[Q] A company wishes to produce licensed Mission Critical merchandise, for sale to the public. They believe there is a market for it, and will give you royalties so long as you are willing to grant them the right to use your ideas. You accept. What merch is that company producing?
More plausible: mugs and shirts with the emblems of the ERA and Alexandria Systems; NASA-style mission patches for the Malang crew; Anthropocene Park t-shirts (pending copyright approval); souvenir-postcards from the Schiaparelli Resort and Casino, New Svalbard, Lagos’s Lunatown, and the Gabon Elevator.
Less plausible: New Svalbard Pulsars/Chang’e City Crescents caps and jerseys; the coats of the specific ERA Corps; Alexandria body pillows.
[Q] what Pokémon starter would each crewmember choose?
I'm not familiar enough with Pokémon to give answers for all of them, but Alexandria would have Porygon or Mewtwo.
[Q] which fanfiction of this story do you most want to read, and which do you fear reading?
I’d love to see some in-universe-style Alexandria fic, although I’m terrified of the depths of Internet Depravity that might unleash. Besides that, I’d also love to see a biography of Aryabhata Singh, one of my favorite side characters who doesn’t get to do much on-screen. Backstory vignettes for AU crewmates would also be really cool, and I have a few ideas for those myself...
[Q] You've been publishing updates to this story for more than a year now. How have you changed as a writer in that time?
I think my sentence-level writing is getting better, since I had to do much less copyediting as I made my way through the draft - just getting a better ear for word choice and assonance and flow. I also didn’t have a solid idea for the overall story structure until I started writing Delve, at which point I finalized that the the crew should also find some sort of monument and then be contacted directly. With Stellar Elegy, I already have a fairly clear idea of the central themes and how it’ll end, but the middle details are unfilled/molten at the moment. I also try not to start chapters now until I have a decent idea of all the main story beats in them (I used to make comic pages without a clear grasp of how the page would end! My workflow was horrifying!)
[Q] what would each crewmember's preferred type of meme be?
Alexandria - Bots of New York-type surreality, and jokes about Anime Tiddies
Arjun - niche in-jokes among fellow ERA brats
Kuiper - dense wordplay and humor drawn from Lunar culture and dialects, a la Letterkenny or Scottish Twitter
Emmanuel: deadpan academia jokes and tonal swerves, like “Source: This was once revealed to me in a dream”
Eun Sol: people mimicking video game-style movement and glitches in real life, especially speedrunning techniques
[Q] Will we get to see Mission Control's response to the letter from The Five?
In a manner of speaking~
[Q] Would this story work as a coffeeshop AU, or some other AU? Which setting would your characters insert best into?
Maybe it’s because I’m just not very well-versed in coffeeshop AUs but I don’t really see how that would work, but a fantasy AU could be fun with planes of existence taking the place of planets.
Or maybe a reversal AU where Eun Sol grew up in ritzy downtown Seoul, Kuiper’s a Martian scion, Arjun’s parents are corporate lobbyists, Emmanuel lives on a space station and studies atmospheric science, and Alexandria is a human with an AI imprinted into them.
[Q] Are Kuiper's tattoos something you have yourself, or would like to have? Also, hypothetically, how would you feel about someone getting similar tattoos after reading your story?
Currently, the only tattoo I have is an abstract sun emblem based on my college's seal to commemorate finishing up my whole educational career (which I got on March 4th, 2020!)
I hope to get the solar system map on my forearm when it becomes possible, since the Voyager/Pioneer probes are important to me in many ways and I want to bookend my quarantine with tattoos.
And if anyone else wants to get Pioneer probe tattoos, I'd be thrilled!
[Q] Do you have any picture/image inspiration for Malang and the monuments on it?
The final probe is very much based on the Pioneer probe, the statues are inspired by things like the Terracotta Warriors, and I wanted the initial crypt to feel like a fairly unadorned chapel. I referred to some of Malang's trees as specifically "baobabs," since I think it's a wonderfully weird shape for a tree. China's karst mountains are also a big inspiration for the kind of weird, craggy feel I was going for, and I wanted the basin to feel as eerily empty as driving across a stretch of barren desert.
[Q] How did the isolation of quarantine factor in to the isolation of the crew members?
I swear I didn't intend to write a COVID-era novel centrally about being stuck in close quarters, but I definitely Drew From Experience when describing how cabin fever set in :P