Four Tor authors—Charlie Jane Anders, Seth Dickinson, S.L. Huang, and V.E. Schwab—discuss identity, characters, and worldbuilding in science fiction and fantasy.

Charlie Jane Anders

(The City in the Middle of the Night, Jan. 2019)

Charlie Jane Anders is the author of the Nebula Award–winning All the Birds in the Sky and was a founding editor of io9, a website about science fiction, science, and futurism.

“When I look back on my experiences as a trans and queer person, the most important thing has been community. This means that when I start creating a fictional world, I think about communities rather than just a handful of individuals against a backdrop.

“The journey of Sophie, the main character of The City in the Middle of the Night, is about learning to value creatures who are very different from us. One of the things that I got really into in [writing] this book was the passage of time, and how we shape the past for ourselves. I hope people come away thinking about the ways in which we bury or reshape history in real life.”

Seth Dickinson

(The Monster Baru Cormorant, Oct.)

Seth Dickinson is about to publish the second book in his series set in the world of Baru Cormorant.

“I try to be private about matters of identity, in part because I want other writers to know that they don’t have to figure this stuff out in the spotlight; there’s room to keep part of yourself to yourself if you need to, whether for your comfort or your safety. But I was a PhD student in social psychology, and you can’t work in that field without realizing that a huge part of your ‘free will’ is driven by the unconscious uptake of social norms and cues. The world is more than you’re aware of.

“In The Traitor Baru Cormorant, Baru was able to defeat every obstacle she met by sacrificing someone. In Monster, she has to learn that this can’t go on forever. Everybody who’s anybody decent needs somebody, even if it’s just a friend.”

S.L. Huang

(Zero Sum Game, Oct.)

Debut novelist S.L. Huang is a Hollywood stuntwoman and firearms expert. She’s appeared on Battlestar Galactica and Raising Hope.

“When I told my friends I was writing a book about math and guns, they would laugh and say, ‘Only you!’ I studied math at MIT, and then went on to be a Hollywood weapons expert. So writing a snarky, violent, math-powered antiheroine is like playing with my daily life through a fun-house mirror.

“It’s also intentional that I’m writing a pulpy action thriller with an extremely diverse cast, because I want people who look like me and love like me to get to play in escapist thrill-ride fiction. It’s no fun if people of color and LGBTQ-plus people only get to be portrayed in stories about prejudice or coming out. We should get madcap adventure tales, too.”

V.E. Schwab (Vengeful, Sept.)

V.E. Schwab is the author of the bestselling Shades of Magic series. Vengeful is the sequel to her adult debut, Vicious.

“I’ve always felt like an outsider, and so much of my work involves re-centering the narrative around characters often relegated to the narrative periphery.

Vengeful focuses on three very different female leads who have been erased from their own narratives in one way or another, and looks at what and how they’re willing to take that space back. It’s not a story, or a world, that always rewards the good and punishes the evil. I hope readers have a hard time deciding who the heroes and villains are.”