Noah Lemelson’s Science Fiction/Fantasy novel, The Sightless City, was released on 7/20/21 with Tiny Fox Press. I had the pleasure of reading an early copy of this fantastic novel and, additionally, I am pleased to share with you all an interview with the author.
- How can fiction alter one’s own self narrative?
I think fiction allows us to look at the world through someone else’s eyes, and that’s a skill that can be turned inward. Different perspectives let us realize that the way we think about anything, including ourselves, is just one possibility, not the be-all-end-all truth. We all live in our own stories, partially written by us, partially written by others, while we can’t always control the way we fit into other peoples’ narratives, I think we do have some control on how we tell our own story. Fiction lets us practice that skill.
- How did you decide to set your story in a steampunk fantasy world against the tumultuous backdrop of a partial apocalypse?
For whatever reason, I find industrial decay to be utterly fascinating, and even beautiful in its own way. I think that’s one reason why places like Chernobyl are so fascinating, places marked by civilization but no longer controlled by it. Traditional fantasy loves its ruined temples and forgotten cities, I think it’s interesting to take those same tropes and bump them up a couple centuries.
- Could you explain your “realistic” approach to writing magical characters?
Though the term magic is never used in the book (besides once in a derisive aside), several characters have abilities or powers that are… basically magic with a fancy name. It’s a fun fantasy to imagine problems that magic could solve, but I think it’s often more interesting to look at what magic can’t solve. Self-doubt, moral quandaries, societal inequalities, relationship difficulties, magic has its limit. Its like anything else, skills or powers in one part of life don’t necessarily translate to others, and I think many of the most interesting stories about magic characters, be they literal wizards, super-heroes, or realty-defying inventors, is to look at where their magic is no longer enough.
- What exactly is the Calamity, and how did that event influence the ongoing wars and discrimination throughout the book?
The details of the Calamity aren’t discussed much in the book, but in short it was a massive disaster caused by the misuse of ætheric weaponry that turned a big chunk of the continent into desolate Wastes. It’s one of those events that is so big that it paradoxically just kind of blends into the background. For most people it’s just a fact of history, an explanation for a reality that is their mundanity. Yet, like most facts of history, it can be trotted out to win political debate, or to excuse terrible acts. The Calamity is always someone else’s fault, an everlasting causa belli, a parable to support whatever argument is currently being made.
- What inspired you to create this world?
Honestly I always loved the expanded universes for other novels, games, movies, and a not small part of my motivation came from a desire to have a world of my own, where my imagination wasn’t bound by what other people already wrote. As for why it became what it became, that’s a harder question to answer. I’ll say this, it started with the Wastes, and worked its way out.
Find my review of The Sightless City by Noah Lemelson here.
About the Author
Noah Lemelson is a short story writer and novelist who lives in LA with his wife and cat. Lover of Science Fiction, Fantasy, New Weird, and Punk. He received his BA in Biology from the University of Chicago in 2014 and received his MFA in Creative Writing from the California Institute of the Arts in 2020. He has had several of his short stories published in both print and online magazines, such as Allegory, Space Squid and the Outsider’s Within Horror Anthology.
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