At OCD Nerd News we enjoy interviewing all kinds of nerds, including authors we might not know yet. This week, we are making place for Ariadne Morgena who is an up-coming author.
Definition of Nerd
A nerd is a person seen as overly intellectual, obsessive, introverted or lacking social skills. Such a person may spend inordinate amounts of time on unpopular, little known, or non-mainstream activities, which are generally either highly technical, abstract, or relating to topics of science fiction or fantasy, to the exclusion of more mainstream activities.
Additionally, many so-called nerds are described as being shy, quirky, pedantic, and unattractive.
Originally derogatory, the term “nerd” was a stereotype, but as with other pejoratives, it has been reclaimed and redefined by some as a term of pride and group identity.
INTERVIEW WITH AUTHOR ARIADNE MORGENA
ALEXA WAYNE (A.W.): When did you find out you would want to write novels and add a flare of nerdy to it?
ARIADNE MORGENA: I knew I wanted to be a writer when I was 7 years old! I remember the day we learned what a paragraph is, in my third-grade classroom. I went home that day, slept on it, then came back to school the next day, and started writing.
I filled several notebooks that year. I wrote in class, sometimes with the teacher’s permission but most of the time without it. I wrote an entire chapter book! In retrospect, I’d say I was a novelist from that time on. I didn’t know it!
I’ve rediscovered my passion for writing as an adult, and that’s a beautiful thing. For a year, all I could write was spoken word poetry, and that’s all shoved away in a drawer someday.
Then I spent a year writing song lyrics, which also occupy drawer space right now. At present, I’m working seriously on my memoir, while writing shorter pieces and trying to place them in literary journals. I’m also trying to get my children’s book published.
I don’t know what motivates some people to tell stories, while others are drawn to painting or sports or technology. I know I was obsessed with reading ever since I learned how.
I know I’ve told stories ever since my mother and I would sit in the back of the car together on long car rides and make-up fantasy stories that we’ve never written down, to date.
I guess my mother taught me to love stories, and being Jewish means I love and cherish books, and the rest just came naturally to me.
A.W.: Would you define yourself as a nerd? What do you think makes you a nerd, and how do you share your passion?
ARIADNE MORGENA: I define myself as a nerd! I love Fantasy and sci-fi, both tv shows and books. I like to talk about politics and religion and all sorts of other not so socially approved topics.
Anything and anyone who can keep me interested and stave off the boredom earns my immediate devotion. I have an active mind, and I love to learn new facts, sure, but mostly, I love to grapple with new and challenging ideas.
That’s how I define nerd-dom, really: I think nerds are people who are passionate about understanding why our world is organized the way it is, both the natural world and the human world I mean. I think we also tend to be people who are interested in improving the structure of the human world to benefit sentient beings.
Sure, we have misogyny and all the rest of society’s ills present in our communities, but overall, I think we are interested in analyzing ourselves and thinking critically about human behavior and human motivations. There is a reason why many people believe sci-fi to be too intellectually challenging, but also too emotionally stimulating.
Sci-fi consistently asks what it means to be a good person, within particularly challenging environs. Our nerd culture consistently demands we consider how not merely to espouse humanistic values, but how to live them, even when doing so won’t give us an immediate reward and may, in fact, doom our physical lives.
I find that powerful. I find that profoundly inspiring.
A.W.: When writing, do you do research for your story, and if so, what makes you do research?
ARIADNE MORGENA: I research my story. My second book is going to take place in early colonialist U.S. and has a protagonist who is an indentured servant. I’ve already begun to research for that book.
In this time and this particular phenomenon of indentured servitude is not within my comfortable wheelhouse of information, so I am filling in some of the gaps to give myself enough of the historical background to do this character justice.
I think it is also important to make your story feel as authentic as possible, and that means doing certain research during the revision part of the writing. What kind of wood did people in that region of the world use at that time? Did they have headboards? These kinds of details can round out your story.
That said, I learned something significant from a novel called The Tenderness of Wolves. That book takes place in Alaska, and the setting is a massive part of the story. I read the book in Alaska, and I can tell you that the author got the feeling of the Alaskan “bush” exactly right.
However, when I read the author’s bio, I was shocked. The author had never actually been to Alaska. I think that reality goes to show that individual settings and specific locales have built up such mythology in our minds, that we don’t need to visit them to write them well.
That’s a huge relief for someone like me who is unlikely, for example, to have the funds to spend months in Ireland researching what will be my first novel.
There is a difference between the literal location or historical setting, and the collectively shared imaginary of that setting. As long as your work is set in the collective imaginary and takes symbolic language from that imaginary, you’ll do justice to the core of your story.
That’s what matters most in storytelling, I think.
A.W.: What is most important to you when writing?
ARIADNE MORGENA: I start to hear the character speak to me. This most recent short story I wrote took about a month to conceptualize before I could even write anything down entirely.
I found it so hard to be patient during that time. Once the character began speaking, she didn’t stop, and eventually, I wrote the entire story down in about two hours. 18 pages and they were all solid, all usable.
My characters know what they need. Even my memoir book is headed by a character, someone who represents part of me but exists outside of me, who has her existence apart from whatever I symbolically associate with her.
Until I found that character, the memoir had no oomph to it, no life’s blood. Now there is real movement there because I finally found the character who is going to tell the story.
So I don’t make decisions about what stories I am going to write. They find me. The characters track me down, find me in all kinds of ways using all kinds of methods. It’s my job as the author to be open to the character, and trust the process, and shut out all voices that are not going to be helpful to the process of the story’s unfurling.
I don’t think I really “do” anything, mainly. I listen and then write down what I hear.
A.W.: Which nerd fandom influenced your writing choices?
ARIADNE MORGENA: You know, I grew up when nerd culture was beginning to go into overdrive. When I was a teen, fan-fiction was hitting the big time, and romantic fandoms were all the rage. People would have screaming-punctuation fights online about whether Buffy belonged with Spike or with Angel, for example, and I participated in that some.
I remember becoming involved in Buffy the Vampire Slayer in a way that seemed to blur the boundaries between writer and fan. I didn’t tag in until the very last episode of season 5, the episode that was written as the series finale. I thought that was the best episode of television I’d ever seen.
When that show was renewed, I became as virulent and passionate a fan as anyone. I might even have been a little worse than average because I was coming in so late, and I felt I had to make up for it.
I loved seeing that. I loved the movie. I loved that the people had spoken, and the bigwigs in their production offices heard what we had to say and responded with a great film.
Since then, I think my fandoms have tended more towards the literary than the cinematic. I still watched Lost, and Orphan Black, and Battlestar Galactica, and I loved each series in a passionate and complicated way, but I never felt like part of a community. Perhaps because I’m a woman and the fandoms for Lost and BSG.
were primarily male-oriented and male-dominated, perhaps because I did not go looking online for spaces to discuss these series. Maybe my needs from fandoms have just changed to suit my changing lifestyle.
These days, I count myself instead as part of the fandom for Anne Bishop’s series, particularly Sebastian/Belladonna; Pillars of the World; and, perhaps my favorite series of all time in spite of its astonishingly dumb name, the Dark Jewels series. I’m a fan of Jacqueline Carey’s work, especially the Phedre and Imriel trilogies, Kushiel’s Dart and then his Mercy.
Amelia Atwater-Rhodes wrote her first book at 13 years old, and I’m still a fan of her work, and I’d love to be the one to bring her vampires to the small screen. Diane Duane’s books, So You Want to Be a Wizard, most especially Deep Wizardry, are my adolescent fave that has never died. Caitlin Brennan’s The Mountain’s Call is an excellent piece of Fantasy that never got its just due.
The fan base for each of these series is strong, but female, which somehow means they qualify as lesser in the eyes of the broader nerd culture. I think that’s a real tragedy.
These books discuss violence against women, and sexual violence against all genders, in a profound and meaningful way; they shed light on humanity’s ongoing moral dilemmas, in the form of characters who cannot be stereotypically, boringly “good”; and they incorporate some searing sex scenes and an open-minded and benevolent attitude toward sexuality in general. If I ever have daughters, these are the things I will teach them.
A.W.: Which type of writing is your favorite, Fantasy, superhero, horror, sci-fi, etc., and why is it your favorite?
ARIADNE MORGENA: Fantasy is where I live, so it’s my favorite genre to write. I have a sci-fi tv series brewing in the back of my mind, and I’m excited about that, but sci-fi, in general, feels more volatile to me than I feel entirely comfortable with.
There’s too much white on that canvas. I feel overwhelmed, the way I do when I’m staring up at a mountain that dwarfs me. Fantasy is where I live, and fairy tales are my way into understanding so many things about the Western psyche. If I could only read or write in one genre, Fantasy is it.
A.W.: Do you have a favorite superhero, and if so, which ones and why?
ARIADNE MORGENA: Of course, I do! Jean Grey is my favorite. They did a real number on her in the first films of the Xmen series, and I don’t mean that positively. Jean Grey was a badass in the comics, and in the Saturday morning cartoons I grew up watching.
She was also very human and conflicted about her desires in a way that strikes me as very feminine, a way that none of the other Xmen seemed to be.
I could relate to her struggle to choose between the Wolverine and Cyclops, which was really her struggle to grow up and accept that because of her powers and resultant bizarre upbringing she would never have the chance to pursue meaningless sex with strangers or to date a bad boy like Logan, her destiny was already chosen for her.
That’s a tough pill to swallow. I could also really relate to that. I felt that Jean Grey’s arc from self-doubting wallflower to confident maternal leader of the group was a storyline I could learn a lot from, and emulate.
A.W.: Which of your novels do you think makes you an awesome nerd or geek?
ARIADNE MORGENA: I’m writing my memoir right now, as I mentioned. What I did not yet mention is that my memoir incorporates an awful lot of mermaid imagery and mythology, and tropes from Fantasy series. I’m such a fantasy nerd that I even write my nonfiction as Fantasy. That’s just how I see the world.
My second book, my novel about the indentured servant, will incorporate selkie imagery, and the main character will be a selkie.
Fantasy provides a way in for sensuality, for feminine and feminist sexuality, for a melding of the body with the historical and personal trauma of the character’s experience.
A.W.: What sets you apart from other nerdy and geeky authors?
ARIADNE MORGENA: I’m weird, in ways that are just not socially acceptable outside of nerd and geek culture. After the first week of my Introduction to Screenwriting class, I locked myself in the college’s computer lab for the weekend, and I typed out a 136-page draft of my first screenplay. I handed the draft to my professor that Monday.
I move and process emotion much faster than most people do. I make serious and deep and lasting changes to my life much faster. I have the self-confidence that comes from nothing I have experienced in my life. I can do things, to enter situations most people would avoid like the plague for fear of embarrassment or emotional scarring. I dive in head-first.
I like these things about myself. I am even a little in awe of myself over them.
I can’t tell you exactly why it is that I’m like this, except to say that reading stories compulsively from the age of 5 had something to do with it — reading The Mists of Avalon, all 800+ pages when I was 12 years old? That had something to do with it.
I’ve always been interested in the story, as a concept and as a way of life. I’m interested in stories that move me, change me, make me rethink what I take for granted and doubt what I once trusted implicitly. For me, this is what it means to be human.
A.W.: What can readers look forward to from Ariadne Morgena in 2019?
ARIADNE MORGENA: I am bound and determined to see my children’s book, agented. I will continue work on my memoir and will hopefully see portions of that published as well.
I have several short pieces about to be published, and 10+ short stories and essays shuffling around contests and journal submissions.
You’ll see my work out there. Everything is happening for me or about to happen.