In our continuing series of mini-interviews, we talk with authors who have a story in our forthcoming collection WAY OF THE LASER: FUTURE CRIME STORIES, recently reviewed positively by ALA Booklist! Today, we talk to Natania Barron, who has several new titles to be excited about, including Queen of None, which will be released by Vernacular Books in November of 2020.
Management: Can you tell our readers a little about your story and where you got the idea for it?
Natania Barron: My story, “Prima Nocta Upgrade” was inspired by the concept of marriage as transactional. My background is in medieval literature and history, so that’s where some of the idea took place, but also the more stringent religious connotations we hear throughout the world. Today women are still considered property in some parts of the world–I would argue even within our country. I wanted to take that to the next level, really. The seed of the story began when I was thinking about how vulnerable a woman is after birth, especially the more medically involved. A woman might not be conscious. And in a near-future, the experience could hearken back to the “twilight sleep” of the turn of the 20th century, where women were dosed with large amounts of opiates during birth. Ultimately, it’s a story about agency, vulnerability, and human rights.
Management: Do you have any upcoming or newly released titles that you would like to share with our readers?
Natania Barron: I do! In fact, Queen of None, a feminist retelling of some of the King Arthur tales, which is coming from Vernacular Books in November 2020. I also just published These Marvelous Beasts, which is a trio of alt-history urban fantasy featuring monsters as heroes, globetrotting through the early 20th century.
Management: What’s one new book that you have read recently and loved, or that you are looking forward to reading?
Natania Barron: Oh, yes. I just finished Gideon the Ninth and had one of those experiences where I felt the world shift. The humor, the humanity, and the sheer skill that Muir demonstrates is just bar none. I didn’t want to finish the book, I just wanted to enjoy every word. I read it via audiobook, and I can’t recommend it enough. The second novel in the series is out later this year.
Prima Nocta Upgrade
By Natania Barron
Jim pressed at the space between his forefinger and thumb, hoping it might mitigate the headache chewing incessantly behind his eyes. He’d heard it was a pressure point or something. Whatever. It helped him draw the focus away from the engineered silver walls, the purple backlit waterfall, and the droning music intended to make him feel relaxed.
This place. Whatever it was. A birthing spa? He wouldn’t have bothered taking Shelley here if his father hadn’t practically insisted on it, hadn’t impressed that being part of the growing Burnish Quarter’s rising elite they couldn’t just rely on state-run facilities to have their child, their first child, not after so long. The doctors here preferred to call themselves Editors, owing to their uncanny ability to shape nature.
At least, he reflected, picking up a copy of Endless Scroll, it was quiet. The hospital where their child would otherwise have been born, known as the Prime Medical Operations Facility of Burnish Quarter (or, P-MOF), took up over a square mile of Burnish Quarter, and it was not only the main employer to most of its 1.2 million citizens, but also almost a city unto itself. Burnish was quickly rivalling Grace Quarter, and no one was in more demand than good health engineers. Once upon a time, perhaps, they might have been called “doctors” or “midwives”, but technology just moved too fast after the last war. You had to know your way around robots and nanotech to make it at P-MOF.