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The composer communicates with me at 4 a. Her day, her week, has been incredibly long, challenged by domestic and professional demands. And yet, she generously and thoughtfully warms to the questions she lets me put to her about the work. Does this happen in your work a lot? Did it happen more than usual in Unremembered? All of that takes your understanding of the poem in a more nuanced direction, which in turn, of course, affects the music.

So the illustrations really wound up playing a hugely integral role in the creation of the cycle on the whole. The question: how personally disturbing can this kind of work become to you?

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Does it, did it get to you in some way at all? For me, being in a deeply focused creative mindset is a lot like the early stages of being in love — that sense of intoxication, an inability to think about anything else. And sometimes that sense of obsession can make me feel a little mad, as in crazy, and unnerved. But in terms of being creeped out by the music, yes, that has happened to me with this piece. Just once, though — with The River.

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A kind of emotional vertigo. I wrote it outside, sitting in the grass — we have woods and a large creek behind our house, and I kept looking back there, behind me, as I was writing it. Like I was talking about its sister behind its back and it was somehow going to hear, and the trees were going to suddenly sprout gnarly vines that slithered up and overtook me.

But in general, I would say that writing music helps me deal with my anxieties and fears. I think writing is the way that I cope with all the vulnerability and uncertainty of life. This is so true to the experience in life. Apologizing is like bottoming out, dropping all pretense and forward motion. In your process, does something like this take trial and error? SKS : An interesting question! All this of this was a conscious attempt to fight the tyranny to use an uncharitable word of the poetic meter. And I found that breaking things up in these ways would sometimes yield new, serendipitous rhyme schemes.

There was one song where I decided to get completely out of the way and just let the song be a kind of musical reading of the poem. That song was The Girl. The poem takes a story that could easily be rendered in an overwrought, sinister, or heavy-handed way, and instead delivers it in a very subtle and almost unnervingly understated way.

The words and images are so powerful on their own that I felt that dramatizing it in any way would be a bad idea. So I just let it be an old-fashioned folk ballad, a simple melody that repeats, and put the ornamentation and detail into the contrapuntal texture which provides the deceptively pastoral introduction, which later returns in a manner just dark enough to belie its initial implications.

Young composers are frequently taught to avoid setting metered poetry. I was definitely taught to avoid it.

But I love working with it, because you can use the meter as much or as little as you want to. TC: Overall, how much did you live with these poems before writing? SKS: It was a combination of the two. I tend to have ideas quickly but am loathe to trust them. I usually try to come up with as many possibilities for a particular compositional problem as possible so I can pretend that the one I choose is somehow tested, objectively right or good, or at least well-earned. In the case of Unremembered , it developed as a series of different commissions over a two-year period, so I had a lot of time to revisit and rethink things.

In short: time. I like time. Perspective is invaluable when it comes to the editing process, and I like to have a long history of varied, shifting perspectives of my own on my work before I have to hand it over to someone else. TC: Lastly, where would you say this fits into your wider body of work? What would make things go even better for you as an artist? Like Penelope , Unremembered is a piece that combines my love of both classical and popular musical traditions. I feel very grateful for the way my career is going. Listen, while publishing sorts itself out, we write.

Have a look at this interview where the musician Sarah Kirkland Snider is talking to Porter Anderson about the sense of connection and completeness we have when we create good work. At first, as a reader, you may find yourself adjusting to the character's clumsy movements in lunar gravity and anticipating what life on the moon might really be like, but the story takes a shocking turn and life on the moon turns out to be much different from what you may have expected. Emma Newman's latest book set in her "Planetfall" universe, "Before Mars," sees a geologist arriving at a small Mars base after a lengthy journey only to realize that things aren't as they seem.

The base's AI is untrustworthy, the psychologist seems sinister, and the main characters finds a note to herself she has no memory of writing. In a world of perfectly immersive virtual reality, can she trust what she sees? Or did the long trip take a toll on her sanity? It's a thrilling read but — like Newman's other "Planetfall" books — also a deep dive into the protagonist's psychology as she grapples with what she discovers on the Red Planet. In " The Martian " Crown, first-time author Andy Weir gave voice to the sardonic, resourceful botanist Mark Watney as he struggled for survival stranded on Mars.

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In his second novel, "Artemis," he follows Jazz Bashara, a porter and smuggler on the moon who's drawn into a crime caper. Weir brings a similar meticulous detail to his descriptions of the moon as the ultimate tourist destination as he did to Watney's misadventures on Mars, but his characterization of Jazz doesn't play to his writing strengths like Watney's log entries did. Still, "Artemis" is an entertaining romp through a really intriguing future moon base, with plenty of one-sixth-gravity action and memorable twists.

It's well worth the read. Plus, there's an audiobook version read by Rosario Dawson.


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Don't let that fool you, though: The book's exploration of multiculture, multispecies conflict with aliens called the Geck works just as much intriguing worldbuilding into the mix as her previous books. Plus, there are mind-controlled robots, stolen alien ships and a society with three genders. As multiple viewpoint characters are ensnared in a system-wide mystery, the story's scope slowly broadens to reveal the full complexity of the novels' science fiction world.

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The books, co-written by Dan Abraham and Ty Franck, originally stemmed from a tabletop roleplaying game idea , and it shows through the detailed worldbuilding and exploration of a solar system remade in humanity's image. Plus, it's a fun, tightly-plotted set of spacefaring adventure stories.

The series is slated for nine books, and they've appeared steadily one per year from for a total of five so far plus some tie-in novellas. They're also the basis for Syfy's TV show "The Expanse," recently renewed for a episode second season.

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Book six, "Babylon's Ashes," is slated for release December After numerous novels and short stories probing humanity's trials in the near future, far future and distant past, science fiction master Kim Stanley Robinson offers his own highly detailed spin on the challenge of interstellar travel in his new book "Aurora" Orbit, Humanity's first trip to another star is incredibly ambitious, impeccably planned and executed on a grand scale in "Aurora.

Told largely from the perspective of the ship's computer, "Aurora" emphasizes the fragile unity of all the living and nonliving parts aboard the starship as it hurtles through space. As the story of the landing unfolds, the narrative doesn't shy away from the science or the incredible complexity of a 2,person, multigenerational ship.

The spacecraft is portrayed as one organism that can have conflicting interests or fall out of balance but that ultimately has to work in concert to reach its destination intact.

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In case you haven't heard of him, Ray Bradbury is an icon of science fiction writing. In "The Martian Chronicles," Bradbury explores the gradual human settlement of the Red Planet, through a series of lightly connected stories. Bradbury paints the Martian landscape and its inhabitants with master strokes, but equally strong is his portrayal of the psychological dangers that await the human settlers who arrive there.

This, as well as the space-themed stories in Bradbury's other classic collection "The Illustrated Man," struck a chord with me when I was young and dreamed about traveling to the stars. Reading his work today, it is amazing to see that although Bradbury writes from a time when human space travel hadn't yet begun the book was first published in , the issues and questions his stories raise are still relevant as humanity takes its first steps into that great frontier. This classic science fiction novel by Orson Scott Card should be ever-present on any space fan's bookshelf.

Card's novel follows the life of Ender Wiggin as he learns to fight the Formics, a horrifying alien race that almost killed off all humans when they attacked years and years ago. Wiggin learns the art of space war aboard a military space station built to help train young people to fight the cosmic invaders.

Basically, this book is a coming-of-age tale that makes you want to fly to space and also forces you to think about some serious social issues presented in its pages. The book is the first in a quintet, and inspired a much larger body of work that takes place in the same universe. Weir tells the story of Mark Watney, a fictional NASA astronaut stranded on Mars, and his difficult mission to save himself from potential doom in the harsh Red Planet environment.