Eugenia Triantafyllou is a Greek author and artist with a flair for dark things. Her short fiction has been nominated for the Ignyte, Nebula and World Fantasy Awards, and she is a graduate of Clarion West Writers Workshop. You can find her stories in Uncanny, Apex, Strange Horizons, and other venues. She currently lives in Athens with a boy and a dog. “The Giants of the Violet Sea” is Triantafyllou’s third appearance in Uncanny, a beautifully crafted science fiction mystery set on a hostile alien world.
Uncanny Magazine: I love the worldbuilding in this novella—what were some of your inspirations in creating the fantasy elements? Did you draw on any real-world locations for the setting?
Eugenia Triantafyllou: Being Greek I can say a lot the fantasy elements were extrapolated from Greek culture (past and contemporary) and the country’s landscape.
For example the Eternal Fisherman is a combination of the Orthodox Christian figure of Saint Peter (fisherman, holds the keys to heaven) and a minor sea god from Greek mythology called Phorcys.
The map of this world is in general a reproduction of the Mediterranean Sea, and the Greek coastline with the many small islands. We have the 11th longest coastline in the world, which is quite impressive for such a small country.
The island of Alimnia is modeled on Santorini, which is one of my favorite islands to write about, mostly because it looks so otherworldly.
Uncanny Magazine: What was your favorite part of writing this story? What was the most difficult thing?
Eugenia Triantafyllou: My favorite part was the scene before the funeral procession, when mother and daughter sit on the porch and have a moment of connection and share some truths and stories between them. It just felt very real and very true to write this scene and I was glad to finally be able to give them this small moment of repose. I am very fond of this scene to this day.
On the other hand, the moments of confrontation were my least favorite. I always find confrontation awkward and, to be honest, unpleasant to write, but in this story, it was required in some scenes. But confrontation can also reveal a lot about what makes a character themselves. Part of our character are the things we don’t like and the things we resist or get angry at. In that regard it has helped me level up my characterization skills.
Uncanny Magazine: The depiction of the mother-daughter relationship is beautifully done. Did you know the arc of their relationship when you started writing, or did it develop through their interactions as you were writing?
Eugenia Triantafyllou: As a writer I am a pantser so I rarely, if ever, have things mapped out or planned. That said the novella began as a flash piece from a Codex contest a few years back. The only thing in that flash, was the daughter’s homecoming (the start of the novella) and her very brief reconciliation with her mother. But it felt unsatisfying as a flash, like this relationship and this world had more to give. After the contest was over I kept only the beginning and started writing their exchange, letting the story take me where it felt like going. That’s when the dead brother appeared at the end of the scene.
I ended up writing around 15k words like this and then I stopped for a couple of years because I lost steam in the middle. I had a vague idea of their reconciliation but no clue how it would happen. Then I saw the Uncanny call for novellas and this gave me a deadline to write the rest of the story. I wrote the other half in ten days, which is a huge feat for a slow writer like me, so maybe the story was already finished in my subconscious and was just waiting for me to open the word document.
So one could say that the relationship arc developed naturally through their every day interactions and the challenges that my subconscious threw at them in each scene.
Uncanny Magazine: If you lived in this world, would you want to be a tamer, a tattoo artist, or neither?
Eugenia Triantafyllou: Probably not a tattoo artist because I wouldn’t be able to handle the dead bodies, even though I write horror and especially body horror quite often.
It would be interesting to become a tamer but judging by my character, I would probably get as involved as Melas and would neglect every human relationship I had.
I think the healthiest choice for me would be to own the tavern by the beach where Themis and Clem meet up. It would give me a chance to be close to the venedolphins but also keep a healthy distance.
Uncanny Magazine: “The Giants of the Violet Sea” is a wonderful blend of mystery and science fiction genres. Do you like to read mysteries? Do you have a favorite?
Eugenia Triantafyllou: I do like to read mysteries! I didn’t know I could write one though, until the premise came to me. I enjoy reading Sarah Pinsker’s stories when it comes to mysteries with a speculative element. They always make me work hard to figure out what’s going to happen next. I hope I managed to do something similar with this story.
My favorite non-spec author of mysteries is Andrea Camilleri and his protagonist Inspector Salvo Montalbano. The series of books take place in an imaginary city in Sicily and the landscape is quite similar to the one in my novella: sea, islands, rocks. There are also a lot of different dishes. Greece has a very similar landscape and gastronomy, which might be why I feel so engaged by the Montalbano stories.
Uncanny Magazine: What are you working on next?
Eugenia Triantafyllou: I am daydreaming about a gothic horror novel and getting excited about it! I hope to move to the next stage of realizing the book in autumn.
Uncanny Magazine: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!
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