Georgina Li, author of “Like They Always Been Free”

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

It’s an interstellar love story, really. In a larger sense it’s about the things we value and the things we don’t, about how everything changes when that one paradigm shifts. But mostly it’s a love story.

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

I was sort of captivated by the idea of these two characters, one of them stolen, one of them thrown away. And there was a picture at the center of it, an earthly mundane thing, an empty box, and the more I thought about it, the more important it seemed. The colors, the feel, the ordinariness of it, it seemed like something that would never go away.

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

In a way, yes. In a way, no. I just sat down and wrote it one morning, all these images in my head, these two characters, they came out pretty much all at once. The challenging part was sorting it after, because I’d never written anything quite like it before.

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

I think there are some things that are always personal, things that always make us feel. In a lot of ways this story is about belonging, about connection, and so it’s personal in that way. Also, for a lost & found sort of story it’s a lot more about being found than it is about being lost, so it’s personal on that level, too. I always think being found is where the really interesting things happen.

What is the appeal of this type of fiction–stories that take place in interstellar societies? Why do so many writers–or you yourself–write about it? Why do readers and film viewers love it so much?

For me, it’s the sense of unknown, the sense of possibility. I want to know about these people in the stars, where they’re going, where they are; I want to know what’s different about them, how they’re changing, and how they’re the same, too. I’m fascinated by the landscape of interstellar stories, or the topography maybe, what they look like, how they feel.

What are some of your favorite examples of interstellar SF, and what makes them your favorites?

My favorite would be Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow, hands down. Because it’s complicated and unflinching and beautifully written, and it’s one of those stories I find impossible to talk about without waving my hands around and abusing exclamation points, because it’s not at all compact and yet in so many ways, it actually is. I think maybe that’s what makes interstellar SF so appealing, the push and pull of it, how it can be both perfectly balanced and completely off its axis, equally stunning either way.