What better way to start the year than to introduce you to a new Luna author! A huge Luna welcome to Sara K Ellis, whose debut speculative novel, If the Stars Are Lit, will be released at Eastercon 2025, in Belfast. The amazing Tara Bush will be creating a stunning cover for the book.
I've met Sara for the first time at Dublin Worldcon, and in between late-night sushi dinners and con-parties, we talked about writing and all things Japan. I was delighted to receive Sara's submission in June, and was very much taken by the story. It is a perfect Luna-fit, and i am so excited to share with you all, Sara's debut novel.
If the Stars Are Lit is a speculative mystery dealing with the implications of AI, memory, and loss. When the starship ferrying her to Earth is gutted by an explosion, Joss Carsten, a seasoned crisis negotiator, is left adrift in deep space. Injured and desperate, she struggles to restore the ship’s communication system and reestablish contact with humanity, but her judgement and health are fading fast and her isolation is triggering painful flashbacks. In an act of self-preservation, the ship’s onboard system creates a gemel—a fully sentient holographic AI, generated from her consciousness—to keep Joss company. The catch? This one is a ringer for Alice, Joss’s ex-wife who left her due to Joss’s unwillingness to share her past. Now, trapped with an "Alice" who knows everything about her, Joss must confront her old ghosts and learn to trust again as the two race against time to unravel the mystery behind the ship’s destruction.
Sara on If the Stars Are Lit:
If the Stars Are Lit was a child of the pandemic, when so many of us were set adrift or quarantined inside our own spaceships. I spent a lot of time going for walks along the moat of an old castle—the stones of which had been appropriately repurposed as park benches—and revisiting memories. I was struck by how those recollections became more vivid but also less recognizable the further they drew from the source. I’m a big fan of Solaris, both the novel and Tarkovsky’s beautiful and frustrating adaptation, and it was around that time that I also read a line in one of Peter Chiykowski’s microfictions that just gutted me. “My reality simulator got most of you right…” but “Grief is a stickler for detail.”
It led me to wonder about those details. What if, unlike Kris from Solaris, that ghost generated from your grief had access to all your memories? Which details would make a simulation more or less true? And thus was born the Gemel.
While I was writing, my family was also experiencing a crisis, and I was reading about how the brain processes grief as counterfactuals and is trapped, to paraphrase psychologist Mary Frances O’Connor, in a state of “would’ve, should’ve, could’ve” with no prospect of answering those questions. In a sense, Gemel Alice is a projection of that. Ethically, she’s unwilling to fill in Joss’s past for her. She can only offer carefully chosen details that serve as avenues for reinterpretation and possibly healing. It’s still up to Joss to determine how she’ll move forward.
About the Author:
Sara Kate Ellis is a Lambda Emerging Writers Fellow and attended the Milford Science Fiction Workshop in 2017 and 2022. Her stories have appeared in Analog, Fusion Fragment, Shoreline of Infinity, and are forthcoming in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She is currently an assistant professor at Meiji University in Tokyo, where she lives with her partner and two ornery street cats. She occasionally writes academic-ish things about American comics and manga.
Socials: BlueSky: Skateellis.bsky.social
If the Stars Are Lit will be released at Eastercon 2025, in Belfast.
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