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Interview: Cat Hellisen on “A Green Silk Dress and a Wedding-Death”

Cat HellisenTell us a bit about “A Green Silk Dress and a Wedding-Death.”

A Green Silk Dress and a Wedding-Death is a story about expectations – those which society pins on us because of the circumstances of our birth, our poverty level, our gender, and our families, and how we live within those expectations and can both subvert and pervert them. It’s about taking unexpected paths and leaping off cliffs just for the chance to escape.


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

My inspiration for the story was Water and Rivers, and the image of a monster prince and girl who is not a princess but runs away and makes bargains to save herself from a lifetime of nothingness. She might drown or she might be a queen of the sea, but either way she’ll have become something bigger than herself – part of a story rather than a girl who grows old with ghosts.


Was “A Green Silk Dress and a Wedding-Death” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

I’ve been half-blind for most of my life and there’s a certain rootlessness that comes from that, from literally seeing the world differently and having to cope with day-to-day life in ways that are normal to you, but that others take for granted. Being neither completely in one world nor the other fuels a lot of what I write. My family history and growing up South African also add to this feeling of being in a liminal place and it’s a motif that I return to over and over. You can see it in Heloise’s culture-clash of history, in how she occupies a space in the margins of her community.


What would you want a reader to take away from this story?

It’s a story about stories, and if anything, I want readers to fall in love with the idea of stories, how powerful they are – the magic that breeds in words. There’s a reason so much of what we look at as magic relies not just on herbal lore and ritual, but language; the power of spellwork and of voicing our desires.


What are you working on now?

I am writing a fantasy novel for my agent about wicked stepmothers and evil stepdaughters and how neither are as simple as the words make them seem. It’s all witchcraft and stitchcraft and bears and wolfhounds and gods and forests.


“A Green Silk Dress and a Wedding-Death” appears in the March/April 2017 issue of F&SF.

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You can click on Ms. Hellisen’s author photo to visit her website.  She also is on Twitter:


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