Nebula Vibrations author Annie Carl
Dreamwalkers get ready to launch into outer space this week. Author and independent bookseller, Annie Carl of The Neverending Bookshop fame is here to reveal the tale behind the tale of her new Sci-Fi novella Nebula Vibrations.
“Annie Carl’s fiercely imagined novella offers a searing indictment of entitlement and ableism. A riveting and satisfying debut.” ~Laura Stanfill, author of Singing Lessons for the Stylish Canary.
“What does disability look like in a world where tech can erase all afflictions, and how could such tech lead to our downfall? Big concepts come in a small package with this intergalactic novella, where Annie Carl is not afraid to ask hard questions.” ~ Jonah Barrett, author of Moss Covered Claws and film director of The Tetrahedron.
Janet: Welcome, Annie!
Janet: So good to be with you today. I thought I’d start our conversation with some lines from Nebula Vibrations.
Mari wrote science fiction.
And outrageously, she was living it. The view from the oval window near Mari’s chair showed black filled with stars and a far distant sun that shimmered blueish green around the edges.
~page 6 Nebula Vibrations
Annie: I love this section so much. How amazing would it be to write/read science fiction and suddenly find oneself in space? Pretty amazing. Unless you’re me, and then the idea of being in space causes sweaty palms and hives. I’m claustrophobic and hate the idea of being somewhere I can’t get out of. Even traveling to Hawaii was rough because it’s such a small land mass.
Janet: I also find it hard to breathe when I think about being in small spaces, Annie. We have the feeling of confinement of all that’s left of humanity in the Wild Nebula spaceship, yet we also have the enormous canvas of outer space. Can you tell us how this story came to be?
Annie: Absolutely! This story came out in one sitting after a rage-fueled rant at my husband following a diversity panel that didn’t include disabilities. I’ll expand. I had just opened The Neverending Bookshop. It was 2017, and I was attending my first PNBA trade show. I was so excited, but also by myself, and I didn’t really know anyone. I went to tons of panels over the course of the education day. One of the panels was Diversity In Your Bookstore. I was so excited as a disabled bookstore owner to find out what resources the panelists had for me and my community. Spoiler alert: there were none at that point. When it came time for audience questions, I think I shot both of my arms in the air. I asked them about disabilities, and I got blank stares back. I couldn’t believe it!! (This is also how I met my good friend and Forest Avenue Press publisher, Laura Stanfill.)
I got home from that show still fuming. Diversity does not just mean people of color and members of the LGBTQIA+ community. Disability is a diverse and supremely marginalized community. So, I got home and pulled out my computer, and took out my ragey feelings in a word document. And what came out was Mari and Trevow and Kait and the Grush.
Mari is basically me in later years. Except I have a lovely family and would never separate myself from them. I was so stunned when Mari appeared out of “nowhere”, that special place that creators and artists have that generate the most incredible ideas and characters and images.
Janet: What a great story behind the story, Annie! I love the idea of Rage-Fueled Fiction. You captured a full spectrum of emotions –rage, confusion, humor, joy –through Mari’s character as she awakens to this new futuristic world aboard the Wild Nebula. It’s rare but amazing when a story comes all at once like that. It’s as if the ideas and characters are just waiting for you to get angry enough to free them and let them speak.
Annie: It’s so true! Sort of like that quote from Avengers: “My secret is I’m always angry.” I’ve been angry through my whole life. My life circumstances have hardly been the stuff dreams are made of. And as a teen, I was a harmful angry. But anger, like all of the other emotions, isn’t a bad thing to be. It can be useful. It isn’t comfortable, but it is productive.
All of these memes and “words of advice” about being happy and joyful constantly are such shit. Excuse my language (I can get spicy…). Joy and happiness are awesome. But they are just a few emotions. And only feeling those few emotions is quite detrimental. It’s such a patriarchal thing to want women and other marginalized groups to feel nothing but joy and happiness because when we get angry, we start being loud and taking up space, and even (heaven forbid) “hysterical” and demanding change. As a child and teenager, I had many people in my life who told me I should be quiet and not speak out. So, by college, I had bottled up all of that anger and rage and weirdness that was a huge part of my growth as a youngster. I didn’t know what to do with it. After being diagnosed with cancer in 2008 at age 24, that was sort of the loosening of the pressure valve. This panel ripped the cap right off, and I kind of exploded. In a really great, amazing way, I think.
Janet: Yes. The anger was the rocket fuel that launched you into the story—a creative, clean burning fuel. Thank you for all you said above. For Speaking, Writing, and Giving your Voice to readers who feel marginalized and who feel silenced. Girls and women in my generation were taught to fear their own anger and not to express it. But the lioness has strong energy if we let her out and let her create. Or, in my case, as you know, it usually comes out as a dragon.
Annie: I love your dragons! They are so fantastic!
Janet: Thanks, Annie. Mari also has that kind of power. She’s cool! I have to admit, as a writer, I was especially thrilled when Mari learned her science fiction novels are required reading hundreds of years later on the Wild Nebula. Ha! Every writer’s dream! Did that little bit come out in the first draft?
Annie: That was definitely in the first draft! And it felt weird to write it, to be perfectly honest. A bit self-serving to Mari. So often, required reading for students is in the cishet white male gaze/opinion of the world. It’s just in the last maybe 10 years that students in schools are now reading other narratives beyond elementary school. So, I wondered if it would be too “egotistical” of Mari and her work to be considered required reading so many centuries after she wrote it. But my friends that read the story liked it. And my publisher said it brought Mari and her ideas forward in time, not just physically but mentally as well. If that makes sense…?
Janet: Yes. I’m glad you kept it in. I was also wondering if you knew the twist at the end when you wrote the first draft, or whether that idea came later.
Annie: I had no idea. I’m a panster. Meaning I write by the seat of my pants. I did get stuck as to why the Wild Nebula would need someone like Mari. My spouse, Ian, troubleshooted some of the plot with me. Along with a few friends I was texting while I wrote this story. Then, after they read the completed story, they offered ideas and details that helped flesh out the idea of chips. Mari was originally person-napped because her body wouldn’t support the first rollout of implanted microchips in the human body. The way that first batch of microchips operated in the body caused her, and many other disabled people like Mari, to seize. She wound up getting a tattoo instead that conveyed all of the same information the microchips did. In the future Mari finds herself in on the Wild Nebula, microchips are implanted in utero. And my friends helped with the twist that comes at the end. *NO SPOILERS* Read the book if you’re curious! Ha!
Janet: Yes. Read to and through the surprising twist! Any last things to say to the Dreamwalkers, Annie?
Annie: Yes! Thank you, Janet, for reading Nebula Vibrations and liking it enough to invite me to your Dreamwalks! I appreciate you. And thank you to the Dreamwalkers who read this and maybe decide to pick up Nebula Vibrations. Do know that while it is short, my publisher has requested sequels/prequels to Nebula Vibrations. And I have more short stories and an anthology (Soul Jar: Thirty-One Fantastical Tales by Disabled Authors, Forest Avenue Press, October 2023) on the way!
Janet: That’s great news, Annie! Dreamwalkers, here’s a link to purchase Nebula Vibrations. Happy Reading.
Annie Carl was born with a rare spinal birth-defect and is a Stage IV Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma survivor. She owns and runs The Neverending Bookshop in Edmonds, WA. She regularly visits writing groups and trade shows to advocate for disabled diversity and positive representation. When not running her bookstore, Annie reads massive quantities of science fiction, fantasy, and romance; knits; pole dances; and hangs out with her goofy family and friends.
Loved hearing Annie’s story behind the story. A big cheer for speak up and speak out because it’s those “ragey feelings” that ultimately, spark change. Thanks for the inspirational walk, Annie and Janet!
Thanks for the cheer and for walking with us, Trudi.
Thank you for walking with us, Trudi!!
What a fascinating premise for a story, and inspiring to hear how anger has fueled your art. Thank you for the walk!
I found the conversation inspiring as well, Holly. Sometimes it seems that stories wait for the right emotional energy, and once we open the gates they gallop out.
Thanks for walking with us.
Thank you for strolling with Janet and I, Holly! I hope you’re enjoying Janet’s Dreamwalks.