SFX|May 2021
The American writer talks about living in opposition to the status quo
Jonathan Wright

WHY DO AUTHORS WRITE SPECULATIVE fiction? One reason is aesthetic, a sense of being drawn towards fantastical worlds, places that are an escape from day-to-day reality. As Rivers Solomon puts it, “There is that delicious childish impulse to want to live in another world, one with more magic, more novelty”.

In Solomon’s extraordinary new novel Sorrowland, this involves crafting a world that has a distinctly – and distinctive – gothic quality, and something of the quality of a fairy tale. “I wanted something that felt dark, tense, and full of energy but with all the lushness and richness of a period drama,” fae (Solomon’s preferred pronoun) says.

At its heart lies Vern, an albino teenager from a Black family who flees a cultish religious community, Cainland, to live in the woods. On one level “she’s simply a young girl who ran away”, but she’s also a tough cookie, an outsider and a survivor. “I wanted to lean into her difference,” says Solomon. “I’m very fond of extraordinary heroines, partly because of wish fulfillment, but also because I think everyone has it in them to be a heroine at one point or another, if they’re set up for it, if the fates allow it.”

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