Year’s Best 2012: Nina Allan on “The Silver Wind”

An interview by Erin Stocks

“The Silver Wind” by Nina Allan will be appearing in Prime’s forthcoming Year’s Best Science Fiction and Fantasy: 2012 edited by Rich Horton. Pre-order here!

In the art of measuring time, there are multiple types of tourbillons, but not yet one that changes time (that we know of, barring any conspiracy like in “The Silver Wind”!) Will you tell us what inspired you to take such a delicate instrument and turn it into a time-travel story with post-apocalyptic notes?

One of the main inspirations behind this story was H. G. Wells’s novel The Time Machine, which was my first ever literary encounter with science fiction and remains a treasured book to this day. I especially love the opening section of the story, where Wells’s Time Traveler first demonstrates his prototype time machine. Stepping sideways a little from this, I began thinking about mechanical watches, how these too are quite literally ‘time machines’, the best of them every bit as cunningly made as the Time Traveler’s beautiful prototype. I became fairly obsessed with custom-made watches while I was writing ‘The Silver Wind’, and more especially by the various complications introduced by the master horologists as virtuoso demonstrations of their art. I started wondering what might happen if some genius watchmaker invented a complication that did not just measure time but changed it, and so Owen Andrews and the Silver Wind of the title were born.

Many of your short stories are set in London. What does London hold that makes it such a fruitful setting for you?

I was born in London, and I feel an enormous emotional attachment to that city. People often talk about the lonely anonymity of the big city, but for me London has always been a warm place, a place of sanctuary, the place where I feel most at home. I am inspired by London because of its variousness, its creativity, its independent spirit. London presents an infinity of ideas, of histories, of stories. It has room for everybody, and everything. I find it impossible to walk around London without wanting to write about it, and whenever I do that I come back to the feeling that it’s a place where anything could happen. I never grow tired of it.

This is the second story where you’ve written of Martin and his adventures. Are you planning to share with the reader more of his life? Perhaps, if he ever meets up again with Owen Andrews?

‘The Silver Wind’ is actually one of four ‘Martin’ stories, which can now be read together as a collection, also entitled The Silver Wind, published by Eibonvale Press in 2011 (ISBN 9781908125057). Martin features in all four stories, but he might not always be the same Martin, and the roles played by those around him are different in each story. Owen Andrews does indeed reappear – and he turns up again in a novella that I originally intended to be a part of the collection but in the end did not include for reasons of length. I hope to redraft it and publish it separately at some later date. I am very fond of these characters and enjoy spending time with them!