In Skyward, there was some of the most unique alien designs I have, at least, read. I don't think anyone else has done a smell that's sapient. It was just so unique. And I loved it because, after I read about the figments, then I would smell something in real life, and it just starts to infect your world. And especially with the Diones and the whole birthing process and kind of testing out having a child, it's just so unique. I wanted to ask if you have any stories about how you came up with any of the races in Skyward.
Sure. The Diones came from the weird idea... Like a lot of things, it's just like, "What if you could audition for having different children? What if you could pick which one's personality's gonna fit in your family really well?" I audition characters. Like Spensa (we are gonna release these with the collection of the novellas), I did three different versions of Skyward before I settled on, I think, the fourth one for how her personality was going to work. And that's not uncommon for me, just be casting different characters. And as I cast those different characters, I'm like, "What if you could do that for your family?" That's obviously horrible; as authors, we are horrible people, we think of things like this, and we probably shouldn't. But the whole point of sci-fi/fantasy is to be able to ask those what-ifs, to deal with a society built around this sort of idea. So I run with it and hope that people understand that I'm not actually saying you should be able to boot your children out if they don't match your personality. It's more like, "Hey, what if this existed?"
On a more serious note, that's kind of what science fiction is about. Let's do a dry run on what would happen if we had this experience with an alien race. We've gotta think about these things. Not necessarily the weird stuff I come up with, but what happens when we meet an alien race, and they're like this or like that? How do we treat them? All of these sorts of things are worth exploring, I think.
With Starsight (and we have a little bit more of this in Cytonic), I just, again, wanted to expand the world and kind of kick Spensa in the face with how different the universe is compared to what she was expecting. So I forced myself to stretch a little bit extra on some of the alien races, where I might not have in another context. But I just wanted her and you to be like, "Oh wow. This is not as simple as I was expecting it to be." And anytime you can reinforce that with something as simple as adding a character who acts very different, that's the sort of thing I want to do.