Writer Wednesday: L.X. Beckett

L.X. Beckett. Photo courtesy of the author.

Toronto author and editor L.X. Beckett frittered their youth working as an actor and theater technician in Southern Alberta before deciding to make a shift into writing science fiction. Their first novella, “Freezing Rain, a Chance of Falling,” appeared in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction in 2018, and takes place in the same universe as their 2019 novel Gamechanger. Lex identifies as feminist, lesbian, genderqueer, married, and Slytherin. An insatiable consumer of mystery and crime fiction, as well as true crime narratives, they can be found on Twitter at @LXBeckett or at the Lexicon, http://lxbeckett.com.

Today we’re chatting about Beckett’s latest novel Dealbreaker, the sequel to Gamechanger

Dealbreaker cover art.

L. X. Beckett’s Dealbreaker is the thrilling sci-fi sequel to Gamechanger, perfect for fans of Neuromancer and Star Trek.

Humans achieved the impossible in Gamechanger: proving that Earth’s sentient population deserves a seat at the galactic table… or at least a shot at one. To be accepted by offworlder races who might otherwise swallow the Sol system into expansionist colonial empires, humankind must fix the planet’s ecological problems, invent FTL, rapidly develop wormhole technology, and leap a number of other arbitrary hurdles, all to prove they have an advanced and civilized culture.

Frankie Barnes was nine when first contact changed everything—like, everything–for humanity. Two decades later, she has fought her way onto the test pilot leaderboard, placing herself on the cutting edge of the effort to kickstart a faster-than-light revolution, before the aliens change their minds. Nothing matters more than preserving her people’s independence… or it didn’t, until she fell in love and married into a pack of husbands and wives who know all too well that test pilots have a screamingly high mortality rate.

But soon it’s clear that Earth’s problems are bigger than a few races arguing that humans are too toxic, greedy and backwards to be permitted free movement within the galaxy. Out at the most remote of Earth’s fragile space stations it becomes clear that would-be imperialist saboteurs are actively working to kneecap all Earth’s efforts to pull itself up. Set against the emerging threat of the foreclosure of earth, even her family’s fears and the threat of heartbreak aren’t quite enough to keep Frankie out of the pilot’s seat.

Let’s get to the questions, shall we?

Without context, what’s one of your favorite sentences in the book?

The event the Feral5 called their superversary was a Surprise party, meaning that everyone was cosplaying as Royal British Navy personnel, and the simulated ship they were playing in was, literally, HMS Surprise. Looking around, Frankie Barnes could hardly see a meter of deck where she and Maud-or the two of them and their packmate Jermaine-hadn’t had sex.

How does the Dealbreaker version of Earth differ from reality?

Dealbreaker takes place on Earth and within what we think of as our solar system about two decades after the events of Gamechanger, which begins in 2101. It’s Earth a century from now, after the human race has had to dismantle its economy and international system as part of the effort to save itself from the effects of climate change. But it’s Earth with colonies on or near places like the Moon, Mars, Europa and Titan… so the characters really get around!

Our world has become more like my future in the year since Gamechanger came out… because it’s one where people largely don’t travel, because of pandemics and carbon restrictions, and where they often hang out in a futuristic VR equivalent of Zoom. It’s fully immersive VR, so everyone can host their friends in a palace, but I had no idea when I embarked on Gamechanger that we’d all be having the kinds of parties I was describing so soon! Before March of 2020, interviewers would ask me: “Do you really think people would hang out in this way? What would people do during these gatherings? What would they look like?” Nobody is asking me that now.

If you could pick one room to spend a day in, from one place in your story, where is it and why?

Oh, dear! Frankie goes to so many horrifyingly scary places in this story—she’s a test pilot in the FTL program, and spends a lot of time out on a space station that (cough) mysterious forces are trying very hard to destroy–and I am wayyy too easily daunted by physical hardship to consider any of them. Honestly, the prospect of going camping ever again is my idea of hell on earth.

But one of Frankie’s spouses, Maud, does end up at a locust research station in Death Valley that I would kind of like to visit. The Mars colony would be cool, too. Both Death Valley and Mars are protected by hard shells of genetically engineered fungus, combined with nanoplastics, to create radiation shielding and self-repairing atmosphere and moisture barriers. It’s not one dome but many—think of colonies under, almost, bubble-wrap. I’d love to see those in person.

What was the hardest thing about taking your book from an idea to the finished product?

I think the hardest thing about Dealbreaker was letting go of two of the most popular characters from Gamechanger. In the first book, Frankie is nine years old and her parent, Gimlet Barnes, is center stage. Gimlet was enormously popular with readers of the first book and I love them, I love them so much, and I love how their relationship with Rubi Whiting turned out too. But Gimlet is off in deep space doing diplomacy in this book, and Rubi’s only got a couple of walk-ons.

It was also a little sad to realize, as I did in writing this, that while Rubi and Gimlet do get a romantic ending in Gamechanger, this doesn’t mean Frankie’s childhood was all happy families from that point forward. Even though she comes into an awesome new mom, the breakup of Gimlet’s first marriage and a massive amount of survival guilt are part of what drives Frankie, in Dealbreaker, as an adult.

(She does get to have love and an awesome poly marriage of her own, though!)

What will readers learn about you as a person from reading this book?

It should be obvious, I think, from this series—and everything that I write–that I’m trying to imagine the best possible future for a humanity, one that is inclusive and yet not utopian, and that I believe that best future will have less capitalism and colonialism and so much more queerness and creativity. I bleed green hopepunk ink. I believe humanity can get to a better place than we’re at now, that we can not only survive but thrive.

Where Frankie and I are different is I’d like to imagine we could do that by talking things out with other humans and finding consensus and then acting from that place of shared agreement… and she thinks that sometimes if you’re gonna get things done, you just have to smash a spaceship into something and hope the explosion takes out all the assholes in your way.

What needed to change about your life in order to make this book possible?

If anything, I would say my life did everything it could to make this book impossible! I was in an MFA program at the same time that I was working on Dealbreaker, which meant I was generally in three workshops at once, and writing other new works for school—TV pilots and screenplays and poems—plus critiques, critiques, and more critiques. I am sure I became a better author for it, but I haven’t got enough distance yet from the experience to truly understand what has changed… it was rather like running flat out within a pot of boiling water for two years.

Getting through that surge of effort meant letting my writerbrain change while my habits stayed rigorously unchanged—my morning writing routine at a Toronto café was a non-negotiable time window. I feel very fortunate that the book was drafted and revised well before the pandemic closed that down.

Which character could only have been written by you and why?

I would suspect that nobody but me would quite come up with a being like Scrap of the All–and my early readers are turning out to be very fond of Scrap!—but there’s so little I can say about Scrap without being spoilery that I shall have to tease you all with that, and perhaps to say that Scrap comes from a species whose personal pronouns are Us and whose pronouns for everyone else are Them, leading me to write sentences like this one:

Now all Thems on the station had outlived the initial accident. They had traced the source of the sabotage to med storage much faster than Us anticipated.

Beckett’s got a page of different places you can buy Dealbreaker, here: http://www.lxbeckett.com/dealbreaker/ Which is pretty much anywhere books are sold, so why not get it from Powell’s City of Books in Portland, OR? You can find their order page for Dealbreaker here: https://www.powells.com/book/dealbreaker-9781250165299

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