My Favorite Bit: Elizabeth Bonesteel talks about REMNANTS OF TRUST
Elizabeth Bonesteel is joining us today with her novel Remnants of Trust. Here’s the publisher’s description:
In this follow-up to the acclaimed military science fiction thriller The Cold Between, a young soldier finds herself caught in the crosshairs of a deadly conspiracy in deep space.
Six weeks ago, Commander Elena Shaw and Captain Greg Foster were court-martialed for their role in an event Central Gov denies ever happened. Yet instead of a dishonorable discharge or time in a military prison, Shaw and Foster and are now back together on Galileo. As punishment, they’ve been assigned to patrol the nearly empty space of the Third Sector.
But their mundane mission quickly turns treacherous when the Galileo picks up a distress call: Exeter, a sister ship, is under attack from raiders. A PSI generation ship—the same one that recently broke off negotiations with Foster—is also in the sector and joins in the desperate battle that leaves ninety-seven of Exeter’s crew dead.
An investigation of the disaster points to sabotage. And Exeter is only the beginning. When the PSI ship and Galileo suffer their own “accidents,” it becomes clear that someone is willing to set off a war in the Third Sector to keep their secrets, and the clues point to the highest echelons of power . . . and deep into Shaw’s past.
What’s Elizabeth’s favorite bit?
When I was 8-1/2 months pregnant, my husband and I moved into a hotel.
We hadn’t planned it that way. We had expected our house to take longer to sell. We had not expected to have to seek temporary housing for my mammoth self. But while babies are relatively predictable—give or take a few weeks—real estate is not. And so, at nearly 9 months, I was packing up our kitchen.
My husband assembled the packing boxes and put all our dishes and spices out on the countertops. I sat in a chair and packed what I could reach. Realistically, I wasn’t much help. At this point I was both exhausted and uncomfortable, all the time. But I did something, which, for some insane pregnant-woman pride reason, was very important to me.
As I was writing REMNANTS OF TRUST, I remembered the move, and thought: If I can pack up a house right before I give birth, a pregnant woman can run a starship. And so Guanyin was born.
In the US, the cultural images we get of pregnancy are…odd. As with most stereotypes, there are grains of truth—morning sickness, hormonal surges, odd food cravings—but it’s all two-dimensional. Pregnancy is treated as this extreme condition, but at any one point on our little planet, there are a lot of pregnant women.
And for most of us, that pregnancy is an addition to an already crowded life. We don’t have the luxury of putting that life on hold. More than that, often we don’t want to. Perhaps the oddest cultural myth about pregnancy is that everything else should somehow suspend operations and get out of the way.
Guanyin can’t suspend anything. She is the captain of a generation ship, a ship most of the inhabitants call home for their entire lives. Officially her position is elected, but as a practical matter she’s something between president and dictator. She has an extensive staff, and the help of the whole population if necessary; but it is with her that the buck stops. Not only does she have a job she can’t ignore, in her culture it’s literally the most important job there is.
She’s also really, really good at being pregnant. When the book opens, she’s carrying her sixth child, after five uncomplicated births. And on this generation ship, where she has grown up seeing other women have children, she knows it doesn’t always work out that way. Above all other things, Guanyin is pragmatic. She knows she has benefited from good genetics and good luck, and that’s all the excuse she needs to keep having children.
Because on a generation ship, children are important—not so much as individuals, not any more than anyone else, but as tools of survival. In a future where populations tend to be small and isolated, reproduction and genetic diversity are critical issues. Not everyone has the desire or the ability to bear children. It makes sense that a woman like Guanyin, who has both, would choose to do it.
“But Liz,” I hear you ask, “it’s a thousand years in the future. What about technology? Surely they could just use artificial wombs.” Indeed. And in many places they do exactly that. It makes sense to have multiple resources for something as important as propagating the species.
But here’s the authorial insertion bit: I liked being pregnant. The whole experience fascinated me. And part of what fascinated me was that I could go through such a radical physiological change and still be entirely myself.
There’s a complaint, sometimes, that women in literature are too often written in relation to their families. I have a lot of sympathy for that, because women’s lives—like everyone’s lives—are full of stories that don’t have anything to do with their families. More often, though, I see women portrayed as either mothers or heroes, but not both—or at least not both at the same time. And that’s entirely counter to my experience in the real world.
Guanyin is, like many women, dealing with her pregnancy as a normal part of her life. It’s in the background hum, from her interludes with her children to the metaphors she chooses. She is a practical, thoughtful, strong-minded professional who never loses sight of her responsibilities. She’s also, for the duration of the tale, a big, clumsy, pregnant lady.
I could have used her help packing my kitchen.
Elizabeth Bonesteel began making up stories at the age of five, in an attempt to battle insomnia. Thanks to a family connection to the space program, she has been reading science fiction since she was a child. She currently lives in central Massachusetts with her husband, her daughter, and various cats.