an interview with Darcie Little Badger
Darcie Little Badger is a Lipan Apache scientist, writer, and friendly goth. After studying gene expression in toxin-producing phytoplankton, she received a Ph.D. from Texas A&M University. Her short fiction has appeared in several publications, including Strange Horizons and Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time, an anthology of speculative fiction by indigenous writers. Darcie tweets as @ShiningComic. For her complete bibliography, visit darcielittlebadger.wordpress.com/my-short-stories.
CICADA: Even in the face of death, the Apparently Siblings still take time for witty banter—how can a sense of humor (even dark humor) help keep you buoyed in dark times?
DARCIE LITTLE BADGER: Laughter may not scare away all the evil and sorrow in our world, but people are more than the weight of struggles. Humor can be a vital method of self-care. You and I deserve a chance to be happy, even if that means a dash of gallows humor. It feels good to smile (or make other people smile); even a spark of joy goes a long way when life is hard. It’s like a glass of cool water in the desert.
CIC: What made metal the natural choice for the Apparently Sibs’ music genre?
DLB: Good metal embodies the indomitable human spirit. It’s an anthem of bravery, defiance, and screaming strength. When metal plays, you’re ALL-CAPS TRIUMPHANT. By the way, this applies to virtually any situation. Stuck in a traffic jam? Turn up the music and BRING IT! Doing homework? YEAH! YOU’RE AWESOME! SOLVE THAT QUADRATIC EQUATION! Descending into the underworld to defeat an apocalyptic threat? YOUR SOUNDTRACK IS EXTRA METAL, BUDDY! The Apparently Siblings aren’t just survivors; they survive and flourish, despite overwhelming odds. To quote a poem by Dylan Thomas, they “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” The music they create reflects that quality.
Now, the Plague Eater definitely appreciates the bold, creative quality of Apache/Navajo neoclassical alt-metal fusion. Plus, the void Below has terrible acoustics, so music has to be loud enough to rattle teeth, or it doesn’t carry very well.
CIC: Can you talk a little bit about the relationship between the colors black and white in this story?
DLB: The seed that inspired “Black, Their Regalia” was an observation about color. I’m the kind of goth who drapes myself in black. Consequently, my closet looks like it’s full of fabric shadows. One day, while I was getting dressed, I realized that my bright blue, pink, and holo-rainbow Pow Wow regalia was completely out of place among my daily wardrobe. I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun to write about righteous dancers with black regalia? Yessss.”
In Lipan Apache culture, black is not associated with death and mourning. As such, I avoid linking black with death in my story. Rather, it’s a powerful color, one that unites the Apparently Siblings with each other and the awesome forces from Below (it’s the Plague Eater’s favorite color, for turkey vulture–related reasons).
Alternatively, the memorial pillar, the quarantine compound, and the tragic train are all bleached bone white. That’s definitely intentional symbolism. By the way, as an oceanographer and horror fan, I love that the White Cliffs of Dover (and many other calcareous sedimentary formations) are made of prehistoric plankton “skeletons.” Scary!
CIC: What is most exciting in the SF/F world to you right now?
DLB: The surge of Indigenous futurism art, particularly new fiction by Native writers, is thrilling. The term “Indigenous futurisms” was coined by Grace Dillon to describe a speculative body of work that is entwined with Indigenous experiences. To me, that’s crucial. Growing up, I rarely encountered Apache characters in books or short stories (except for Westerns or historical fiction; if I never think about the slur-named villain of Tom Sawyer again, it’ll be too soon). I felt invisible, particularly when I read mainstream science fiction that erased people like me. Colonization did not succeed; Native Americans survived the 1800s, and we will have a brilliant future. Indigenous futurism recognizes and celebrates our persistence. I love it! Give me Native space pilots and Apache cyborg detectives!
On the SF/F magazine front: FIYAH, which publishes Black SF/F stories and poetry, just released its first issues. I’m excited to read more from the magazine with a mission “to spill tea and throw shade in the most delightful way.”
CIC: Are there any other writers or artists who are inspiring you right now?
DLB: I’ll name three, in honor of the Apparently Siblings trio. Starting with music (which seems fitting), I’m inspired by Frank Waln, a Sicangu Lakota producer and hip hop artist. Waln uses art to fight injustice; for example, he recently released the song “Treaties,” a response to centuries of broken promises between the U.S. government and Indigenous nations.
There’s Jeffrey Veregge, an artist from the Port Gamble S’Klallam Tribe; he’s well known for his work in comics (though my favorite Veregge art is the gorgeous love-in-space cover for the Indigenous SF anthology Love Beyond Body, Space, and Time). His art radiates brightness and hope; it’s a flame of optimism that I
carry with me.
Speaking of comics, Elizabeth LaPensée (Anishinaabe, Métis, and Irish) is, among many other things, a comic writer and game developer with a Ph.D. Her push for Indigenous artistic self-determination is crucial. I also admire her dedication to teaching. LaPensée empowers students with skills to create their own art, and that’s world-changing.
CIC: If you could be the protagonist of a SF/F story, what sort of character would you be?
DLB: Here’s a summary of my ideal role in a SF/F story:
It’s midnight. My cell phone rings. Unknown number!? Who could it be? Nobody calls me. I have just three names in my contact list, and two of those are my parents. I answer the phone, curious.
“Is this Dr. Darcie Little Badger, the oceanographer and writer?” asks a mysterious voice.
“Yes. How can I help you?”
“I’m with NASA. We . . . we need your expertise.”
“Well, I know three things really well: phytoplankton genetics, badgers, and weird stuff.”
“Good. Dr. Darcie, we have discovered aliens. They’re planktonic!”
“Also, you have superpowers.”
“Really, whatever is convenient.”
“Excellent. You can count on me.”
So I study alien plankton, fight crime, and add NASA to my phone contact list.