New Author Spotlight: Nadya Duke
What drew you to writing stories that move across genres? Is this a new direction for your writing?
My main motivation is to write about people, how they are affected by the world around them, and the choices they make. By writing speculative fiction I can explore many different worlds, because I get to make them up! Other than that, I don’t want to narrow my options by being tied to specific genres.
The theme for this issue is Typical. Please talk a little about how your story reflects that. Did you write it for the theme, or was it something that you’d already completed that seemed to fit?
I had already written it. When I saw this issue’s theme, I thought, “That’s very much what “Good Numbers” is about — showing a typical day in someone’s life. Let’s see if anyone else gets that.” I’m happy you did!
In “Good Numbers” Jen is trapped in a situation that’s wearing her down bit by bit. But Jen is trapped in a more literal sense than most, as every aspect of her life is interwoven with the job. Is this an allegory of what many lower and middle class people experience financially and emotionally?
There has been a lot of discussion in the last few years about working conditions for people behind the scenes of high tech, from Foxconn to Amazon warehouse workers. One day, I was driving home from work and heard a news story that referred to the Iron Law of Wages, which is an economic theory that states that wages will settle at the minimum needed for the worker to survive. That got me thinking about what that would be like if true. I came home and wrote the first draft of this story. I was definitely considering the daily lives of industrial age workers, not just in current times, but historically.
The backbreaking labor of crop harvesting portrayed in “Good Numbers” is sharply similar to labor performed by many undocumented immigrants in certain parts of the United States. Was this an intentional parallel on your part?
In this world, the borders are closed, yet labor is still cheap. Seeing native-born Americans pick crops quickly shows that farmers are using neither machinery nor immigrant labor. In “Good Numbers” I also wanted to play with the idea sometimes put forward that “Americans won’t do that kind of labor.” I don’t know if that’s true, but if it is, what would be a condition that would change things and make it common for native-born citizens to do this work?
Having grown up in the West, I’m very aware of America’s dependence on immigrant labor and our inability to have a fair and enforced policy about it; it puts those workers at a terrible disadvantage. I didn’t want to write about farm work without any acknowledgement of this history, so the Resident Advisor, Letty (short for Leticia), is Mexican-American.
You packed a great deal of worldbuilding into a very short story. How deeply did you develop Jen’s world in order to create this very realistic-seeming near-future?
I had the edges – I know the borders were closed many years prior, and I know there are also trains loaded with computer programmers going from city to city. (I may still write that story!) But Jen’s corner of the world quickly became very vivid for me and that was what I needed most for this.
Tell us something about your future writing projects. Are you developing more short stories? Do you have a novel in the works?
So far, I’m a short story writer. I’m currently expanding a 5000 word story into a novelette. I have the idea for a novel, and I’m hoping finishing the novelette will prove to myself I have the attention span to tackle the longer length.
Where is your favorite writing place? Can you draw us a visual picture of the kind of space you create for yourself when you write?
My favorite ingredient is natural light. I switched desks with my husband in our shared office so that I could have the desk by the window. I often work in a comfortable mission style chair in my living room – it’s near a window, has a footstool, and faces some of my favorite paintings, so it’s quite decadent. Like many writers, I often have to convince my cats I don’t need their help. But I try not to be too precious about needing everything just so — I’ve written on planes, in hotel rooms, and once in the emergency room while waiting for a procedure.
What’s the question that you wish someone would ask, but no one ever has?
“Where do you get your ideas?” I know it’s a cliché, but I’m a new writer, and no one has ever asked me.
What’s the answer to the question in number 8?
I often get an image in my head of a person doing something – then I have to back off and figure out who they are and why they’re there and who’s watching them do it. With “Good Numbers” the first thing that came to me was the first line, “I try not to cry till Wednesday.” Then I had to figure who was saying this and why.
Thank you, answering that feels like a rite of passage.
Is there anything I didn’t ask that you think is important or that readers might want to know?
I was surprised at how deeply I felt about the issues of economic justice this story touches on. While I consider myself progressive in many ways, I didn’t know I was quite so passionate until I wrote this story.