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Interview: Brian Trent on “Last of the Sharkspeakers”

Tell us a bit about “Last of the Sharkspeakers.”

Set in the far future and within a hollowed-out Ceres, “Last of the Sharkspeakers” is the story of a group of mutants who encounter a dominant “human” society. Tacan is the leader of these mutants, trying to do what’s best for his people. When we first meet them, they’re living the life of scavengers with very little knowledge of the larger world. That changes quickly… and ultimately becomes a story about the challenge and costs of survival.

What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

I’m intrigued by the probability that expansion into space will result in the literal transformation of humanity. “Last of the Sharkspeakers” isn’t just about culture clash; it’s a clash of species (and more than just two.) The idea began with a setting: I was interested in exploring what life might be like within a hollowed-out asteroid. When I contemplated how mutations might arise from people dwelling nearest to the surface, I wanted to stay strictly away from the “bald psychic mutant” trope. Evolutionary pressures have a way of resurrecting previous developments from genetic history, and so Tacan and his people are — to a certain extent — a return to earlier hominid features. It’s not an exact reset, of course, any more than the Phorusrhacids were a perfect replica of raptor dinosaurs, but I like the idea that our arboreal ancestry experiences something of a return.

What kind of research, if any, did you do for “Last of the Sharkspeakers?”

I reached out to two scientist friends of mine to discuss the dynamics of centrifugal force within a rotating sphere. It makes for a wild new reality, and though the story only skims the surface (so to speak) of those discussions, it was fascinating stuff. How simulated gravity would vary across the asteroid, how oxygen levels are affected, and of course, the mind-bending visuals of such a habitat made for an enthralling thought experiment.


Can you give us some background on your “War Hero” universe, in which this story takes place?

Roughly a third of my stories are set within the same universe, at various points along a very lengthy timeline. I’ve always loved future chronologies, ever since cutting my teeth on Olaf Stapledon’s staggering visions and, to a lesser extent, Bradbury’s The Martian Chronicles. Part of the appeal is that I’m a fan of history; the idea of telling significant events in an unfolding future was very appealing. “War Hero” is the story that kicks it off — it was a winner in the 2013 Writers of the Future contest, and is one of the chronologically closest to our own era. By contrast, “Last of the Sharkspeakers” is on the opposite end of the timeline, occurring long after most of humanity has spread throughout the stars. The Tower People living in Ceres are among the last, defiant vestiges of what we would recognize as modern society and modern human beings.

What would you want a reader to take away from “Last of the Sharkspeakers?”

The plight of Tacan’s people is certainly the central narrative, but the story of the voidsharks is essential. The title is every bit about them as it is about our descendants. I hope readers enjoy the ride; it’s certainly a pleasure seeing “Last of the Sharkspeakers” in the pages of Fantasy & Science Fiction.


“Last of the Sharkspeakers” appears in the May/June 2016 issue of F&SF.

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One Response to “Interview: Brian Trent on “Last of the Sharkspeakers””

  1. Last of the Sharkspeakers in Fantasy & Science Fiction | Brian Trent on June 19th, 2016

    […] that yes, it takes place on an asteroid. I have an interview in Fantasy & Science Fiction (which you can read here) which dives into more details on the research, writing, and themes of the […]

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