The All-Consuming World is a queer science fiction novel about a splintered group of mercenaries trying to unravel what went so wrong on a job decades ago. But it’s also about the cost of functional immortality and surviving an abusive relationship. The balance between heart-wrenching prose and awesome action set pieces with sci fi tech sprinkled throughout is impeccable Several weeks before its release, I’m thrilled to feature author Cassandra Khaw to talk about the craft behind this multi-layered work and what you can look forward to reading next.
The novel comes out September 7th, 2021.
Crafting The All-Consuming World
What came first: the characters, the world-building, the themes or something else?
The world, weirdly enough. Specifically, the Minds. The All-Consuming World was originally meant to be a tie-in novella so I knew going in what the Minds were like, and kind of built a universe around that.
How much did you know about this cast of mercenaries going in?
Not much at all. They showed up, one after another, as I sat down and went, ‘okay, who do we need?’ Even Maya was a stranger when she first showed up in the narrative. I knew she was a badass, someone who punched first and never asked questions later. But it wasn’t until a little later that I learned more about our feral friend.
What kind of research, if any, did you do for this novel?
Hah, not terribly much. I invented most of this. I get to decide how the science works.
Are there any differences in your process between writing shorter fiction and a novel? Did any pieces stay the same? Did anything surprise you?
Generally, I don’t really plot out anything when I write because the story finds me and hits me over the head, and I let it live to be the length it needs to be. But I learned really quickly I absolutely cannot do that with a novel. (I know some people who can but I am not one of them.) With novels, I discover I really like mapping out the individual scenes and I guess that surprised me? I always was of the belief I wouldn’t be able to write the thing if I knew where it was going to go. But The All-Consuming World showed me different.
Did you have a favorite scene or moment to write?
Maya meets up with the former partner of a member of the Dirty Dozen, and it’s a bittersweet scene. Maya, who has never had a quiet moment in her life, gets to sit with someone who built her life around being calm, about loving, about letting love move her through the world.
Is The All-Consuming World your first novel?
Food of the Gods, in a normal world, is my first novel but technically, The All-Consuming World is. I know, I know. Complicated.
What are you working on now?
I have a haunted house tale that is coming out in October called Nothing But Blackened Teeth! A group of friends decide this Heian-style mansion haunted by a ghost bride and girl corpses is the perfect wedding venue. And I’m co-writing with Richard Kadrey the first of the Carrion City books that I’m really excited about!
Once the book hangover wears off, what do you recommend we read next?
I I think I’m supposed to tell you to read a book of mine, but people seem really keen on These Deathless Bones, a short that I have on tordotcom. I’d recommend you read that! Unless you’re looking for things I didn’t personally write in which case I demand, I just demand that you read Kathleen Jennings’ Travelogues, which is such an incredible experiment of capturing fleeting beauty glimpsed during train rides.
Cassandra Khaw is an award-winning game writer, whose fiction work has been nominated for several awards. You can find their fiction in places like F&SF, Year’s Best of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and Tor.com. Their next book Nothing But Blackened Teeth is coming out in 2021.
They can be found on Twitter mostly! twitter.com/casskhaw