A few years ago, there was a call for Sword and Sonnet, a fiction anthology about women and nonbinary battle poets. I was really taken with this idea, in part because I already had an existing character who fit that mold: Saha. She just needed a new story to go with her. At the same time, I also wanted to try writing a story with a water creature in it, and that is where the Visayan kataw comes in. I took some liberties, of course, but I hope the core of what makes a kataw a kataw remains the same.
“Voices in the Air” is part fantasy and (a very small) part detective story, but ultimately, it is a story about grief. I found it interesting to follow Saha and Tila in the aftermath of burning down the palace and Maragat. Neither woman is a stranger to grief, but Tila is better at expressing it. Saha is adamantly opposed to doing that—indeed, she may not even know how (and finding out how to do that is a different story altogether, one that I am currently writing). The point here was getting Saha into a place of (rather tenuous) acceptance.
The point of view I originally took on for this story, a close third person, gave me a lot of trouble. Indeed, when this story eventually got rejected for the anthology, one of the comments was “the voice didn’t work for me.” This was when I learned that that energy Saha had when I wrote her in “Song of the Mango” was still going strong—every story that’s written about her needs to be told by her. Certainly, when I changed the POV to first person, the story seemed to flow better. I think Saha, who has many of my more negative character traits, has become a vehicle of shadow work for me.
This story was eventually accepted for Common Bonds: A Speculative Aromantic Anthology. I have yet to say it explicitly in a story from the world of the Nine Thousand Isles and I keep getting told otherwise, so I will dispel any misconceptions now: Saha is an aromantic asexual. It’s important to me that she be read as such. I didn’t think this story should have been about grappling with that identity because Saha isn’t grappling with it—she knows who she is and what she wants or doesn’t want.