Khan Wong is joining us today to talk about his novel, The Circus Infinite. Here’s the publisher’s description:
The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet meets Cirque du Soleil in this found-family, queer space fantasy
Hunted by those who want to study his gravity powers, Jes makes his way to the best place for a mixed-species fugitive to blend in: the pleasure moon where everyone just wants to be lost in the party. It doesn’t take long for him to catch the attention of the crime boss who owns the resort-casino where he lands a circus job, and when the boss gets wind of the bounty on Jes’ head, he makes an offer: do anything and everything asked of him or face vivisection.
With no other options, Jes fulfills the requests: espionage, torture, demolition. But when the boss sets the circus up to take the fall for his about-to-get-busted narcotics operation, Jes and his friends decide to bring the mobster down. And if Jes can also avoid going back to being the prize subject of a scientist who can’t wait to dissect him? Even better.
What’s Khan Wong’s favorite bit?
Here’s what Khan Wong has to say:
One of the defining features of the 9-Star Congress of Conscious Worlds – the interstellar society in which The Circus Infinite is set – is that the homeworlds of each of the member species, and the stars around which they orbit, are sentient. While this element of the worldbuilding is alluded to, but not explored in great depth in the story, it did feature heavily in the first draft…in a pace-killing, info-dumpy manner. However, I saw that so much of this background lore was not at all relevant to the plot, and cut nearly all of it, reducing what had been Wikipedia-style entries to oblique references. I did this without a critique partner or reader feedback telling me to—I saw that I needed to kill these darlings on my own, a fact of which I am very proud. (I’m being cheeky here in case you couldn’t tell.)
In my story-world, there exist individuals with different flavors of powers, whose abilities arise from making what can be called a spiritual connection with their world of origin. The different species have different abilities, and the conceit is that anyone in these societies can develop these abilities if they train and practice—no mutations or gamma rays or radioactive spider bites required. It works much like athletic or artistic ability in our world, where anyone can learn to play any sport or engage with any art, but some people have more natural aptitude than others. And some people don’t care to develop this aspect of themselves at all. Fundamental to this conceit, is the existence of a planetary consciousness for people to connect with in the first place.
The idea of a sentient planet is nothing new of course, but I was fascinated by the idea of communion with a planetary intelligence giving rise to what could be dubbed “superpowers,” as well as the notion that these planetary intelligences would have a voice in the governance of whatever multi-world society they were part of. I spent a lot of time developing all this (along with histories of the cultures that live on these planets) and none of it is in the book. It’s all the sort of knowledge that the characters would take for granted, and would have no reason to discuss with each other in great depth given the events of the story. In addition, the interstellar society itself was “called to order” by a dark matter sentient star, the source of the slipstream – the network of interdimensional tunnels by which great stellar distances are traveled without FTL. [SPOILER] This star does make a cameo, but there’s no deep dive into its psyche or evolution.
I love this element of the lore, I think it’s trippy and cool. But the story tells the writer what parts are relevant and what parts need to go, and greater detail on these matters wasn’t required by the plot, and so my favorite bit was—not fully cut, but greatly reduced. Will there be revelations in future stories? We’ll see!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Khan Wong is a published poet, has played cello in an earnest folk-rock duo, been an internationally known hula hoop teacher and performer, toured with a circus, and founded a flow arts performance showcase. He is the author of many books and his work has appeared in Born magazine, nocturnes (re)view of the literary arts, Mason’s Stoup, Del Sol Review, and the “Poetry on Display” section of the BBC’s Arts website. @cosmickhan