Few writers are as qualified to set their book in a circus as Khan Wong, who has not only performed in a circus but is an internationally recognized hula hoop virtuoso.
While Wong’s descriptions of acrobats, clowns and fortunetellers are grounded in real life, the pleasure moon that is the setting of his debut novel, The Circus Infinite (Angry Robot, 2022) arises entirely from his formidable imagination.
Persephone-9 is a Las Vegas-like destination for members of the 9-Star Congress of Conscious Worlds, an alliance of nine species that includes humans. Into this diverse and raucous setting comes Jes, a young man with the unique power to manipulate gravity. A self-described asexual panromantic, Jes is on the run from a sadistic researcher who has tortured him in the name of science. And yet just as Jes starts to find love and acceptance in the circus, he confronts a new nemesis: a blackmailing crime boss who seeks to exploit his psionic abilities.
Writing an asexual character “was liberating,” Wong says. “I myself have come to realize my own identity as being on the asexual spectrum later in life. When I was younger, I didn't have the vocabulary. And certainly there was no Internet to find community about it
growing up. ... But I always found myself kind of uncomfortable in hypersexualized spaces and never really understood why.”
“Also, I was fascinated by the idea of an asexual empath in a hypersexualized location like a pleasure moon. A lot of people are there to party and to get laid and to indulge their kinks and whatever. The book doesn't go super into explicit detail on that front—it's not erotica. But I was fascinated by a character who had empathic abilities, who could sense these feelings from other people but didn't really experience them naturally himself.”
As an internationally known hula hoop teacher and performer, Khan Wong has toured with a circus, taught workshops all over the world, and produced circus arts shows in San Francisco. He’s worked in the nonprofit arts for many years, most recently as an arts funder for a public sector grantmaking agency. The Circus Infinite is his first novel.
Rob Wolf is a writer and co-host of New Books in Science Fiction.