Exclusive Interview: “Loki’s Ring” Author Stina Leicht
In the following email interview about her new science fiction space opera adventure novel Loki’s Ring (paperback, Kindle, audiobook), writer Stina Leicht mentions a number of iconic sci-fi writers. As you would expect. What you might not expect, though, is how many writers of non-fiction books she mentioned as well.
Photo Credit: TJ Photography
To start, what is Loki’s Ring about, and when and where does it take place?
The back of the book says it best:
“Gita Chithra, the captain of the intergalactic ship The Tempest, is used to leading her crew on simple retrieval and assistance missions. But when she receives a frantic distress call from Ri, the A.I. she trained from inception — making her like a daughter to Gita — she knows she’s in for something much more dangerous.
Ri is trapped in the depths of Loki’s Ring, an artificial alien-made solar system, and says everyone in the vicinity has been infected and killed by a mysterious contagion. Gita and her team investigate, only to discover horrors at every turn, and are soon stranded themselves, leaving them vulnerable to infection and attack.
Forced to call on an old friend to help them out of this mess, Gita must succeed or risk losing everyone she’s ever loved.”
Where did you get the idea for the plot of Loki’s Ring?
I’m one of those weirdos that enjoys writing exercises. So, when my agent suggested I write about a ringworld, I took the idea for a spin. I’m a fan of Iain Banks’ Culture novels. I like that they all stand-alone but take place within the same universe. About a hundred years or so. Series are difficult to pull off these days because bookstores rarely keep a whole series on a shelf any longer. I decided to set Loki’s Ring in the future of Persephone Station‘s universe. Some of my inspirations came from Ted Chiang’s short story “Lifecycle Of Software Objects” [from his collection, Exhalation], Star Trek (of course), the movies Apollo 13 and Outland, Michael Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain, and more than a bit of political thriller plus a heist plot thrown in for good measure.
And is there a significance to Gita’s ship being called The Tempest as opposed to The Hamlet or The Tea Pot or The Forbidden Planet?
It’s named after a friend, Tempest Bradford. I enjoy tuckerizing people I like. It’s fun for them and I don’t have to spend a lot of time trying to think of something. Names can be a pain in the ass sometimes.
Loki’s Ring sounds like a science fiction novel, maybe a sci-fi adventure story, or a space opera novel. How do you classify it?
To be honest, I don’t give it much thought. What I classify it as doesn’t matter. Classifications are for bookstores and marketing departments and the definitions are fluid, not rigid.
That said, all those classifications sound fine.
Now, in the interview we did for Persephone Station, we talked about how the press materials called that book “viciously feminist,” and how you were, with one exception, “dead set against having any male main characters in this story.” Did you set any similar parameters for Loki’s Ring?
The future is for everyone and sci-fi should reflect that. As in Persephone Station, the primary speaking roles have been given to women and nonbinary characters. It’s not a plot point. (It never is in novels where there are no women.) Men exist. This novel just doesn’t tell their stories. A story is about people. Women and other non-male genders are people.
Obviously, Loki’s Ring isn’t your first novel. Are there any writers who had a big influence on Loki’s but not on anything else you’ve written?
Besides those already listed, there’s C.J. Cherryh, Martha Wells, John Scalzi, Octavia Butler, Ted Chiang, Dashiel Hammett, James S.A. Corey, Ray Bradbury, Linda Nagata, Lois McMaster Bujold, Sir Terry Pratchett, and Becky Chambers. I’d definitely call them influences. The list of what I’m reading at any given moment changes. It should. Above all else, a professional writer should read broadly within and outside of their chosen genre. I love science fiction. Always have.
How about non-literary influences; was Loki’s Ring influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games?
I’ve already mentioned Apollo 13 and Outland.
And Star Trek…
But I think it’d be more interesting to list some of the non-fiction: The Alignment Problem by Brian Christian, Weapons Of Math Destruction by Cathy O’Neil, A Man On The Moon: The Voyages Of The Apollo Astronauts by Andrew Chalkin, Never Split The Difference by Chris Voss with Tahl Raz, Life 3.0 by Max Tegmark, A Crack In Creation by Jennifer A Doudna and Samuel H. Sternberg, Failure Is Not An Option by Gene Kranz, Riding Rockets by Mike Mullane, Artificial Intelligence: A Guide For Thinking Humans by Melanie Mitchell, T-Minus AI by Michael Kanaan, and The Age Of Living Machines by Susan Hockfield.
And then, to flip the script as kids don’t say anymore, do you think Loki’s Ring could work as a movie, show, or game?
Film or TV. That’s my vote.
If someone wanted to make that happen, who would you want them to cast as Gita and the other main characters and why them and not Tom Hiddleston?
I think I’d like a less known cast with a terrific female director. I don’t know. To be honest, I don’t really think about this much anymore. Writing is what I know. Actors and film aren’t my expertise. I leave that to others.
So, is there anything else you think prospective readers need to know about Loki’s Ring?
As in Persephone Station, there are multiple characters who are artificial persons. It’s important to note that there is a distinction between A.I. versus A.G.I. (Artificial General Intelligence). An A.I. is narrow; that is, it’s designed to perform a single task. It’s a program. It has no personality, though it might use an audio recording to convey information. It has no awareness and above all, it doesn’t think. An A.G.I. is what everyone in SFdom thinks of when they see “A.I.” This is difference is understood in the actual field. Sadly, it’s a distinction that the public tends to be unaware of. I made a point to underscore this in Persephone Station. However, my editor decided I shouldn’t do the same in Loki’s Ring.
Lastly, if someone enjoys Loki’s Ring, what similar kind of sci-fi novel of someone else’s would you suggest they read next?
Here are a few books I’d recommend:
The first is War Girls by Tochi Onyebucki. It’s about two sisters living in a futuristic, war-torn Nigeria. If you’re into mechs, cli-fi, and military sci-fi, it’s a great book.
Next, there’s How Long ‘Til Black Future Month? By N.K. Jemisin. It’s a brilliant collection of sci-fi stories with BIPOC characters.
Another fantastic collection of stories is Ted Chiang’s Exhalation. His story “The Lifecycle of Software Objects“ inspired me. He always makes me think.
Finally, there’s Binti by Nnedi Okorafor, of course. It’s one of my favorites.