AUTHOR INTERVIEW: Luna Corbden

"For everyone one person you see being vocal in public there are thousands working in obscurity, and those are who I look up to the most. Without them, the world would be a far worse place."

Luna Corbden (who also writes as Luna Lindsey) lives in Washington State. They are autistic and genderfluid. Their stories have appeared in Crossed Genres, Zooscape, and the Recognize Fascism anthology by World Weaver Press. They tweet like a bird @corbden. Their novel, Emerald City Dreamer, is about faeries in Seattle and the women who hunt them.

Tell me about a recent work you released - a short story, a poem, a book, a game. What one work of yours do you hope readers will go out and read today? What's it about?

I had a story published in World Weaver Press's anthology, Recognize Fascism. It's a great little collection of anti-fascist tales. Mine is about a woman in a near-future civil war who can access both sides of a divided internet. She uses this advantage to smuggle goods to the marginalized in the Red States, but the fascists find her and send demons after her. It's called That Time I Got Demon-Doxxed While Smuggling Contraband to the Red States.

When you were learning to write, did you have non-neurotypical authors to look up to? Are there non-neurotypical authors you look up to now? Tell me about them, or if the answer to both is "no," tell me about someone else you look up to.

I secretly believe that a lot of writers are undiagnosed neurodiverse. However, there's no way of knowing that, so I didn't look up to any out ND authors. I didn't even know I was autistic myself when I started. Many of the authors I used to look up to turned out to be problematic. Once I got deeper into writing and became friends with a few accomplished writers, the mystique fell and now I see all authors as more or less regular people who simply kept writing until they were good at it. Some get lucky enough to become well known, that's all.

These days I tend to look up to the folks who work hard to change the world, and most of them are nameless and I'll never know them, or only see their names in passing, or they'll be famous for now but everyone will have forgotten them in a decade. I look up to Greta Thunberg for instance, but she is just a symbol for the movement of people who are inspired by her and then go do the work. For everyone one person you see being vocal in public there are thousands working in obscurity, and those are who I look up to the most. Without them, the world would be a far worse place.

What do you enjoy most about writing?

Worldbuilding. It's the development phase I love the most. I've got ten times more worlds built than I have finished stories. 

And also completing something; the moment when I can say, yeah, that's pretty much done. 

The part in the middle can be dodgy, either a high or a struggle, so it's sus.

What is most difficult for you about writing?

Plot. I tend to get stuck on the "what happens next?" part, and for that reason, I really love retellings. Give me the bones of the story, then let me rearrange them and worldbuild something new around them.

Tell me about a special interest of yours. Have you found yourself incorporating your special interests into your fiction?

Always. I have a ton of special interests, and all of them show up in my work at one point or another. The interest that most frequently appears in my fiction is difficult to define but something about "playing with religion and spirituality: how cultures and groups of people form beliefs and act on them." Including how those beliefs can be used to control or free people. My novel, Emerald City Dreamer, explores these themes.

What one thing do you wish more speculative fiction readers knew about autism?

I'd offer them a primer on Intense World Theory. It postulates that the common factor we see behind most autism traits is that our neurons (brain cells and nerves) fire faster and harder, which makes us more sensitive to just about everything. And that sensitivity can lead to shutdown, distraction issues, sensory disorders, pain issues, overwhelm and meltdowns, the need to self-soothe frequently, difficulty tracking social interaction, etc. But it can also lead to quick learning and making connections between disconnected concepts that leads to innovative ideas. It leads us into deep-dives into special interests and hyperfocus. It leads to a deeper way of experiencing the world. We can connect to our surroundings in a way no allist (non-autistic) can. Allists often experience only autism from the outward traits that negatively affect them, but do not take time to imagine a world where everything is turned up to 11. How simultaneously difficult and wonderful that world is for us.

Have you had trouble with the publishing industry because of being autistic, and/or because of being marginalized in another way?

Not so far. I tend to try to live life by the rules and fly under the radar. I follow the submission guidelines to the letter. If people have treated me differently, I haven't noticed. I do get frustrated with my own weaknesses sometimes though. I strongly dislike the promotion side of this job. Promotion is what I call "circle work," that is, a job that is never done and you've got to keep doing it. Like dishes or yard work. I prefer "line work," where I follow a difficult project along a line until it's done, and then it's done forever. But promotion is never done. It's often low-returns for the effort, and it's depressing.

What's the biggest thing about the publishing industry that you wish would change?

There needs to be more money in publishing. All the way around. More money to pay authors, more money for editors, more money to the supporting freelancers like proofers and sensitivity readers. The money in this sub-economy trickles up from readers, and I believe readers would happily pay more if they had more. I support Universal Basic Income because I believe enough people would spend it on entertainment, and it could lift our industry. 

Do you have any writing advice for other autistic people?

Follow the advice of other writers long enough to discover if it fits you, and if it doesn't, try something else. Learning to write is not about rules at all, but mostly about learning how you write. Learn the rules so you can learn when to break them. Nobody knows more about how you write than you do.