a lake of fire” and the story grew from there. What made it really develop from that starting point, though, was thinking about tourism and changing industries.
I grew up somewhere that had once been a popular tourist destination but then collapsed as air travel became more affordable. I grew up around run-down or disused hotels and the local museum showed all these black and white films of what seemed to be a far more eventful era. And prior to (but overlapping with) that it had relied heavily on the fishing industry. I’d also read and talked to people about places where almost the reverse had happened; small Mediterranean towns that had become party resorts almost overnight with the development of budget air travel. So all those themes of economic and industrial change and the effects they have on the people who work in and live around them were very much on my mind.
I didn’t want to propose easy answers—the ways people can and do respond to change like this vary depending on all kinds of factors, including where they are in the world. But it was important to me to explore some of the possible reactions and ways people could respond, rather than viewing them as only passively affected by the wider changes around them.
The theme of consumption—different kinds of consumption, and the toll they take on marginalized communities—is the backbone of this story. Caia is very much navigating the world through the lens of how she is consumed by the tourists and what that means for her future and her younger brother’s future. Her choices are limited, but even within that limited framework, she’s working with her friends to expand those limited choices. Where is your interest in this theme coming from?
That’s a really interesting way of looking at it. I hadn’t consciously thought about consumption as a theme, but themes of choice were very important to my development of the story. I’ve written—and read—a lot of stories about queer teenagers leaving their home towns. That’s an important narrative to explore, but I wanted to turn it around and think about those who stay. I didn’t want to present them as powerless or lacking autonomy; I think it’s really important when writing fiction to get a deep understanding of those who make different choices to you, and not to dismiss or oversimplify those choices. I wanted to look at imperfect options and choices, and how it’s not always a simple dichotomy of choosing whether to stay or go, whether to try and change things or accept who they are, and that sometimes choices require long term work.
Where can people find more of your work? What’s coming next?
You can find a full list of my published fiction—much of which is free to read online—at http://andicbuchanan.org/short-fiction/. I’m currently working on a novel about a group of queer and neurodivergent people who run a sanctuary for ghosts. It’s still a long way from finished but I’m really enjoying writing it.
In terms of upcoming publications, I’m delighted to have a story, “A Spell to Signal Home”, shortly to be reprinted in Transcendent 3: The Year's Best Transgender Speculative Fiction; it’s about space travel, magic, families and gender. I have another story—also with a trans protagonist, plus it includes water horses!—upcoming in Apex Magazine which I’m really excited about.