Interview: Carrie Vaughn

Tell us a bit about your story.  What’s it about?

“Don Quixote” is about a pair of American journalists covering the Spanish Civil War who discover the existence of a weapon that could change the world.

What was the genesis of the story–what was the inspiration for it, or what prompted you to write it?

The idea started with thinking about what a steampunk Ernest Hemingway would look like – you know, Hemingway traversing the Spanish countryside in a suit of steam-driven mecha armor.  While that was a great image, the story I wrote didn’t end up looking like that at all.  I went the direction of “secret” history rather than alternate history.  But I read a bunch of Hemingway’s stories set during the Spanish Civil War, andmy main character is definitely inspired by that setting.

Was this story a particularly challenging one to write? If so, how?

It’s a period of history that people don’t know about, so I had to try to get across as much information as I could to establish the setting without being too expository.  I also wanted to suggest Hemingway and his writing in the story without turning it into pastiche or parody.  This was all a fine line to tread.

Most authors say all their stories are personal.  If that’s true for you, in what way was this story personal to you?

I don’t know how personal this one is to me.  I’m not even much of a fan of Hemingway.  But I love writing historical pieces, and I love the challenge of trying to capture the flavor of a time and place.  Also, my anti-war tendencies shine through a bit in this one.

What kind of research did you have to do for the story?

I did two branches of research:  Hemingway and his writing, and the last months of the Spanish Civil War, to figure out the best time and place to set the story.

What is the appeal of power armor/mecha? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do you think readers/viewers/gamers love it so much?

It levels the playing field.  In power armor, anyone can engage in any kind of combat.  Physical strength is no longer a limit, and I think for a lot of people that’s the promise of technology in general. Power armor also takes the intensity of war and battle and turns it to 11.  Everything becomes *bigger*.  Also–mecha are super, super cool.  So futuristic and stylish and awesome.

What are some of your favorite examples of power armor/mecha (in any media), and what makes them your favorites?

The power loader at the end of “Aliens” is a classic, I think.  Human/alien catfight FTW.  I’m also going to have to put in my vote for the Voltron lions.  Because how cool were they?