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Interview: Gregor Hartmann on “Emissaries from the Skirts of Heaven”

Gregor HartmannTell us a bit about “Emissaries from the Skirts of Heaven.”

It’s the story of a woman’s religious journey. Grace starts with the simple faith of a child, based on stories and images in a picture book. As she matures she becomes aware of theological complexities and church politics and other gritty realities. Yet she manages to retain some of her childlike sense of awe.


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

On the craft level, I had been writing one-scene stories, compressed in time, space, number of characters. As a challenge to myself I decided to write about a single character, showing brief scenes of her long complicated life. A sequence of snapshots that nevertheless resulted in a satisfying character arc. I’m not sure I’ll do it again, but I’m pleased that it worked this time.

On the world-building level, there are many aspects of life in the Mainline civilization that I’ve devised but haven’t revealed yet. This gave me a chance to show a religion of the future.


Was “Emissaries from the Skirts of Heaven” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

I tend to get involved with my characters. It’s silly, since they don’t really exist, but I worry about them.


Did you research the history of any real world religions to write this story?

I like making things up.


What was the most difficult aspect of writing “Emissaries from the Skirts of Heaven,” and what was the most fun?

Skipping briskly through her life was a challenge, because what happened in the gaps between scenes had to be revealed indirectly. Overall the whole thing was fun. I enjoyed mentioning aspects of this future history that I’ll expound on later. The ChoRen, the Prophet, paxoforming… These are not one-off references.


Who do you consider to be your influences?

I admire writers who can tell stories that stand alone but, taken collectively, add up to a more complex whole. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan. The Tsar of Love and Techno by Anthony Marra. I also read a lot of poetry. Currently besotted with Jane Hirschfield.


What are you working on now?

Zephyr is a big planet with a complex society. In order to explore it from different perspectives I’m developing new characters. Now I’m focusing on a homicide inspector, a woman who has a background in philosophy. Charlie just bought one of the stories starring her. Look for it next spring.


“Emissaries from the Skirts of Heaven” appears in the September/October 2018 issue of F&SF.

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