Mithila Review editor Chaitanya Murali in conversation with I.S. Heynen. Her novelette “Sonya, Josephine and the Tragic Re-invention of the Telephone” appears in Issue 12 of Mithila Review available at GumroadAmazon (Kindle) & Apple iBooks stores.

Could you tell us a little about yourself and your background?

I live in Oregon with my husband and 18-month-old son, and work as a business intelligence analyst for a digital marketing agency. In a previous life, I competed on the US women’s fencing team at World Cup tournaments all over the place before finishing a BA in Public Policy in 2016.

This is my third published short story (the other two were about a botched time travel expedition and a guy who tries to recreate his dead girlfriend out of dust, respectively). I’m also working on my first novel, which I like to delude myself into thinking is at least 75% done.

You said that you were an international-level fencer? I’m very interested to know more about that. How does it play into your interest in fantasy and science fiction?

My characters, through no fault of their own, often find themselves in situations of extreme physical tension, in which they have to make time-sensitive decisions. I like to think that my background in a combat sport helps to inform my portrayals of human reactions to high levels of stress.

Your novelette  “Sonya, Josephine and the Tragic Re-invention of the Telephone” takes place after an unexplained apocalyptic event, followed by a “Tech Revolution.” How did the idea of a dystopian society with legalized assassination come about?

I spent two years working as a recruiter for an executive search firm (where everyone was much nicer than at the one in my story). During that time, I often thought “gosh, I’m really glad none of these job candidates are the type to come after me for revenge if they didn’t get the job they wanted…”

The “Purge” movie franchise was another source of inspiration: the idea of a government trying to cut down on illegal acts of violence by legalizing them within strict parameters. I was deeply spooked by this idea. Applying it to a situation so similar to my old job freaked me out even more, which made this story really fun to write.

Sonya puts a different spin on a post-apocalyptic setting, moving deliberately away from the anarchy that reigns supreme in popular works like Fallout or The Walking Dead,  for example. You build a world where it isn’t politicians or the military reigning supreme, but a company — of assassins — that pulls everyone’s strings.

Why did you feel if assassination ever became legal, it’d most likely be a corporate venture?

I’m not sure I’d consider it particularly likely, but I’d always thought that the idea of an overly stuffy and overly corporate assassination industry sounded really funny. The idea first started working itself through my head after I saw the first two John Wick movies, which set up a world of killers governed by its own draconian de-facto legal system.

What do you envision the world outside the Egg as being like? Are you planning or working on more stories set in this fictional universe?

To be quite honest, I haven’t thought that far ahead! I’d always thought of it as being pretty untamed and anarchic. Someday I hope to write a few stories in a more traditional Mad Max/Fallout type of post-apocalyptic setting that could potentially be related to this story. But this would be a pretty different genre of sci-fi than the retro cyberpunk-y atmosphere of the Egg, so I wouldn’t attempt to tie the stories too closely.

What are you working on these days?

Right now I’m working on my first novel: a re-imagining of the legend of Orpheus and Eurydice from Greek mythology, in which the underworld takes the form of a twisted parallel version of Portland, Oregon, populated with hipster gods and craft kombucha-drinking lost souls. Think American Gods meets Portlandia. I’m also having a great time working on a short sci-fi story about one girl’s search for a dream job in a dystopian futuristic Silicon Valley-esque city while using a stolen identity to hide her criminal record.

How did you find Mithila Review? What prompted you to send this story to us?

I heard of Mithila Review through’s super handy list of short fiction publishers. I was very impressed with the magazine’s gorgeous presentation of modern SFF works with an international focus, and was already a fan of many of the past contributing authors. Seeing my work published here is an incredible privilege.

You can find Heynen’s novelette “Sonya, Josephine and the Tragic Re-invention of the Telephone” in Issue 12 of Mithila Review available at GumroadAmazon (Kindle)Apple (iBooks)B&NKobo & Weightless Books.

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I. S. Heynen
I. S. Heynen's short stories have appeared in the ezines Aphelion and Wordhaus. She lives in Oregon and is currently cranking out her first novel.
Chaitanya Murali on Email
Chaitanya Murali
Chaitanya Murali was a lawyer in a life long past. Nowadays, he designs games and writes SFF for a living. Outside of these, his weekends are a blur of D&D and videogames, and he can be found at all hours on Twitter - complaining about his sports teams, Tottenham Hotspur and the Philadelphia Eagles.