Interview: Christie Yant, author of “The Revelation of Morgan Stern”

Christie Yant is a science fiction and fantasy writer, and editor of the Women Destroy Science Fiction! special issue of Lightspeed Magazine. Her fiction has appeared in anthologies and magazines including Year’s Best Science Fiction & Fantasy 2011 (Horton), Armored, Analog Science Fiction & Fact, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, io9, Wired.com, and China’s Science Fiction World. She lives on the central coast of California with two writers, one editor, two dogs, three cats, and a very small manticore. Follow her on Twitter @christieyant.

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

It’s part diary, part on-going love letter written at the end of the world.

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

A birthday and a budding romance. My then-boyfriend (now husband) and I lived on opposite coasts for the first year of our relationship. At some point we were discussing the inevitable Zombie Apocalypse*, as one does, and it dawned on us that we needed a plan in case it happened while we were apart. So we looked at Google maps and established that Wichita, Kansas was almost exactly equidistant. We picked the landmark where we would meet, and I went so far as to plot my route. Because we are complete dorks.

As his birthday approached, I put together a box of survival supplies, a map with our designated routes marked, and a photo of the landmark. And then I started writing this story, longhand–the story of an alternate me finding my way to an alternate him.

*There are no zombies in the story. Different type of apocalypse.

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

It was challenging in that it was originally written for its intended audience without the benefit of revision. I had to really think it through before I wrote it down. I did it that way because I wanted the authenticity of actually writing each entry on a different day, in different moods, with different amounts of sleep. I suppose I could have typed it all up, revised it, and then copied it down, but I didn’t, and I’m glad.

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 that’s probably covered above, but beyond that there were some other semi-autobiographical things that crept in. The earthquake in the 70s that Morgan mentions in the story, for instance–that’s my actual recollection of it. And the place the story begins is where I really lived at the time I wrote it.

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

Most of the research I did for a different project that never got off the ground–we had been talking about a collaborative piece, following two characters from either ends of the country, so I had already plotted my route, figured out how far apart the towns were, how long it might take to get from point A to point B, etc. before this story was ever started.

What are some of your favorite examples of apocalypse fiction, and what makes them your favorites?

I think my one true apocalyptic love is The Stand. I have read that book more times than I can count. When I read it the first time, it started me thinking through scenarios–where to go, how to survive, how and what to rebuild. It made me realize how little I know about anything truly essential to life, skills that my generation never had to learn because everything is done for us, from growing and preserving food to tying an effective knot. And it made me reflect at a young age on the things that I took for granted–there’s a scene where Glen and Stu open a couple of beers that they chilled in a creek that made me look at my refrigerator with a new level of appreciation.

Another one I love is a short story called “This Year’s Class Picture” by Dan Simmons. It’s the sweetest zombie apocalypse story, about how a school teacher adapts to her post-apocalyptic world full of zombie children. It’s never the source of the apocalypse itself that fascinates me–whether it’s biological, magical, environmental, or other–it’s imagining how people persevere in the absence of everything they’ve taken for granted their entire lives.