Ann Leckie was already a well-known name in short fiction SFF circles when she burst upon the rest of the world with her debut novel Ancillary Justice. The book swept the 2014 SFF awards in an unprecedented way, while its sequel Ancillary Sword was published to perhaps not as many awards, but with many people opining that Sword was even better than Justice. Today is publication day for the highly anticipated conclusion of this trilogy, Ancillary Mercy. And trust me when I say Mercy continues the upward trend and is just an amazing ending to the series. I only came to read the series this summer despite getting Ancillary Justice for my birthday last year (bad blogger!), but the books gave me lots of thinky thoughts and I really wanted to ask Ann Leckie some questions and she was kind enough to answer them for me. I hope you enjoy the interview and check back for reviews for Ancillary Sword and Ancillary Mercy later in the week.
This one is probably unnecessary, but just in case anyone has miraculously never heard your name, let’s start with the basics. Who is Ann Leckie?
I am a science fiction and fantasy writer. I’ve published some short fiction, but I’m primarily known for my Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke winning novel Ancillary Justice. (Just typing that I feel like maybe I’m dreaming.)
How would you introduce people to the Radch?
The Radch is essentially a Galactic Empire. It’s ruled by Anaander Mianaai, has been for three thousand years, in fact. She’s managed this by cloning herself and using implants to connect those bodies all together, so she can be many, many places at one time and never has to worry about succession.
Propriety is a basic Radchaai moral value, and so of course elegance and careful manners abound. The Radch is also brutally expansionist, and don’t consider non-Radchaai humans to be quite, you know, entirely human.
But really the best introduction is to read the books!
Ancillary Mercy is the concluding volume to your debut trilogy, a trilogy whose reception I suspect has been everything you could have dreamt of and more. How did the stellar reception of Ancillary Justice affect your writing of the rest of the series? Did it make it harder due to more pressure or did it convince you that it would be fine?
It certainly didn’t make it easier! On the contrary, the first book was so well-received that I immediately had anxieties for the second—how could it possibly live up to the first? Well, it couldn’t. And it was a very weird experience, to see people speculating about what might happen next, while I was finishing Sword! But at least I was almost finished with it by the time Justice came out. The entire time I was writing Mercy, there was a background of people discussing the previous books and wondering how I would wrap the story up. It was very weird. And very, very different from when I was mostly selling short stories–nobody was expecting me to come out with anything, or wondering what I’d write next, so that kind of pressure was entirely lacking.
It’s kind of fun, though, now that I’m safely finished with Mercy, and the trilogy as a whole, to see people talking about what might happen next.
One thing that surprised me reading Ancillary Justice, was how many more layers there were to the narrative in terms of the exploration of imperialism, privilege, and the nature of individuality. Those elements got rather snowed under in the discussion of your use of gender pronouns in most, if not all, reviews I read. Was that frustrating at times? That it seemed that people only wanted to focus on the gender thing?
Well, it certainly did get the book a lot of attention, and I’m pleased about that. If people then read it, they found those other things. Or not, depending on the individual reader of course.
I do sometimes get frustrated with people who haven’t read the book proclaiming that there’s nothing more to it but the pronouns, so obviously everyone is making a big fuss out of nothing. But honestly, it keeps people talking about my book, so that’s all to the good.
You’ve sold a further Radch book to Orbit for 2017. Can fans look forward to more stories set in Radch space beyond that novel?
Very likely! The universe is big–by design–so that I can do quite a lot of different things while still taking advantage of the construction work I’ve already done.
Will we ever learn why in the Itran icon of Seven Brilliant Truths Shine like Suns Breq carries Seven Brilliant Truths Shine Like Suns’ head?
That was actually the subject of a short story I wrote while I was working on Ancillary Justice. It’s called “She Commands Me And I Obey” and it ran last year as part of the Strange Horizons fund drive.
I wrote it to satisfy my own need to know what Breq had been up to in that nineteen-year gap in the story, and of course it ended up supplying me with other things I could use.
Your short fiction has mostly been fantasy instead of SF and you’ve stated in the past that this was mostly because that was what editors were buying. Can we infer from that SF is where your heart lies or can you see yourself writing a fantasy novel at some point?
I love both science fiction and fantasy! I might well write a fantasy novel at some point in the future, though I don’t have any concrete plans for one right now.
Will you be out and about to promote Ancillary Mercy? Any signings, tour dates, or conventions planned?
I’m actually doing a tiny little tour this year! And I’ll be at a couple of conventions in the first half of 2016. Right now my schedule looks like this:
Ancillary Mercy Tour Oct 6-10, 2015
Tuesday, October 6
7 PM: University Bookstore, Seattle, WA
Wednesday, October 7
7 PM: Tattered Cover, Denver, CO
Thursday, October 8
7 PM: Powell’s, Beaverton, OR
Friday, October 9
7:30 PM: Mysterious Galaxy, San Diego, CA
Saturday, October 10
3 PM: Borderlands, San Francisco, CA
Pre-ICON signing October 15, 6:30-8:30pm
Barnes and Noble Cedar Rapids
333 Collins Road Northeast
Cedar Rapids IA 52402
I’ll be signing books, along with a bunch of other awesome people!
Is there something else you’re passionate about other than writing and books?
A few things, and they tend to change over time. Right now I’m seriously into beading–mostly beadweaving, but really any bead or jewelry technique that attracts my interest, which is sadly quite a lot of them. Sadly because I really don’t have the time to learn everything I want to, nor the space to hold the bead stash.
As a book reviewer, I’m all about the book enabling; I can’t help but want to make people read all the good books out there. But I can always use help. What are your top recommendations of books we should look out for in the coming months?
Definitely Zen Cho’s Sorcerer to the Crown. Fran Wilde’s Updraft. (Actually I think both of those are out at this point, that tells you how behind I am on my reading–I’ve been getting advance copies of all sorts of books in the hope I’ll blurb them, but I don’t have the time to read that I used to and I don’t always get to things in anything remotely like a timely manner.) I’m also right now reading Cat Rambo’s Beasts of Tabat and really enjoying it a lot.
Finally, I have to stay true to my roots and ask a librarian question to finish off with: Do you shelve your books alphabetically, by genre or do you have an ingenious system?
No ingenious systems here! Alphabetical by author. Well, the nonfiction (mostly history or anthropology) is divided by subject, and actually all my Arthurian stuff is on its own shelf. But otherwise, yeah, alphabetical by author.
Bio: Ann Leckie is the author of the Hugo, Nebula, and Arthur C. Clarke Award winning novel Ancillary Justice. She has also published short stories in Subterranean Magazine, Strange Horizons, and Realms of Fantasy. Her story “Hesperia and Glory” was reprinted in Science Fiction: The Best of the Year, 2007 Edition edited by Rich Horton.
Ann has worked as a waitress, a receptionist, a rodman on a land-surveying crew, and a recording engineer. She lives in St. Louis, Missouri.