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Q&A with Marlee Jane

Of all the stories you could have written, why did you write this story?

This is a hard one. I originally wrote Orphancorp because it seemed like a good dystopia to explore, and you know, I wasn’t doing anything else at the time. But then it took on a life of its own, or Mirii took on a life, and people really engaged with her. Prisoncorp was written as the ultimate end to the story, an inevitable outcome to the kind of life Mirii has been forced to lead. When one is raised to be institutionalised, their options are limited. She barely has the right to choose what kind of life she wants, and all the options are bullshit anyway. I wanted to explore what the prison-industrial complex might look like in the future, and honestly, I could have taken it further - I just didn’t want the whole book to be a total bummer. 

Do you have a fear of the future? Is the Orphancorp world a prediction for you?

I would say that I have a fear of the future, yes. Without drastic changes, our way of life will be irrevocably altered in the not-too-distant future. With the willful ignorance and greed of governments and corporations, I don’t see that the kind of changes we need will come to fruition. I have hope that they will, but I mean, for a macro example of this: our government is still pushing coal, in this age of climate change awareness! It baffles me. I believe people have the capacity for change, I am less certain that governments and big business do, and ultimately, they are the ones with our future gripped in their fists. It’s funny, though - even with these dire outlooks, I’m still a really positive person. It’s just that I’m also realistic. I don’t know how prescient the Orphancorp world is, but it does just make sense to me that humans will become commodities in the future - that corporate interests will overwhelm human rights. We already see the first stirrings of this today.

Your work seems conscious about a lot of contemporary issues, diversity, sexuality, capitalism etc, how intentional was this?

Very intentional. I wanted to make books as diverse as the world I see around me. I didn’t want to write an anglo-centric Australia, because it’s just not realistic. Likewise with the queer themes in the books: diverse sexualities are the norm in my world. I just wanted to represent that in fiction. As for the capitalism-gone-mad themes, well, I’ll do anything to jam a little anti-capitalism into my stories. Perhaps I’m preaching to the converted, but I want to draw attention to the terror and sheer absurdity of late capitalism.

Did you always see Mirii’s story as a trilogy?

I always had three places in mind for her to be, so I’m glad I got to explore those. I honestly didn’t know what I was going to do with the first novella in the beginning, so the fact that I’ve been able to continue Mirii’s story has been such a treat. I just hope I did her justice.

It’s been 4 years since Orphancorp was published. How has life changed since you started writing this series?

My life is so incredibly different since Orphancorp came out. I now have a little writing career. Before Orphancorp I was pretty dissatisfied with my workaday life, whereas now I get to do something that is fulfilling and makes me really happy. Back then I think I was getting complacent, which is so easy to do when you work 9-5. Now, I’m always challenging myself.

What are you working on next?

I’ve just started a new project. I’d call it ‘retro-speculative’, though perhaps it’s just recent-historical fiction. It deals with small towns, future fear, and small, personal apocalypses. I think it’s YA, but like all my YA stuff, it deals with some mature themes. I recently finished another novella for adults, and that is on submission. I’d describe it as ‘#metoo in space’. 

Can you ever see yourself returning to this world in the future?

I am not sure. I reckon there are hundreds of stories I could tell about the world, but I do feel like my time with Mirii is up. I don’t want to put her through any more than I already have.