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Interview: Elaine Vilar Madruga on “Elsinore Revolution”

Elaine Vilar MadrugaTell us a bit about “Elsinore Revolution.”

It’s not one of my most recent stories. I wrote it almost a decade ago. Back then, I was studying for my bachelor’s degree in theater arts, and Shakespeare’s plays had a direct impact on my whole creative process. I had one of those moments of epiphany that light up a specific creative process, an exercise of forces a writer willfully obeys through the birth of writing. I not only wanted to write about Shakespeare and his work in the science fiction mode, but I also wanted to go deeper, down a dark rabbit hole, in an attempt to find a story that spoke of circularity, eternal recurrence, and an eternal wheel that binds writers—and their characters—to the creative machinery. What moves us when we write? What program ties us and conditions our art? Are we really independent as creative entities? These were the questions that at that time obsessed me. Then, I found a point, a character to circumscribe my story: Ophelia, no longer a victim of her circumstances, nor a deranged maiden, nor a suicide victim with flowers around her neck, but a rebel, a revolutionary body, a virus within the power machinery. And all of a sudden everything was written.


What was the inspiration for this story?

My writing examines the anthropological and philosophical reflection that revolves around art and the process of creating it. It’s almost an obsession. Although this word at times has negative, almost pathological, connotations, obsession is the precise dimension that has always catalyzed my work. The writer always works on the basis of obsessive stimuli, which sometimes serve as nightmares, or at least as recurring methods for the beauty of fear. I wanted to write a story about revolution and rebellion, about how a rebel can be a “virus” in society. Also about how the society, the machinery, usually deals with eliminating an anachronistic, discordant, and dissonant element, which presents a danger to the already established natural rhythm. In addition, there was Shakespeare’s imagery. Also, the human in his stories has always seemed concomitant with the notion of ​​the fantastic—as long as we understand the fantastic not as a supernatural element, but one adjacent to the real. At the crossroads, at the moment when I, as a writer, take a step and enter the dark play of references, my principles of creation and, specifically, the engines that surround this story are established.


Do you often write at very short lengths, and what challenges and opportunities does it present to you as a writer?

I consider myself a writer of brief texts who has turned to longer fiction and novels as her main mode of expression. Put another way, I’m a poet who writes narrative and a playwright who writes poetry. Short texts are, for me, particles of beauty and horror the writer must be able to reflect, as a bird in flight, on the purity of the text (and its silent impurity). A short story is always an exercise of forces, which allows to handle such essential notions as synthesis and seeks well-rounded stories—sufficiently stand-alone stories to reach a reader with only a few pages. It’s a method, if so desired, of facilitating dialogue with an imaginary interlocutor. Without a doubt, shorter fiction is a challenge. It demands ease and concretion as well as vivid yet hazy characters, full of the power of words to condense a story that, in addition, sheds light and casts shadows.


Who do you consider to be your influences?

Faulkner and Saramago, Rimbaud and Sartre, China Miéville and Samanta Schweblin.


Los años del silencioWhat are you working on now?

This week I’ll start writing the third volume of my trilogy El trono de Ecbactana, a science fiction series that has occupied much of my time. It’s a story about the beauty and ugliness of being human, about its cancers and its allures. In addition, I’m working on a collection of short stories where the real and the fantastic are mixed, and a science fiction novel with the provisional title Chinatown, whose axes of meaning address human trafficking. I’m trying to combine narrative with poetry and dramaturgy, because I suffer from a certain degree of textual hyperkinesia, which makes me feel dissatisfied with a single genre.


Anything else you’d like to add?

I write from Cuba and Canada, two countries that organize my creative discourse—two countries that are polar opposites and constantly force me to move and change my expressive resources. Somehow I feel this metamorphosis, both spatial and symbolic, is my axis of creation. I believe in the mutable. And what changes and breathes.


“Elsinore Revolution” appears in the January/February 2020 issue of F&SF.

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The author’s latest book, Los años del silencio, is available for purchase by clicking on its image.

This interview was conducted in Spanish and translated by Toshiya Kamei, who translated “Elsinore Revolution” into English.


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