Sean Monaghan discusses his most recent—and fifth—story in the current issue of Asimov’s while also touching on the fantastic and imaginative worlds he creates for our readers. Read on to learn about his inspiration and influences.
Asimov’s Editors: How did “The Billows of Sarto” germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?
Sean Monaghan: I love extreme environments. The Antarctic, the Atacama Desert, lush rainforests, the Grand Canyon. I studied geography and geology and have always been fond of volcanoes, especially collapsed calderas. A few years back I visited Crater Lake National Park in Oregon and loved seeing the tiny volcanic peak sticking up inside the caldera (and also had a flash of memory—when I’d been a little kid, I’d seen a photo and decided that I wanted to go there sometime . . . in the intervening decades I’d forgotten about that. That was cool).
When I came to write “The Billows of Sarto,” I started with the environment, the caldera with its microclimate. Things progressed from there.
AE: Is this story part of a larger universe, or is it stand-alone?
SM: I suspect all of my stories are part of a larger universe, I just haven’t quite figured out how to join them all together. I’m sure Sarto is another world, just an easy starship jump from the planet Kaylee in “The Molenstraat Music Festival” or Ariosto in “Crimson Birds of Small Miracles” (both of which appeared in Asimov’s). I would certainly like to explore more of Sarto; the caldera is just a part of the landscape.
With “The Billows of Sarto” the environment is almost one of the characters, but it’s very much a character story, with an exotic setting, and so Asimov’s felt like a natural home.
AE: Do you particularly relate to any of the characters in this story?
SM: I guess I do relate to Jack. That quest for answers and for understanding, and looking in unusual (and often wrong) places for those. The moments of uncertainty in dealing with new people, and moments of simply becoming baffled by family. Continue reading “Q&A with Sean Monaghan”