Exclusive Interview: “The Dragonfly Gambit” Author A.D. Sui


Rage is a strong emotion. And it can be a powerful motivator.

Just ask A.D. Sui, who, in the following email interview about her new “anti-military and anti-empire sci-fi” novella (paperback) says that it was inspired by, “Rage, mostly rage. We don’t talk enough about disabled rage and how disabled people can often feel like some version of their future was taken away from them following injury.”

A.D. Sui The Dragonfly Gambit

To start, what is The Dragonfly Gambit about, and when and where is it set?

I’m going to get cheeky with this.

In a galaxy, far, far away, a very angry ex-military pilot infiltrates her old fleet to get closure with her ex-girlfriend and to destroy the fleet itself. Some pettiness transpires.

Where did you get the idea for The Dragonfly Gambit?

Rage, mostly rage. We don’t talk enough about disabled rage and how disabled people can often feel like some version of their future was taken away from them following injury. Some people don’t experience it as intensely, or they adapt well, or they process this rage in constructive ways. Other people write novellas about it.

With spec fic, we’re in this time where we’re starting to see more disability rep. It’s great! I love it (shoutout to Redsight by Meredith Mooring and to Premee Mohamed’s The Siege Of Burning Grass). The more diversity the better. But I still fail to see myself in a lot of these depictions, which is fine. Not every piece of literature needs to capture everyone’s experience. Hence, the writing my own novella. It’s the sort of fiction I would have loved when I was younger and much more maximalist in my convictions. I would have vibed with the protagonist, Nez. She would have been my hero.

Now, every time I read over the novella it leaves me with a bitter taste in my mouth. Still trying to figure out why that is.

It sounds like The Dragonfly Gambit is either a military sci-fi novel or a sci-fi space opera novel. Or maybe a military sci-fi space opera novel. Though calling Ennis Rezál the “Third Daughter Of The Rule” makes me think of Game Of Thrones, and that makes me think this might also be a space fantasy story. I’m so confused. How do you describe it, genre-wise?

I would describe it heavily as anti-military sci-fi. I think our genre has a long-running history of eroticizing militaries because what’s not sexy about matching uniforms and space pew-pew?

Personally, I have complicated feelings towards the military. A military force can protect from or bring forth genocide. We are collectively witnessing both unfold in real-time, with Ukraine and Palestine respectively. My own grandfather served, fought, and was wounded in the Second World War as part of the Soviet army. I have several friends serving with the Canadian Forces. Truthfully, I would have signed up too if not for the whole being disabled thing. Simultaneously, I wish for a world where militaries are not necessary. They’re a huge money sink, operate eerily like cults, and receive far too much freedom and too little oversight. I also understand that this is nothing but wishful thinking.

Anyway, I also heavily dislike space empires. I think that stems from being Ukrainian and being born into the Soviet Union, then watching the whole thing tumble into the ashes of history. Then, wondering for years to come why is it that I barely speak what should have been my mother tongue, but instead am fluent in Russian? Then the full-scale invasion circa 2022.

So, I guess I want to change my answer. The novella is anti-military and anti-empire sci-fi.

The Dragonfly Gambit is your first novella, but you’ve had stories in such magazines as Dark Matter. Are there any writers, or stories, that were a big influence on Gambit but not on anything else you’ve written?

I will counter this and say there are magazines that has influenced this story. Seize The Press has been consistently putting out short fiction that punches you in the gut. They never hold back. They never try to make things pretty for the reader. Sure, the prose in many stories is gorgeous, but only when it needs to be. When things need to be ugly, they get ugly. Reading the magazine has sort of rewired my brain to think that yes! I can say what I need to say on page without softening it, without beautifying it and people will still appreciate it.

And then there’s Baffling. This magazine has taught me that I shouldn’t pull back on the queerness in my stories to appease people or to hide parts of myself. Baffling is publishing absolutely breathtaking and heartbreaking, and joyful, and experimental queer fiction, and everyone should check them out.

How about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or games? Did any of those things have a big influence on The Dragonfly Gambit?

Anything Gundam and Evangelion. Neon Genesis Evangelion was the first serious anime I ever watched, and it melted my brain (the first was Sailor Moon and I blame all of my adolescent confusion on Sailor Uranus). I originally wanted this to be a Gundam suit or mecha story, but decided to save that idea for a future project where I can really nerd out of the suit development and manufacturing.

And what about your dogs, Dudley and Benji? How did they influence The Dragonfly Gambit?

Dudley and Benji! Dudley is a lab-mix and Benji is a blue heeler-mix. Dudley has every ailment known to dog-kind and Benji is Satan-incarnate and virtually indestructible. I suspect Benji will outlive the heat-death of the universe.

Dudley had a stroke when I was working on this novella (unrelated) and temporarily lost the use of the right side of his body. He recovered fully in a week, but what a week it was. I really wanted to finish the novella while he was still around. Not that he can read it or appreciate it since he’s a dog, but it still pushed me to finish the thing in a timely manner.

Dudley, Benji


Sci-fi stories can be stand-alone stories or parts of larger sagas. What is The Dragonfly Gambit?

For obvious reasons that I cannot mention here because they are SPOILERS, this is a stand-alone work. Unless some things really go off the rails. Not that I haven’t already worked myself out of that predicament.

I could totally write a sequel. Watch me. Someone dare me to write that sequel.

Earlier I asked if The Dragonfly Gambit had been influenced by any movies, TV shows, or games. But to flip things around, do you think The Dragonfly Gambit could be adapted into as a movie, show, or game?

Sure thing. Let’s make a really depressing seven-episode miniseries. I love miniseries. They’re just long enough to have sufficient character development and get into everyone’s motivations, but not too long that viewers start losing interest and switch over to The Great Canadian Baking Show (guilty). I also find that mini-series have great pacing. They’re like TV novellas.

And if someone wanted to make that really depressing miniseries, who would you want them to cast as Inez, Ennis, and the other main characters?

Oh dear, okay. Can we just bring back the cast of The Expanse and have them play musical chairs with the roles? Both Cara Gee and Shohreh Aghdashloo make cursing an art. Everyone on that show was just so great, and I would watch them all act for decades to come.

So, is there anything else you think people need to know about The Dragonfly Gambit?

The novella contains 40 “fucks.” That’s a rate of about 1 fuck per 1,000 words. Do what you will with that information.

I’m going to play a “fuck” related driking game when I read it.

A.D. Sui The Dragonfly Gambit

Finally, if someone enjoys The Dragonfly Gambit, what sci-fi novella of someone else’s would you suggest they read next?

Okay, I will recommend two (and one of them won’t even be a novella) because I refuse to follow instructions.

If you want complex, if you want fiction that doesn’t hold back on exploring messy emotions, if you want dark stories that will stay with you long after you’re finished reading, I will recommend Skin Thief, a short story collection by Suzan Palumbo.

I will also recommend anything Murderbot Diaries because those novellas pulled me back from the brink when things got too dark without patronizing those feelings.

These recommendations are nothing like The Dragonfly Gambit, I realize. What was the question again?




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