While the idea of Earth being a lost, forgotten, or abandoned planet isn’t new, in his sci-fi novel The Sky Woman (hardcover, paperback, Kindle), writer J.D. Moyer explores the idea of sending an anthropologist to our home planet long after it’s not our home anymore.
To start, what is The Sky Woman about?
The Sky Woman is about an anthropologist who discovers what appears to be a Viking village where it shouldn’t be. Earth is almost completely depopulated — the anthropologist lives on an orbiting ringstation — and she’s observing a group of Vikings in what used to be the Harz mountains in Germany. So that’s the mystery that kicks off the story. From there, she gets involved in their lives and problems and go against the instructions of her advisor who is ordering her not to interfere.
What inspired this story, and how different did the finished novel turn out compared to that original idea?
I just happened to look at my initial notes for the story from 2007, nine years before I even started writing the book. Even then I had the idea of a mostly depopulated Earth with a few isolated low-technology communities. In my original notes, Earth’s population had crashed due to climate change and a biological weapon, though in the final version I went with a different combination of factors, but mostly natural population decline due to people choosing to have fewer children, which seems more plausible. Another difference is that in my original notes the “advanced” portion of humanity lived in a Mars colony — not in orbiting ringstations.
The Sky Woman seems to be a sci-fi story. Is this how you see it, or is there some other genre, or maybe a combination of them, that describes the book better?
The Sky Woman is definitely science fiction, as plausibly realistic as I could make it. Maybe not hard sci-fi, I’m not a scientist, but I spent large amounts of time trying to get details about the ringstations right: how to handle questions of gravity, radiation exposure, construction materials, etc. The novel might start off reading like fantasy because of the Viking village element, but by Chapter 2 I think the science fiction genre is clearly established. Still, fans of fantasy and D&D should find a lot to like.
In deciding how to depict the Vikings, did you do research into real Vikings or did you base it on movies, TV, and so on?
Without giving too much away, the villagers aren’t actually Vikings. But I did do some research into historical Vikings, especially in regards to metallurgy and sword-making, which are central topics in the novel. I mention a few of my sources in the acknowledgements, but a big one was The Last Apocalypse, Europe At The Year 1000AD by James Reston.
Prior to The Sky Woman, you wrote a number of short stories. Are there any writers, or specific stories, that had a big influence on The Sky Woman but not on your other work?
I read more novels than short stories. A few that influenced The Sky Woman were The Long Ships by Frans G. Bengtsson, for Viking stuff; The Sparrow by Mary Doria Russell, which is also anthro sci-fi; and 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson, which has a similar theme of human evolutionary divergence.
What about such non-literary influences as movies, TV shows, or video games; did any of them have a big impact on The Sky Woman?
Yes. There was a NOVA episode about Viking sword making that I borrowed heavily from. The Five Secrets Of The Crucible are pretty much lifted directly from that program.
And this is my last question about your influences: When not writing, you make electronic music with the groups Momu and Jondi & Spesh. How, if at all, has making music influenced your writing, and specifically what you wrote in The Sky Woman?
If there is crossover influence then it’s subconscious. I feel like those parts of my life are fairly compartmentalized. I do talk about science fiction books with Mark Musselman, the other half of Momu. We’re both big fans of Hyperion and other books by Dan Simmons.
Some sci-fi novels are not stand-alone stories, but are instead the first parts of larger sagas. What is The Sky Woman?
It’s hopefully a trilogy. In my mind I refer to it as The Divergence Scenario, though I never pitched that to my publisher because of the very popular Divergent series. But yes, there will be more books. The sequel to the The Sky Woman is called The Guardian, and it’s already written. Hopefully Flame Tree will pick it up soon. I have extensive notes for the third and probably final book in the series.
As you also know, some people like to wait until every book in a series is available, and then they read them all in row. But is there a reason, a story-based one, why you’d suggest they not wait to read these books, not read them all in a row? Or that they should?
I think it depends on what kind of reader you are. Personally, I like to pause between books in a series. But there are some whale readers that won’t even start until the whole saga is complete. I get that, but I hope people start right in with The Sky Woman. Flame Tree has big plans, and the sequel is written, so chances are good The Guardian will be available sooner rather than later.
In terms of story, The Sky Woman offers a complete arc. There are incomplete threads, but it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. The Guardian picks up ten years later.
We talked earlier about the movies, TV shows, and video games that influenced The Sky Woman. But has there been any interest in adapting The Sky Woman into a movie, show, or game?
I’m actually hoping for a graphic novel adaptation first. I think the story would work really well in that medium. The plot is probably too complex to work well in a two-hour movie, and I’m not sure how The Sky Woman could work as a game, though I’m open to ideas. But a TV show? That would be great.
If The Sky Woman was being adapted into a TV show, who would you like them to cast in the main roles?
Okay, big ifbut let’s speculate! Maybe Keisha Castle-Hughes [Game Of Thrones] as Car-En. Or Shay Mitchell [Pretty Little Liars], who is young for the role now, but movies take a long time to get made so who knows. Or maybe Chloe Bennet from Agents Of S.H.I.E.L.D. For Trond, I think you’d have to go with some up-and-coming Icelandic or Nordic bodybuilder or strongman; Trond is really young, around twenty. For Elke, maybe Laura Birn. I’m watching The Innocents right now on Netflix and she’s fantastic in that.
Finally, if someone enjoysThe Sky Woman, what would you suggest they read while waiting for The Guardian to come out?