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Interview: S. Qiouyi Lu on “At Your Dream’s Edge”

Tell us a bit about “At Your Dream’s Edge.”

At just under 2,000 words, “At Your Dream’s Edge” is a fairly compact story, but I delve into several topics, such as family, acceptance, identity, and grief. The nightmare-summoning app is entirely fictional, but the concept of experiencing something terrifying—with boundaries!—as a means of processing one’s emotions isn’t new. It’s why a lot of people enjoy watching horror movies, for example. The adrenaline that arises from the experience allows many people to feel a sense of catharsis that they can carry over into their regular lives. I’m aiming for something similar in the experience of summoning a nightmare.

 

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

Funnily enough, the spark was an off-handed tweet by a friend: He’d had a nightmare about calling for an Uber that never arrived. For a while, there were several apps that branded themselves as “Uber, but for ____,” such as “Uber, but for dog walking.” So I asked myself, what if there were an app that were Uber, but for summoning nightmares? I wrote “At Your Dream’s Edge” in one sitting because that idea was so fascinating to me.

 

Was “At Your Dream’s Edge” personal to you in any way? If so, how?

Definitely. Like the main character, I’m also nonbinary, but people don’t typically see that from my appearance. I still use feminine names, dress femininely, and have no intention of medically transitioning. So it can be difficult to face gatherings where I know people won’t be using the right pronouns or names for me. I also struggle with mental health issues, one of which is the cognitive distortion of catastrophizing, or jumping to the worst possible conclusion. “At Your Dream’s Edge” was my attempt to literalize both experiences.

 

Was there any aspect of this story that you found difficult to write?

The writing wasn’t too difficult, as the story simply emerged in one writing sprint. The difficult part was sharing the story—would people think it was too strange? too gory? too out there? Would they be able to see all the vulnerability I hid in the metaphorical images? But when I shared this piece with friends and audiences, the reception was positive. I even had a few people tell me they cried after reading the story, which tells me that the piece moved them on some personal level.

 

Why do you write?

I think writing is an instinctual drive that I was born with, as I’ve written or told stories since I was old enough to do so. My superficial reason for writing is because narratives are a way to create meaning out of the seemingly random events that make up our lives. On a deeper level, writing allows me to express my inner world to others, in hopes that something resonates and creates a sense of connection for both myself and the reader. Every one of us has an interiority that isn’t immediately visible to others, and writing for me opens that door between us.

 

Who do you consider to be your influences?

My list of influences changes depending on where I’m at in my life and what my current narrative focus is. At this time, I’m revisiting a lot of my old favorites, mainly Terry Pratchett. It’s fascinating how his stories were fun for me on one level as a kid and continue to reveal more layers as I grow in age and experience. Pratchett is an icon of adventure fiction with his Discworld series, but every piece of his is also rife with metaphor and commentary on our real world. I strive to achieve even a fraction of his ability to create a rich, imaginary world that is still highly relevant to our real world.

 

What are you working on now?

Most of my work up until now has been set in a parallel version of our Earth with only a few key changes, but I’m now building my own secondary world that I hope will be as rich and diverse as Discworld. It’s been a bit slow going, as this level of worldbuilding is unfamiliar to me and requires all my multidisciplinary skill. But I’m hoping to finish a short story set in that universe and build up to novella-length pieces, if not longer. I’m continuing to curate my magazine Arsenika (arsenika.ink), and I’ve also been writing a lot of poetry. You can follow my updates at s.qiouyi.lu or on Twitter at @sqiouyilu.

 

“At Your Dream’s Edge” appears in the March/April 2019 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1903.htm

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You can subscribe to the electronic edition of F&SF at the following links:

Weightless Books (non-Kindle): https://weightlessbooks.com/category/publisher/spilogale-inc/

Amazon US (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O

The author’s website: https://s.qiouyi.lu/

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