Elizabeth Guizzetti is the mind behind the sci-fi novel Other Systems. A book really worth reading that tells the story of Abby.You can see my review HERE.
Me: What inspired you to write Other Systems?Elizabeth: First let me allow anyone unfamiliar with my work to know I have been writing and illustrating indie comics (Faminelands, Out for Souls&Cookies, and Lure) for the past five years with Maria Masterson.
Maria needed family time and we were having some plot/character arc issues with Faminelands#3—but the concept for Other Systems really hit me when I was out walking the dogs. A young Earth woman goes to another planet and realizes she has become a slave. However, due to her intelligence, she will escape and become a ship’s captain while she rescues her siblings also somewhere lost on this planet. (Obviously this isn’t the final story.)
That very night, I saw an article about young, uneducated girls from India’s rural areas traveling into cities with the expectation that they are going to get factory jobs only to end up working as sex slaves. Suddenly, I knew the how Abby got caught up in all of this.
Then I had another idea—an idea that I was playing with in Faminelands but got cut out of the plot. I knew the breeding laws were more expansive than just the bonded Earthlings. There would be more species than Homo sapiens and Homo kiposi. Those other species would be sterilized due to their genetics.
ME: How long took you to write it?
Elizabeth: Nine months to write the first five drafts, then a few months to sell the manuscript, and nine months to publications.
ME: Was it hard to include all the science facts?
Elizabeth: Actually I was having so much fun with the science, I wanted to add more, but an author must serve the story first and foremost. I spent about three months researching, prior to writing the novel, plus I looked up plants and sea organisms as needed. I began by researching the Kepler Missions. Then spent time finding G-type stars within 100 light years of Earth. Then I focused on ship engineering and what astronauts actually go through during space travel.
ME: Were you always a sci-fi fan?
Elizabeth: Yes, I am a sci-fi fan. Honestly I love all speculative fiction (fantasy, horror and science fiction.) I love books and movies that take me to another world.
ME: Some of the things that Abby has to live are really intense. How was to write about that?
Elizabeth: Writing (and editing) Abby’s forced breeding scene and confinement was very difficult. In my mind Abby’s rape was integral to the plot, and in order to write it, I had to focus on what was important about it such as the clinical nature, how she was dehumanized and the pain Abby felt. I wanted the reader to experience the horror of what she went through.
ME: The crew at the Revelation is really open-minded and has a different way of seeing life, how was to write about it? Why you decided to described them that way?
Elizabeth: Once I decided that Abby’s life was confining on Earth due to the lack of antibiotics and over population, and of course she was confined. I just did the opposite with the Revelation and the rest of the fleet. Due to the importance of each individual on the ship as well as the time spent in the black, the fleet would have to believe in personal freedom as a basic tenant of their society.
I don't want to insult anyone but if you look at many of the rules in Leviticus, you will see that they were written to keep people healthy before the days of refrigeration and DNA modeling. (People who read closely with notice that the single religious group on Kipos has a higher life expectancy due to the fact they follow many of the ancient tenants of their faith.) Since the fleet has vast medical knowledge and high technology things there are no sexual transmitted diseases or unwanted pregnancies. So yes they are open minded. They truly believe as long as all parties are consenting adults and don't hurt anyone else, do what you want. As she was both a minor and did not give her consent, Abby's rape was a horrific crime to them.
My other emphasis was making the scientists act like scientists. It is a pet peeve of mine when I see people who are supposed to be intelligent acting stupid. So I tried very hard to make the crew of the Revelation and Discovery to act like scientists on a survey mission. Yes, that means they spend a lot of time collecting samples, just like our own astronauts. That also means sometimes they have to run away from danger!
ME: Did you inspire in any real person for some of the characters?
Elizabeth: Not exactly, but I do pull out snippets of people’s lives and stick them in the book. I have two sisters and a close group of girl friends—Abby’s pregnancy symptoms are an amalgamation of what they went through.
On a more serious note, I did know a rape victim who acted as Abby thinks towards the men in her life. The young woman just wanted to feel safe. She feared intimacy yet still yearned for it. She blamed herself for what happened. From the reviews so far, this definitely has been one of the reasons people have been uncomfortable with the novel.
When I was in my fairly uncomplicated adolescence, I had crushes on half the boys in my high school, just like Abby crushes on some of the men in her life. Whether heterosexual women want to admit it or not, we DO sexualize men at least in our heads just like Abby does. So she thinks about sex, however, and more importantly, after Abby escapes, she also thinks about flight lessons, her cg tutors, and her job. Sometimes she has to figure out what she is going to make for dinner—just like everyone!
ME: Can you relate to Abby at some point?
Elizabeth: Unfortunately, yes. As I said above, some of Abby’s romantic feelings definitely mimicked my own adolescence. I identify with all the characters at one point or another during the writing of a novel. By the second draft, all the primary and secondary characters start speaking to me even if they are not a point of view character. Mark changed his whole sub-plot. I talk to them and ask them how they would deal with what's going on in the scene. I realize I probably sound crazy saying this.
ME: Would you like to go to another planet?
Elizabeth: Sure, but we are in the beginning steps of space travel and I am in my 30’s, so it’s likely I will be Earthbound for the rest of my life. If it were a one-way trip, I would never leave my husband. I will say I am excited to see space travel opportunities that we might discover if we began a colony on Luna or Mars.
We know we can make it to the moon with today’s technology. Imagine what a vacation that would be.
ME: Are you planning to write more about Abby's adventures? What's your next project?
Elizabeth: I am not sure if I will write more about Abby, but I have a skeleton draft for another novel set in the Other Systems universe with different characters about the people who stayed on Earth. Honestly, there has been a few people who told me: they need to know more about Abby, Helen and Harden’s lives, but I just don’t know what the plot will be yet.
The latest Faminelands graphic novel Book 3: Mareton’s Curse is in post production and will release March 2013.
My next graphic novel is Unintentional Colonists that is about the colonization of Europa. It is slated to be released spring of 2014.
My next written novel which has the working title of The Martlet which is about four assassins who play with necromancy on the side. This has no release date yet.
Elizabeth thanks for such a fun interview! Hope to hear soon from you :)