Welcome to “Ryka’s Most Excellent World"
Hi! My name is Ryka Aoki, and welcome to “Ryka’s Most Excellent World.”
First, just a bit about me. I’m a writer, and I've published poems, stories, essays—mostly in small presses and queer presses. Up until now, writing has been an excellent ride—I’ve barnstormed across the country in fishnets and platforms, eaten all sorts of country-fried and chicken-fried steaks, visited Emily Dickinson’s house, even worked in a dungeon to pay for a new alternator.
To be honest, though, I wasn’t sure of my next career move. Although I wanted to reach a broader audience with my next book, and had spent a lot of time writing and researching, inspiration can lead to unforeseen directions. And when this inspiration led to a mix of “Faust,” “Amadeus” and “Galaxy Quest”— it did not seem like the surefire formula to break into mainstream publishing.
Oh, and the whole thing was queer and transgender and Asian.
But somehow* my latest novel, Light From Uncommon Stars, will be out in just three weeks, Sept 28 from Tor/Macmillan.
Preorder Light From Uncommon Stars here. And you can even get a "Take Up Space!" pin!
The pre-release reviews for Light From Uncommon Stars have been kind of overwhelming. Kirkus Reviews gave it a star and wrote: “Musicians selling their souls to hell shouldn’t fit in the same story as alien doughnut makers building a stargate, but somehow all these elements combine to create something wild and beautiful.”
And a reader on Goodreads wrote, “The disparate elements—music, space aliens, devilish bargains, ordinary (and not-so-ordinary) immigrant and trans experience—shouldn't work together as well as they do… Yet Ryka Aoki has accomplished something profoundly difficult with skill, heart, and daring...”
Photo by Daniel Cheung on Unsplash
Growing up in an Asian household, I'm just not used to hearing this sort of stuff! So grateful, so humbled... Ack! So many feelings—
As I read reviews for Light From Uncommon Stars, I also notice how many have emphasized its improbabilities, its idiosyncrasies. And, although I love being credited for writing something sparkly and different and fresh—
When really we break it down, what story isn’t a little idiosyncratic?
In fact, it’s our most iconic works that so often contain the really, really weird stuff. Think about the gravedigger in Hamlet. Einstein’s concept of time. The ending of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."
Think about the original Star Wars. Force ghosts, sentient robots, interspecies love... There's alien jazz in a spaghetti-western cantina, samurai honor, green milk. It’s just weird.
And then there are those creepy trash compactors…
And I think that says a lot about who we are in our world. Who among us isn’t just a little mashed up? Who hasn’t been difficult? I’ve never met anyone who wasn’t chock-full of wonderful differences and contradictions. Sure, sometimes our quirks are pushed away, ignored, even forgotten. Sometimes, when we try to talk about them, they are brushed off as trivial or unimportant—it’s not the best feeling, is it?
And yet, haven’t we all managed to witness—or even create—the profound and wild and beautiful?
Idaho potatoes really are that good!**
In “Ryka’s Most Excellent World,” I hope to discuss a world where our seeming incongruities provide the most beautiful and radiant moments of harmony and inclusion. I’ve been a professor, poet, novelist, chemist, musician, writer, athlete, as well as a few other things. I’ve lived as queer, as POC, as Christian, as Buddhist, as transgender, as woman, as well as a few other things.
But rather than feeling torn or divided, what I have learned (and continue to learn) is the wonder of seeing relations and patterns in the world around me. Whether in a scientific, causal way, or in a poetic, figurative way…connections have been sources of inspiration, affirmation, and delight.
In “Ryka’s Most Excellent World,” we'll explore topics that might seem random, even contradictory, to uncover insights and relations that may be hidden in plain view. We’ll talk lipstick chemistry and neodymium magnets, and ichthyosaurs and Chopin’s rubato (and that aggro part in his "Tristesse")—not all at once, of course, but just enough to enjoy with a donut and a cup of coffee.
Icelandic bacon is good bacon.
Sometimes we’ll play with physics or calculus, sometimes music or poetry. Sometimes we’ll talk queer stuff or food stuff (a lot of food stuff). And there’s trombones and chemistry and miso soup and MMA and glitter eyeliner from Japan. I’m a terrible bowler, but I'm sure we'll talk about bowling, anyway.
What might the Stonewall riots teach Tesla investors? What does winning judo have to do with transgender shoes? How might a Scarlet Kingsnake help us better understand weaponized pickup trucks and overactive subwoofers? And why is the perfect macaroni potato salad so—imperfect?
In each essay, I hope to share a connection to savor and celebrate. I hope that doing so can bring you a little inspiration, a little wonder.
Maybe even a little delight.
NEXT WEEK: Anthropic principles, ping-pong balls, and a very ridiculous universe!
*thanks to my amazing agent Meredith Kaffel Simonoff, and my amazing editor at Tor, Lindsey Hall.
**any uncredited pictures are mine :)
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