London talks with Ámaris Wen12. February 2020 Off By Beryl
Ámaris Wen, our author behind „Aquatropolis- The Two Queens“ has been labeled a „multi-talent“ ever since she started working as an actress at the theatre and recording her songs with 19. And it is easy to feel intimidated by her.
Five albums, plays, short films, and now a book- not exactly what every 27- year old can present on their cv.
But it’s how she doesn’t seem to be too aware of her achievements, and the indifferent way in which she casually mentions having „invented three languages for her book“ that makes her so down-to-earth to talk to.
But she tells me that she wasn’t always that hyperactive.
The multi-talent recently opened up about having a thyroid condition that causes her to experience fatigue for „as long as (she) can remember“, and she said that it had been a main drive for her to „attempt to defeat the fatigue and to everything that she could manage to.“ In our interview with her, she also talks about how her fatigue, and that her upcoming single „No Signal“ is about sleeplessness.
When she started out at drama school, she tells me, she had trouble keeping up with the other students at dancing classes. She had switched there from an acting school without any previous dance training, and been thrown into the 3rd semester instead of the 1st, having skipped a whole year of dancing training. When she arrived at home the evening of her first dancing classes, she ‚put on some electronic music‘ and started to practice dancing up to 3 hours every day—on top of long and exhausting days at school. She tells me that after only a few months, she had caught up with the other students.
It is this kind of passion that she seems to apply to everything she does that is fascinating. Ámaris is known to be spending a ridiculous amount of research on even small steps in her creative processes.
Upon writing a few of pages at the beginning of her book where the protagonists are at an excavation, she spent an entire day at an excavation, including interviewing archaeologists and visiting an archaeologist office, where she ‚met a real mummy‘ in one of the offices. She invented and wrote meandering background information about a handful of countries on her fictional planet, although most of the story is about one city.
Many of us struggle to write that one book, start a blog, or actually record that one song. Ámaris has done all of that, several times, all of that while suffering from fatigue that sometimes „becomes so intense that you can barely lift your arms“. It is astounding to imagine how exhausting it has to be to have a condition like that and still never stop working. But Ámaris speaks about her journey to inspire, and says that „If I can do it with this condition then you can do it as well.“ And that is really inspiring.
This interview evolved over a few talks throughout a year. Our first talk starts in a bed-and-breakfast near the busy centre of iconic Camden Town, with rain drops glittering on the windows, and cars driving by outside. I have travelled here to meet Ámaris, and we will meet in several spots in the city throughout this interview. Ámaris appears for our interview in a white blouse and a sweater sporting an U.F.O., which instantly shows her fervor for science fiction.
How come a songwriter decides to become the author of a science fiction book?
Actually, it was pretty organic. I love everything related to the future, to progress, and science fiction. The story somehow grew out of the question what a futuristic society could look like.
I don’t call myself an author, if somehow feels intimidating. But I’m convinced that songwriting isn’t that far from books. You express your thoughts and your emotions through words, just without the music.
You recently said that you suffer from fatigue, isn’t it exhausting to do so many things with this condition?
The condition didn’t stop me, I’d rather like to see it as inspiration to do even more. Sure, there are times when there’s nothing you can do, when the fatigue becomes so relentless that you can barely lift your arms. But I’ve learned to sense when that occurs, and then I attempt to, you know, not overstrain my energy. But it never stops me from working.
I wasn’t diagnosed until I was 23 or so, and of course, sometimes I think I could have accomplished more if I didn’t have that condition.
But you are doing so many things!
Yes, that may be what it looks like from outside. There are so many people that seem successful but inside, many of them are questioning themselves whether what they do is any good. Writing the book and being immersed in this extraterrestrial world definitely helped me to discover what I could do. To write this book was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.
Where do you get the inspiration for this story?
Most of it just kinda was on my mind, the rest was inspired by countless things. Morus‘ „Utopia“ was a huge influence and inspiration for the book, because of the futuristic society that he writes about.
I think that the interesting thing about science fiction is that it inspires, and asks questions, and makes us think about progress. When I started to design the city and its citizens, and the planet, I wanted to be everything as realistic as possible, a city that could really exist.
Aquatropolis isn’t a world where everything is so much better than on the Earth, neither is it dystopian. It is the largest city on the planet, it has evolved and grown and adapted for hundreds of thousands of years, growing from a settlement on an island to a „1 billion citizens city“, islands were made, on which parts of the city float, land was reclaimed, entire districts of the city were erected below the surface of the sea, so that the city could no longer be flooded. And, I know that this sounds terribly like science fiction, but many cities here, on the Earth, are actually being threatened by floods, and erosion, and even if we’re not yet capable of living below the sea surface, it is worth thinking about how we could solve problems such as growing populations in cities that are unable to expand, floods and erosion, and millions of people that are moving to urban areas.
How did you actually describe that planet?
The planet of Osiris B-1 was inspired by super-Earths, which are Earth-like planets that are about 3 to 4 times larger than our planet.
If you have a super-Earth, and two suns, and 3 moons, this will affect the way that your planet looks. The planet does have a straight axis, the sun is a blue giant, so there aren’t any seasons, and the belt around the planet is too hot for any life to evolve or be possible. This meant that only part of the planet would be suitable for life, so this determined what the population would look like. There are so many things that you have to consider when creating this environment, to have an environment that is realistic, but it actually becomes easy once you have determined what kind of planet you want to have.
Do you care to tell us a bit what Aquatropolis is about?
„Aquatropolis“ is about a futuristic city in an extraterrestrial world. It is about order against corruption.
This is why it is neither a world with dwarves and fairies where everything is so much more advanced than on the Earth, nor some kind of dystopian world where some “system” chains the whole world and needs to be defeated. There are several forces working in Aquatropolis. Some of them may be evil, but some of them are only corrupted because of their hunger for power, while others cannot be affected by the prospect of gaining control over this city.
There are two queens, one of which always stands for order, while the other one stands for corruption and hunger for power.
What was one of the most fascinating things about your research for this book?
Besides all the research, I once stood actually in an office with a real mummy in it, so that was pretty interesting. I found that so fascinating that it made its way into the book, when Cinnamon talks about his archaeologist friend, who „has a mummy lying around in her office“. Cinnamon, one of the main characters in the story, studies archaeology, you know. So, to understand what an archaeologist actually does, I went to interview some of them, went to visit excavations, I would have even considered to try and work as one for a couple of months, but I didn’t have the time. I just want to really submerge myself into what someone like that thinks about when I create characters such as Cinnamon.
More about Ámaris Wen on https://amariswen.com/
More about the world of „Aquatropolis“ here
Find it here
Interview by Judith Barbara Shoukier. Translated into English by Beryl. (C) copyright for photos: Judith Shoukier (Perihelion Books, 2018 / 2019). In collaboration with maranth press.