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Interview with Christiane Joy Allison

She is a multi-award-winning author, public speaker, and activist. Her dystopian cyberpunk novel series, The Infinitus Saga, is jam-packed with futuristic technology, tech-savvy rebels, and genetic animal-human hybrids known as chimeras. Central to the story is a disabled family, inspired by her own life-long battle with hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome. Sometimes she walks with a cane, sometimes she rides in a wheelchair, and sometimes she needs neither. Her disability is as unpredictable as her life.

Christiane’s husband was wrongfully convicted in 2015, launching her family into a more than decade-long struggle against injustice, and inspiring her award-winning children’s book series, Where is Uncle? Her book, Why Can’t Uncle Come Home? was the first picture book featuring children adjusting to the wrongful conviction of a loved one. It won five Honorable Mentions in the 2018 Purple Dragonfly Book Awards. As an activist, Christiane battles for criminal justice and prison reform, and aspires to give prisoner families a voice.

Q.1 Tell us something about yourself not many people know?
Not many people, even in my personal life, realize that I struggle with anxiety. It’s a difficult battle that impacts even the smallest tasks, like answering the phone or responding to texts and emails. It can make me put something off for hours or days, just because thinking about it makes me anxious. However, despite this battle, I’ve written and published four books and I’m working on my fifth. Anxiety is not a barrier to success. It’s a hurdle; so, jump it.

Q.2 Are we going to read more from you in the near future? Any new project you’re working on?
I’m currently working on the sequel to my first dystopian cyberpunk novel, Infinitus, which is Book 1 of The Infinitus Saga. I love developing adventures and characters over long story arcs so The Infinitus Saga will include at least three adventure novels following characters fighting to survive on the fringes of a global high-tech world. The series also includes a published prelude novelette by the name of The Global Fellowship.

In Book 2, Chimera Rising, chimeras make a move to form an independent nation while my main characters continue to be hunted across the globe. Spoiler Alert! Below is the teaser for Chimera Rising.

For three months the world has held its breath with no word of the Red Queen after her bombshell broadcast exposed the horrific Community exploitation and maltreatment of chimeras-human-animal hybrids born of the reemergence of the Old World genetic experimentation. Word of their unexpected champion’s message spread like wildfire through the GRID and galvanized chimeras worldwide to unite against Global Fellowship control. Loyal chimeras spurn the Red Queen’s message and fight, in the name of their fallen comrade-in-arms, to safeguard their Community from the anarchy unleashed by her mind. As the Global Fellowship deploys scorched-earth tactics to eliminate her, an uneasy alliance forms between the traditional freedom fighters and the very Community operatives and assassins they have fought for so long.

Hector ‘Hawk’ Warrenson, former covert chimera operative, waits at the bedside of the woman he failed to protect. The Global Fellowship wants her dead. The rebels want to control her. He wants her free and safe. But is he already too late? As Hawk fears his deterioration into Obsessive Attachment Syndrome, he’s determined to find a way to protect her no matter the cost.

Q.3 What inspired you to write The Infinitus Saga series?
I love to observe how the world works in a social, systemic way. For The Infinitus Saga, much of my inspiration comes from looking at various aspects of society today (technology, independence, genetic experimentation, etc.) and pushing those aspects as far to the limit as I can see to create a take on the evolving global society. I also found inspiration through various science magazines, articles, and documentaries that came across my path as I was writing. Then I threaded my genetic illness, hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS), into a couple of main characters to allow the reader to explore the adventure from a body that’s not up to the challenge.

Q.4 What is the most difficult thing about writing characters from the opposite sex?
I don’t find writing characters from the opposite sex particularly difficult, but I’ve taken time to learn more about the typical differences in how men and women think and respond. If I’m questioning my instinct on a male character’s motivation or reactions, I can always run the scenario by my husband, father, or one of my writer friends and get their feedback. One of the strengths of a writer’s guild is the sounding board they provide with experiences from many walks of life.

Q.5 How many books have you written? Which one is your favorite?
I’ve written four books. The first two I published were children’s picture books in my Where is Uncle? series. The series is designed to help children who are experiencing or know children who are experiencing, the incarceration of a loved one. The first book, Why Can’t Uncle Come Home? is the first picture book to address the subject of wrongful conviction for very young children. The second book, Timmy & Kate Go To Visit, follows children visiting a loved one in prison.

The third book I published was the prelude novelette for The Infinitus Saga, The Global Fellowship. It introduces a significant background character and The Infinitus Saga world, but so far, my favorite book has to be my new novel, Infinitus. I’ve been working on this story and building this world for a long time, and finally getting to see it available to readers is unbelievably exciting. Infinitus mixes many of my favorite themes into a single story.

First, the main characters from the Mallorey family have my genetic condition, hypermobile Ehlers-Danlos Syndrome (hEDS). Their story is drawn from real-life experiences of struggling with disability and persevering. The story gives the reader the perspective of what it’s like to live in a disabled body and connects with those of us who live with the condition. The story also takes place in a society where the government causes the disabled to disappear, putting those characters at additional risk.

Secondly, I love stories with characters that are a mix of humans and animals. The world of Infinitus is full of a colorful cast of chimera characters, human-animal hybrids born with reemerging genetics from banned Old World super soldier experiments. You get to see their advantages and disadvantages and how they are viewed and treated by the rest of the population.

Thirdly, the world explores the relationship between people and technology. In the world of Infinitus, people are literally wetwired to the world’s computers, and their brains are used as temporary servers. Think about what it would be like to close your eyes and dim the lights or turn up the temperature in your apartment. What would it be like to have an AI that was attuned to your every whim? What happens when there’s no tactile form of money? All of these amazing things and more are explored in the story.

Finally, even though this is not a romance novel, there is romance and other significant relationships. The story explores the draw and connection between people in a society where people are taught to fear all long-term relationships as mental illness.

Q.6 How do you see the future of science fiction literature? Will sci-fi maintains its independence or intertwines with other literary genres?
Science fiction is already blending with other genres. You can find Action/Adventure Science Fiction, Science Fiction Romance, Dystopian Science Fiction, and others now. I believe the trend will continue because sci-fi basically represents a world or setting type, while some other genres, like a murder mystery, for example, are story types. Many kinds of stories can exist in the sci-fi world. However, science fiction will also have its own unique subgenres like the one I write in now-cyberpunk.

Q.7 How do you see the relationship between science fiction and culture? How about the boundaries between science fiction and reality?
Science fiction has always influenced both culture and reality. I believe it is common at this point to have something that was first dreamed up in science fiction be experimented with until we see it, or something similar, in the world around us. Everything from self-lacing shoes to mentally-controlled prosthetic limbs was originally written in science fiction. Similarly, much of science fiction is first influenced by a real idea or tangible aspect of our world. For example, the wetware technology in The Infinitus Saga is based on buckyball and nanotube technology already being explored by scientists, and I’m theorizing a new use for that existing technology.

Q.8 To what extent can science fiction effect or improve the developments in science and technology in human life? Is it right to say that science fiction can change what human life looks like in the future?
Absolutely. I believe that when human beings see the potential of an idea, there are always some of them that will strive to see that idea work. Just looking at our world today, you can see countless examples of products and processes that were originally theorized in fiction. We have cameras so small they can fit in a contact lens. We have the absolutely terrifying potential for surveillance. It’s important as we go along that we consider what should be done, not just what can be done, and science fiction helps us explore the possible ramifications of those decisions.

Q.9 Is classic science fiction literature different from modern science fiction literature? Have the key aims of the genre changed considerably or not?
I don’t think it has changed that much. It really depends on who you’re reading. There are still authors that lean further into the science fantasy realm in their works, and those at the opposite end of the spectrum lean into hard science fiction that makes less room for the fanciful. I think what can be perceived as the biggest differences are mostly the incorporation of technology, but that evolution is tied to the evolving role of technology in our world which will only continue. All fiction, science fiction or not, draws in some way from the world around us.

Q.10 What do you think are the main reasons for the popularity of science fiction? To what extent has the film industry helped in popularizing the genre?
I think the film industry has helped science fiction in the same way it has helped every other form of fiction. There are lots of people who do not read for various reasons, who can be drawn in by the medium of film. Science fiction films are fun for creators and viewers alike because they take a lot of futuristic concepts and bring them to life visually. As far as why science fiction is popular, I believe it is because it is yet another way to dream. Humans are constantly looking for a world to escape to beyond their own, and science fiction creates amazing possibilities.

Q.11 For long, humans have been looking for immortality at all costs. Do you think this will lead to our eventual dehumanization?
I do not believe so, no. As a disabled person, I can see the attractiveness that prosthetics and eventually cybernetics will have. However, I believe we will maintain the rights of individuals as human beings. That said, I also believe there will always be people that will focus on growing loving relationships with those around them, and focus on the value of the individual and what they contribute to society. I believe that is a basic reflection of the battle between good and evil in the world around us, and yes, I do believe that good wins in the end.

Q.12 Science fiction has a long history. Which era do you consider the most effective period in the whole history of the genre?
I don’t believe there is one period that is more effective than another. I believe they are all a reflection of the world and its issues and dreams in the time period in which they were written. Storytellers use their stories to showcase their takes on the outworking of the competing values and pressures they see around them. Also, the influence of science and technology on science fiction and the influence of science fiction on science and technology is a cyclical process. You cannot get from one period to the next without those cycles taking place.

Q.13 In many science fiction stories, the existence of God is denied. Could we call science fiction an atheist literary genre?
No. I think there are plenty of science fiction authors who include elements of spirituality in their stories. In fact, this is explored in The Infinitus Saga. In the world I’ve created, the larger global society known as the Community denies any form of faith, and emphasizes the sciences instead. However, some of my main characters still embrace the faith of their family while acknowledging the science of the age. In reality, science and faith are not mutually exclusive. If there is a tendency in science fiction toward atheism, it is simply a reflection of the authors with those beliefs.

Q.14 Ray Bradbury considers sci-fi as “the important literature in the history of the world because it’s the history of ideas, and the history of our civilization birthing itself”. Do you agree with him, as many sci-fi stories do, indeed, depict disaster?
I believe that science fiction is an excellent realm to explore concepts of our culture and the role of technology and science in our culture. I would hesitate to say it is the most important because other forms of fiction create a similar room. Historical fiction, for example, allows us to reflect on what life was like before us, what was done, and what could have been done differently. Fantasy, similarly allows human beings to dream in ways that are much less limiting than science fiction. I do believe, however, that science fiction’s role and influence on culture are much more immediately visible and measurable.

Q.15 Do you have any unique and quirky writing habits?
I talk to myself and my characters out a loud-a lot. I also pace in circles around my house. I’m not sure why, but I see the story more fluidly when I am in motion. Driving, pacing and riding all help the movie play out in my head, especially with the right music for the mood of the scene. Afterward, I try to capture as much as I can on the page.

Q.16 How do you select the name of your characters?
It varies. Sometimes I look up names for days, trying to find something that fits and that has a particular meaning. Sometimes the name just lands on me and sticks. I don’t even have to like them for them to stick.

Q.17 What do you want readers to take away from your book?
In my books, I invite the reader to observe a number of concepts in action and to chew on them, and decide what they think on their own. What is the importance (or lack thereof) of things in our society like families, faiths, and the sciences? What do they understand about living with disability and genetic differences? How should the disabled or people who are different in some other way be treated? What do they think about the concepts of global surveillance and a one-world government? What are the consequences of having only virtual currency? A good book (with the exception of children’s books) should never dictate beliefs, but invite the reader to the conversation.

Q.18 Which famous person, living or dead would you like to meet and why?
I would love to meet director James Cameron. He builds incredible worlds and has an amazing gift for on-screen storytelling.

Q.19 What is your favorite book from other authors and why?
The Host by Stephenie Meyer is my favorite book. I love the society of aliens she creates in contrast to the typical narrative. I also adore the way the relationships play out between the characters and have such a dramatic impact on the plot. It’s a must-read.

Q.20 Share the experience of your journey so far?
I began writing professionally in 2016. I worked on children’s picture books side-by-side with my cyberpunk novel series and ended up publishing four books in four years between 2017 and 2020. A Kickstarter campaign made the publishing of my first book possible in 2017 and the ebook in 2018. Then in 2018, I was awarded both a Rasmuson Foundation Individual Artist Award grant and an Alaska Writers Guild Lin Halterman Memorial Grant which helped fund the publication of my next children’s picture book and the novelette that introduces The Infinitus Saga. In 2020, I was honored to receive a Microenterprise Grant for my publishing business which helped bring my first full-length novel, Infinitus, to the world. I could not be more blessed by my writing journey, and I have lots of exciting projects planned for the future.

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