7 Minutes in Book Heaven with Dr. Nyri Bakkalian and Confluence: A Person Shaped Story

Welcome to our LGBT podcast 7 Minutes in Book Heaven – presented to you by This Queer Book Saved My Life!

In this short podcast, we spend 7 minutes in our virtual studio interviewing LGBTQ authors about their new and upcoming books for us to love and cuddle up with.

Today, we meet Dr. Nyri Bakkalian. Her new book is Confluence: A Person Shaped Story. What’s it about? It is a novel set in Japan’s Northern Tohoku region in a cyberpunk world. It’s about a trans-lesbian couple. An Armenian-American combat specialized cyborg and her Japanese cyberneticist spouse Isawa Kasu. Their intense loyalty to each other carries them through a fight against long odds and systemic injustice.

Purchase today at Balance of Seven. For international sales visit Sapphic Sweets and Reads.

Follow Nyri!
@riversidewings on itch.ioTwitterTwitchPatreonMastodon, Countersocial, and Tumblr.

 

TRANSCRIPT

[theme music]

 

J.P. Der Boghossian

Why hello everybody my name is J.P. Der Boghossian and for our new listeners to this podcast we have a new episode of This Queer Book Saved My Life! that drops next week! But today, we welcome you to 7 Minutes in Book Heaven where I interview Queer authors about the new books they have coming out for us to love and to cuddle up with. With me today is Nyri Bakkalian. Hello!

 

Dr. Nyri Bakkalian

Hello! Good to be here.

 

J.P. Der Boghossian

Thank you for being here! So per the rules of the game Nyri and I are going to spend exactly 7 minutes in this virtual studio talking about her new book Confluence: A Person Shaped Story. And also getting to know more about the amazing historian human and writer that is Dr. Nyri Bakkalian. Are you ready?

 

Dr. Nyri Bakkalian

I’m ready.

 

J.P. Der Boghossian

Okay I will set the timer and here we are. Question number 1 would you please describe Confluence: A Person Shaped Story as if you’re sharing it with your celebrity crush and telling us who that crush is of course.

 

Dr. Nyri Bakkalian

Okay, so Ashley Burch who voiced Chloe Price in Life is Strange.

 

J.P. Der Boghossian

[laughs] Love it!

 

Dr. Nyri Bakkalian

So, um, hi Ashley nice to meet you. So, Confluence is a book set in Japan’s Northern Tohoku region in a cyberpunk world. It’s about a trans-lesbian couple. An Armenian-American combat specialized cyborg. The term in the story is “combat doll” named River. She goes, in most of the story she’s referred to as River M59A1, but her original surname is Eginian and her Japanese cyberneticist spouse Isawa Kasu and how their intense loyalty to each other carries them through a fight against long odds and systemic injustice. They’re wife and wife, but are also in a service dynamic, having sworn an oath to each other which posits Kasu as wielder and River as blade. The term “doll” is used in this story as a shorthand for cybernetic beings be they transhuman or artificial intelligences because the Japanese word for Doll, Ning yol, is written person shape. Thus the book’s subtitle: A Person Shaped Story. Because of a friended in need named Yui, they learned that there is an entire community of dolls in need, whose bodies are made by the defunct Nogami corporation. The government’s basically washed its hand of any obligation to aid them. And there are forces at work beyond their understanding that are keeping things that way. River and Kasu learn that you can’t solve every problem by being a cruise missile that kills a mosquito or throwing money at it and making it go away. This is a similar character arc to that of Chloe Parker Stanton, the deuteragonist from my debut novel Gray Dawn.

And as ever I promise a happy ending as I put it in my debut novel wholeness scars and all. This book began as me screaming into the void trying to imagine new ways of putting my brokenness together after trauma. And new ways of making my Armenian identity a more harmonious part of who I am, rather than something I’m dragging around behind me. As a queer polytheist polyamorous Armenian I often feel like I don’t have a place, but writing this book in which I quote Armenian and Japanese literature (and in which one of my own ancestors even appears in a cameo) has helped me figure that out. The legend of the god Vahakan humbling the king of Assyria stealing his straw and planting the stars in his flight home is an important touchstone in the story. And so in short, to me to be Armenian is to be an inheritor to a spirit of defiance that humbles empires and plants the stars themselves.

 

J.P. Der Boghossian

Oh my God! I cannot wait to read this story! Okay um, got to keep going. Question number 2. What’s a sentence from a novel essay poem or other book that every time you read it, it gives you all the feels?

 

Dr. Nyri Bakkalian

Ah, so one of my favorite quotes by educator Abolitionist and soldier Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, “Indeed in the hour of sorrow and disaster, do we not all belong to each other?”

 

J.P. Der Boghossian

Ooooh. Yeah. That’s a good one. That’s a good one. I mean not that you need my validation, but it’s given me the feels. So, okay, question number 3. What do you feel is the best sentence you’ve ever written.

 

Dr. Nyri Bakkalian

So right now I’m partial to a line from Path of the Straw Thief which is an English translation of [speaks Armenian] which is Armenian word for The Milky Way. This is my work in progress sequel to Confluence. “From the outset I want to tell you that between both of your mother’s roots, you’re heir to a lot of brave souls. People who stood up in the face of death, war, and genocide and fought back because it was the right thing to do.”

 

J.P. Der Boghossian

Yep, yep, yeah, that’s a good one. I like that.

 

Dr. Nyri Bakkalian

Thank you! Thank you.

 

J.P. Der Boghossian

Okay, question number 4. What’s the best romantic scene you’ve ever read?

 

Dr. Nyri Bakkalian

So that would be in Gibran Khalil Gibran’s “Peace” which was in Tears and Laughter. I read it when I was 14. And if you change the pronouns in the closing sentence, as I will in quoting it, it’s actually a really good one sentence distillation of my work as a fiction author.

 

“After a long and comforting silence, the soldier looked to the east and said to her sweetheart, ‘look at the darkness, giving birth to the sun.’”

 

J.P. Der Boghossian

[sighs] You’ve got me all thinking and feeling over here. But, we need to keep going even though I want to talk about that. Okay, question 5. What are your favorite scents or smells to write about?

 

Dr. Nyri Bakkalian

Coffee.

 

J.P. Der Boghossian

Love it! Like Armenian coffee or…

 

Dr. Nyri Bakkalian

Um, really any coffee, but Armenian coffee actually will appear in Confluence. You’ll see.

 

J.P. Der Boghossian

Good, good, good, good. Question 6. What’s the worst writing advice you’ve ever got.

 

Dr. Nyri Bakkalian

That if I ever want to get better at writing fiction, I need to read a lot of contemporary fiction. I burned out on reading in grad school, and I’ve had to work very hard to reclaim an ability to read for pleasure. And I tend to prioritize reading stuff that’s Queer. As you might imagine most of what people recommend to me is not Queer. It really is annoying to have yeah to just constantly be told, “oh you should read this,” “oh, you should read this” and like I’ve made it a cut, I made it a custom of just automatically saying, “Okay, obligatory first question. Is it Queer?” Usually people say no, to which I say thank you very much. I’m going to move on now. You know? But something like Shannon McGuire’s Wayward Children series is a really good example of something that I did read and actually like I devoured several volumes in a matter of days because it was Queer. Yeah, and the kinds of stories that I tell that are trans lesbian, military sci-fi aren’t really represented too much, so I feel like I’m more interested in writing the representation rather than endlessly searching for it. I have read a lot in English, Japanese, and Western Armenian, but you know I read nonfiction more than I read fiction.

 

Anyone who’s read my novels can tell you I have a works cited and recommended reading section in the back.

 

J.P. Der Boghossian

We’ve got 4 seconds left! I guess we’ll go a little bit over. Question 7. How do we order your book? How do we follow you on social?

 

Dr. Nyri Bakkalian

Okay, balanceofseven.com. Balance of Seven is where you can order the book direct from the press. Sapphic Sweets and Reads, two friends of mine in Wichita Kansas are doing international sales of the paperback. The ebook is available through itch.io as well as through um, Amazon. And you can follow me at itch.io, Twitter, Twitch, Patreon, Mastodon, Countersocial, and Tumblr: @riversidewings.

 

J.P. Der Boghossian

And that’s all the time that we have. Thank you so much Nyri!

 

Dr. Nyri Bakkalian

Thank you for having me!

 

J.P. Der Boghossian

So this has been another episode of 7 Minutes, and a few extra seconds, In Book Heaven which is a partner podcast to This Queer Book Saved My Life! Transcripts of all of our episodes are available on thisqueerbook.com. We are on Facebook, plus we’re @thisqueerbook on Twitter, for as long as Twitter exists, and also Instagram. My name is J.P. Der Boghossian and stay tuned to this space every Tuesday for new episodes of 7 Minutes In Book Heaven or This Queer Book Saved My Life! Until then, see you queer and allies in the bookstores!