interview by Joe Vaz

From Issue 17 (Jan 2012)

Where is home?
I currently live in the homogeneous hellmouth that is the south-east of England, but home is London, where I spent the first twenty-odd years of my life.

Are you a full-time writer?
I dream, but unfortunately no. I work full time as a research scientist, which, though it takes me away from the keyboard, does have one benefit in that it provides quite a fertile ground of ideas.

What inspired this story?
The initial seed came from a radio documentary on one of the last great castratos (though I forget the name of the individual). They talked in great detail about how the best castratos were adored and pampered and doted on by the aristocracy. That germinated and ended up combining with an old idea (the floating cities on a flooded

planet) that I’d had sat in an old notebook for some time.

Do you sing or are you a musician?
Despite a huge love and appreciation for music – I have wide and eclectic tastes – I have absolutely zero musical talent. However, that doesn’t stop me singing in the shower or playing around on the various musical instruments owned by much more musically talented friends.

What came first, Harin’s story or the idea of the floating cities? How did the two come together?
The images of the floating cities was an old one, but was nothing more than that, a mental picture of a world without narrative. When the idea of “castrato lords” started rattling around my head – people trapped by surgery into a sterile life where they are both worshipped and imprisoned – Harin’s story began to evolve as a way to explore that world. The caste system and dystopian themes just seemed a natural part of it all and Harin’s choice became his obligation. The far future tone of Harin’s world demanded something different and decided to acquire the old image of the floating cities. I really had very little input or choice in the matter.

The story of the cities is very visual. Did Third City arrive whole, as a picture in your head or was there a design process in which you had to figure out the logistics of a floating city (e.g. it being a vertical city, based on an island etc.)?
The floating islands came first. The size and scale grew out of pictures of Imperial Russian architecture, with the limited land mass of the islands obliging the city to grow vertically – down into the rock and upwards in glittering towers. I’m also quite lucky since my wife is a geologist and structural engineer, so I’m able to throw questions about feasibility and material selection at her and she’ll either correct my crazy ideas or give me an approving green light.

The use of music as a source of power and defence is highly original. Where did this idea come from?
In building the world of the “castrato lords”, I needed something that would elevate them to positions of worship and trap them as the property of their societies. Since their voices are their currency, the use of music and harmonics as power and offence/defence became a natural extension of the world.

Are you working on anything right now?
I’m currently battling my way through an urban fantasy novel. I take the odd break from that to relax with a short story or block of nonsense prose. I’ve generally got four or five ideas fermenting in the back of my head and dozens of random scribbles/ideas – it’s finding the time to play with them that I struggle with.

Where can we find more of your work?I’ve had one story previously produced by Pseudopod (episode 202: Eye Spy) which is available as a free download. I have several others that are currently “accepted” and are working their way through the machinations of the short fiction market. I can sometimes be found on Twitter (, though it’s not recommended for the faint of heart.

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Joe Vaz

Joe Vaz is the founder and editor of Something Wicked, which occasionally affords him the honour and good fortune to hang out with really cool people.
In his other life he is a film and television actor who gets small parts in big movies, most recently in Dredd 3D, due to be released in September 2012.

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