There has been a wealth of excellent science fiction by female writers of late. Personally, I love experimental Scifi – and Ann Leckie’s success would suggest other readers do too! Which is good news for Eeleen Lee’s new novel, Liquid Crystal Nightingale, a stylistic political thriller and space opera.

Given the state of the world at the moment, politicians and governments are under greater scrutiny and pressure than ever before. It’s no wonder really that many of us enjoy a good political thriller – though perhaps more fantastical settings allow us to indulge without the narrative hitting too close to home!

Liquid Crystal Nightingale is out now from Rebellion Publishing.

We love genre mash-ups at Breaking the Glass Slipper! Science fiction and political thriller seem to be an in vogue pairing at the moment. Why do you think these genres work so well together?

A political thriller is set against the backdrop of a larger crisis. When the characters inadvertently pull on a thread and all of a sudden their world starts to unravel. And what larger backdrop is there than a science fiction one? Those threads are part of an intricate tapestry. In creating a milieu the world inhabited by the characters becomes a character too, and if a writer ramps up the intensity, the world also becomes an antagonist.

Are there any tropes from political thrillers you wish would be retired, especially in relation to (a lack of) diverse representation?

Sexy Spies: it’s so tiresome because the point of espionage is to be very discreet and blend in with your surroundings. (Note: there are no Sexy Spies in my novel.) Also, on a related trope: Sex Scandal as Compromising Material. It’s also tiresome to read of honey traps and blackmail, it smacks of lazy writing. I’m sure they’re other ways to damage a character’s reputation and creditability.

Liquid Crystal Nightingale by Eeleen Lee (Rebellion Publishing, 2020)

‘Corruption’ and ‘justice’ stand out as themes of your novel. Did you intentionally write a novel with a moral angle? What makes this kind of approach to injustice so powerful?

Justice is about the trust we place in our systems of checks and balances: we hope they work, and work all the time. But corruption erodes that trust and erosion is a slow process but the effects are obvious. So, initially, I didn’t intend for the novel to have any sort of moral angle as I wanted to explore the idea of a space settlement that had seen better days but is going to seed. The moral angle is a fortuitous by-product of this exploration and I’m so glad you found it to be powerful because it means it grew organically out of the world-building. 

Your protagonist, in many ways, conforms to traditional tropes of the hero’s journey, with the young person looking to move away from home and go on an adventure. What was the inspiration for this? Do you think there are different considerations for sending a female character on this traditionally male journey?

It’s more compelling and interesting to pick and jettison which elements of the traditional male journey you find useful. Pleo does seek to move away but she’s held back by circumstances beyond her control, so it’s not exactly a case of Luke Skywalker getting away from Tattooine or Rey from Jakku. And unlike those two Star Wars characters, Pleo has no mentor or sidekicks. Halfway through she realises she has to be her own mentor and calvary, and in some way, antagonist, in order to survive and continue playing the long game. 

Why should we read Liquid Crystal Nightingale? Pitch us the book!

Murano glass is made in Venice, some of which is inlaid with multicoloured threads in patterns.  The threads in my novel are: geology, gemmology, noir and thriller. 

I’d pitch it as space opera with murder, gems and dance.

Eeleen Lee

Eeleen Lee was born in London, UK  but has roots in Malaysia. After graduating from Royal Holloway College she several years as a lecturer and a copywriter until she took the leap into writing. As a result, her fiction since has appeared in various magazines and anthologies in the U.K, Australia, Singapore and Malaysia, such as Asian Monsters from Fox Spirit Books, and Amok: An Anthology of Asia-Pacific Speculative Fiction. When she is not writing she can be found editing fiction and nonfiction, being an armchair gemmologist, and tweeting at odd hours.