Uncanny Magazine Author Interview: Jim C. Hines

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    uncanny-magazine-issue-9-cover-400x600Weightless Books interviews Jim C. Hines, author of twelve fantasy novels and blogger about topics ranging from sexism and harassment to zombie-themed Christmas carols.

    Q: In a break from your novel-writing, you took some time to write an insightful essay about racism in science fiction and fantasy for Uncanny Magazine. Your starting point in the essay was the November 2015 decision that the World Fantasy Awards would no longer use a statue of H.P. Lovecraft as a trophy. Have you ever had to explain racism in SF/F to a child?

    Hines: I’ve had conversations about racism with children before – most notably my own children – but it wasn’t specific to SF/F. It’s a challenging conversation, and depends a lot on the age and experiences of the child. My son has a very straightforward view that “treating people differently because of their skin color is dumb.” But then the question becomes how to talk about the historical and systemic roots of racism, the power structures that perpetuate it, the less obvious ways it plays out in day to day life, and so on.

    So we talk about power and greed and fear. We talk about cultural misunderstandings and miscommunications. (We’ve been reading Janet Kagan’s Hellspark, which is a great book for discussing culture and taboo and miscommunication.) We talk about how things that happened decades or centuries ago still have a very real impact on people today, whether it’s housing segregation or the United States’ attempts to wipe out Native Americans.

    Q: In the Uncanny essay, you ask “When we think about ‘prevailing attitudes on race,’ are we limiting our thinking to the prevailing attitudes of white people?” Why do you think this concept of “prevailing attitudes” has been allowed to persist for so long, and what can people do to rewrite the narrative?

    Hines: History is shaped by those in power. Here in the U.S., that means our history has been taught through a dominantly white lens. While there are exceptions, we generally learn to focus on white figures and white voices, to the exclusion of other perspectives and attitudes.

    As a white man in 2016, I think one of the most important things is to recognize those omissions in my own education and understanding, and to actively seek out other voices to start to fill those gaps.

    Q: Your books and short stories are filled with protagonists and villains who are strong, smart, and funny regardless of their race, gender, or sexual identity. When did you first notice the gap between the portrayal of male protagonists versus female ones in the work of other authors?

    Hines: Thank you. I don’t think there was a particular time or date when awareness switched on in my brain. Even today there are books I’ll read where someone else later calls out instances of sexism or racism or other problems that I completely missed in my own reading.

    It’s something I try to be aware of, because when you’re flooded with representation in stories, it’s so easy not to notice when others aren’t. It’s an ongoing process, one that for me, required conscious effort.

    It also helps a lot if you actively try to broaden the stories and authors you read. The more you read books that do a good job of portraying a range of well-written female characters, for example, the more it stands out when other stories fail to do so.

    Q: Wealth and rights disparities can be a key component of science fiction and fantasy storylines nowadays. How do you think the future will judge those story lines and their authors?

    Hines: That depends on the future, and whether we end up in the Darkest Timeline.

    Realistically, the future will probably be as contentious as the present, with just as wide a range of opinions. I suspect people will look at our literature in the context of our times, just as we do to past works. And just as in previous eras, there will be areas where we fall short, where our own prejudices and assumptions shine through in our stories.

    My hope is that the future judges authors and our stories honestly. Recognize the good without ignoring the bad.

    Of course, this will all become moot when the ant people invade and put us to work in their vast sugar mines…

    Q: “Rape Resources” isn’t a prominent link most SF/F authors have on their websites, but yours has that. Is it hard for you to move from talking with fans one moment about SF/F and the next about sexual assault resources?

    Hines: Not really, no. Sexual assault issues are really important to me, and have been for more than half my life at this point. Statistically, we have so many people who have been sexually assaulted, and given the scope of the problem, we don’t do a fraction of the work we should be doing to combat that problem, and to support survivors. Posting those resources and writing about rape are small ways I try to change things.

    Most of the time when I’m talking about rape with someone from the SF/F community, it’s either someone who wants to argue about it, or someone who’s been assaulted. The former can be frustrating, but I’ve done enough research and work to be able to present the facts for those willing to listen. The latter can be painful, but I do my best to listen and be supportive. It’s never easy, but it’s important.

    Q: You’ve written more than a dozen novels, and you have a wide fan base that you stay in contact with through the internet, conventions, and other events. How do you keep life in balance?

    Jim C. HinesHines: By falling down a lot. Balance is a daily struggle. Sometimes it depends on my deadlines. If I have a book due, I need to make sure I hit that deadline, which might mean neglecting the internet and not getting as much time with my family as I want. Other times, when I start to feel burnt out, I have to walk away from the writing and play video games with my kids. Going to conventions and chatting with people online can take up a lot of time and energy, but it can also give energy back and help to refuel my excitement about the genre or a particular project.

    Lately, I’ve had to say no to more projects, which is painful. I’ve turned down events and writing opportunities that I’d love to do, but there are only so many hours in the day, and I’ve got to prioritize.

    If anyone ever figures out an easy way to maintain that life balance, please let me know!

    Jim C. Hines is the author of twelve fantasy novels, including the Magic ex Libris series, the Princess series of fairy tale retellings, the humorous Goblin Quest trilogy, and the Fable Legends tie-in Blood of Heroes. He’s an active blogger at www.jimchines.com, and won the 2012 Hugo Award for Best Fan Writer. He lives in mid-Michigan with his family.

    Uncanny Magazine is an online Science Fiction and Fantasy magazine featuring passionate SF/F fiction and poetry, gorgeous prose, provocative nonfiction, and a deep investment in the diverse SF/F culture.  Each issue contains intricate, experimental stories and poems with verve and imagination that elicit strong emotions and challenge beliefs from writers from every conceivable background. Uncanny is available DRM-free from Weightless in single issues and as a 12-month subscription.


    Apex Magazine and Apex Publications Editor Interview: Jason Sizemore

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    apex-magazine-issue-82-coverWeightless Books interviews Jason Sizemore, Editor of Apex Magazine and Managing Editor of Apex Publications.

    Q: In June 2015, you announced that you quit your day job to work on Apex Magazine and Apex Publications full time. From all appearances, that seems to be going quite well, but tell the truth – is your household eating more Ramen noodles as a result?

    Sizemore: In college, I once bought a crate of Ramen noodles at the local Costco. 144 little packets of delight.

    After I ate the last one, I vowed NEVER AGAIN.

    Your question has made me ill with memories!

    Q: Apex Magazine and Apex Publications continue to win awards as do the stories, novels, and collections you publish. Most recently, “This is Horror” named Apex Magazine the fiction magazine of the year and Apex Publication’s Sing Me Your Scars by Damien Angelica Walters as the short story collection of the year. What other awards would you most like to win?

    Sizemore: Although I covet and desire any and all awards, the two that I would most like to win are a Hugo rocket and a Stoker haunted house. Most visitors to my house know squat about literary awards, but when you have a big silver rocket or an awesome scary house on your mantle, those will draw notice.

    I would love to see Sing Me Your Scars win an award. Damien Angelica Walters’ fiction is widely respected and liked, and I think she is deserving of the recognition.

    Q: In August 2015, you published For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher, your collection of semi-true and sometimes humorous essays about how you became the Apex Overlord. Six of the 13 chapters contain eyewitness rebuttals of your statements, and one chapter includes a separate fact-check. Are you a forgiving Overlord, or will those who disagree with you learn the errors of their ways?

    Sizemore: Forgiving? Not at all. I remember every slight and askew glance cast my direction!

    That said, I do recognize that my perception of events is open to interpretation. Those I wrote about the most—Maurice Broaddus, Sara M. Harvey, and Monica Valentinelli (to name a few)—I felt it only fair to give them an opportunity to have their side of the tale be told. Do I agree with their versions? Mostly, no.

    Q: In February 2016, you kickstarted Upside Down: Inverted Tropes in Storytelling Anthology. Congratulations on exceeding your funding goal! What can the backers and other readers expect to find in this collection?

    jason sizemoreSizemore: Jaym Gates and Monica Valentinelli are dynamic and hardworking editors. They’re also perfectionists. I think you’ll find Upside Down reflects that attention to quality.

    Here is a free word association I did for Upside Down in preparation for this question: fun, diverse, thoughtful, subversive, Galen Dara art.

    Apex Magazine, a three-time Hugo Award finalist and World Fantasy Award-winning online magazine publishing the best horror and science fiction, is available DRM-free from Weightless in single issues and as a 12-month subscription.

    Raised in the Appalachian hills of southeastern Kentucky, Jason Sizemore is a three-time Hugo Award-nominated editor, a writer, and operates the science fiction, fantasy, and horror press Apex Publications. He is the author of the collection of dark science fiction and horror shorts Irredeemable and the tell-all creative fiction For Exposure: The Life and Times of a Small Press Publisher. He currently lives in Lexington, KY.

    Beneath Ceaseless Skies Author Interview: Walter Dinjos

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    beneath-ceaseless-skies-issue-191-coverWeightless Books interviews Walter Dinjos, author of “The Mama Mmiri” in Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue 190.

    Q: Your story “The Mama Mmiri” revolves around a teenaged boy and a water spirit. Have you ever seen a water spirit or felt like you’ve been in the presence of one?

    Dinjos: Nigerians are a superstitious lot. It’s not uncommon to find a good fraction of us professing the existence of water spirits. When you, however, get down to asking what these spirits really are or look like, you begin to realise that our conviction is rooted in nothing but hearsay and blind faith.

    Some may tell you that the spirits are the same as the regular mermaids you find in fairy tales, some others may claim they are goddesses, and others may say they are female water apparitions—you know, like ghosts, but more powerful. But you have to wonder which one it really is, and if you are anything like me, you must be practical about this.

    It’s rumoured in Nigeria that if you should bend and look behind through your legs in an open market, you would see spirits floating in the midst of the crowd, and you would not survive the sight. I put that rumour to the test once, but here I still am.

    So, no, I have not seen a water spirit, or any spirit at all, but I believe I have felt their presence—in my stories, of course.

    Q: When did you first know you wanted to write?

    Dinjos: I can’t say I knew I wanted to write when I was little, because reading and writing in English didn’t grow on me until 2010. And I’m not a native English speaker (you can understand my apathy as a boy). So, trust me, writing was hard, very hard, for me in the beginning. Now it’s just . . . hard.

    Looking back and considering how tedious the journey has been, I find it funny that I embraced writing to raise money. I needed money to record some songs, and I imagined that writing a book was an easy way to it.

    So I wrote a book, The Prospect, about illegal diamond mining in DR Congo and the forceful extraction of bone marrow from people immune to the dominant strain of HIV by the antagonist’s doctor in an attempt to cure the antagonist of the virus. It took me three months. Piece of cake, I thought—well, until the rejection letters started flying in. Fortunately, I had fallen in love with writing by then, and I couldn’t stop.

    Q: You’ve published short stories and poetry. How do you decide whether something wants to be a short story or a poem?

    Dinjos: It’s actually easy for me, since most of my poems are lyrics from my songs. I can literally sing my poems. If you take a look at my poem “My Maker,” you’d see it’s in song form, with verses and a repeating chorus.

    Sometimes, I fear I’m incapable of writing poetry without a melody in my head, seeing as the few times I attempted writing poetry from scratch I ended up with short stories instead. In fact, “The Mama Mmiri” is one of these stories. I started it, along with my poem “The Diamond Fish,” as a prose poem, but it turned out to be longer than I expected.

    Q: How do your singing and songwriting affect your other writing?

    Dinjos: When writing, I tend to favour lyrical prose, and I think that’s because of my musical side. I can’t begin to tell you how hard I fight the urge to include music in my prose. Sometimes, though, to better understand the emotions my characters feel, I ask myself what kind of song this character would sing when faced with this plight or that plight. If I succeed in writing a song that exudes one character’s emotion at a point in my story, I tend to find that part of the story easier to write. It…just flows.

    Q: What kind of challenges do you face in making time for your writing?

    Dinjos: My writing and my studies at the Writers Bureau England are in sync, and I love that by writing my assignments I produce short stories, poems, and articles that I can submit to magazines. And since these are assignments, I enjoy the privilege of having my tutor look over them before I start making submissions.

    My singing and songwriting are also very helpful. I found that when I’m stuck, singing or writing a song is a nice way to recuperate.

    My day job is the only thorn on my writing life. I work from 7am to 6pm from Monday to Saturday in a place riddled with so much noise—the kind of noise that invades your thoughts. That’s what you get when you are into transportation and logistics in Nigeria, and this makes it difficult for me to think about writing at work.

    When I finally return home, all I want to do is sleep, and that’s what I do, so that when I wake around 10pm, I’m able to give my writing all the attention it deserves until 2am when I go to sleep again.

    Q: Do you have any upcoming projects you’re working on that you can share?

    Walter DinjosDinjos: I do. Most of them are short stories, but one is a novel—A Hundred Lifetimes. The story revolves around reincarnation (trust me, it’s not what you think; so don’t take a second look at the title), a form of teleportation that requires a certain natural ray to be possible, and a society where the coalescence of magic and science has led to the cloning of the human soul.

    Walter Dinjos is Nigerian, and he enjoys singing and songwriting as much as he does writing. In addition to Beneath Ceaseless Skies, his work has been accepted at Space & Time, Stupefying Stories, Literary Hatchet, and others. He is currently exploring means (both scientific and magical) of attaining immortality. You can find him online at www.walterdinjos.com.

    Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a three-time Hugo Award finalist and World Fantasy Award-winning online magazine publishing the best in literary adventure fantasy, is available DRM-free in single issues and as a 12-month subscription.

    Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Author Interview: A.C. Wise

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    Weightless Books interviews A.C. Wise, author of The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again and over one hundred published short stories.

    the-ultra-fabulous-glitter-squadron-saves-the-world-again-coverQ: The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again is a tender presentation of the well-dressed personalities behind some really effective ass-kicking. The sexual orientation of the team members is on a wide spectrum. Why did you choose to tell the story with sexual identity at the forefront?

    Wise: Part of it is the way the stories turned out, who the characters revealed themselves to be as they made it to the page. The other part is the idea that you should write the kind of stories you would want to read. Basically, I want to see stories that reflect the best parts of the world as it is, and that includes the whole spectrum of gender, sexuality, race, background, and so on. There’s a tendency in a lot of mainstream media to focus on a very narrow part of that spectrum as if it represents the entirety of human experience. There are so many stories out there, and I did my best to tell a few of them.

    Q: In a fight against giant squids from outer space, who from the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron would lead the charge?

    Wise: Well, the fight would definitely have to be a team effort, but Bunny would lead the charge. She is the team leader after all, and she does have experience fighting tentacled beasts, though of the underwater variety. The basic idea is the same though, right? Dodge the tentacles and aim for the squishy bits.

    Q: You’ve published over 100 short stories since 2004. What’s changed about your writing or your interests since you started writing?

    Wise: Hopefully my writing has improved since I started off in 2004. I look back on my older stuff, and some of it makes me cringe. Some, I still think is okay. I tend to notice the things that have stayed the same more than what’s changed – it’s hard to see that kind of thing from the inside. But there are certain themes that recur throughout my work over the years. Birds tend to turn up a lot, as do foxes, witches, tattoos, and water. Just at my publication history with Shimmer, four of the five stories feature water in a very prominent role.

    Q: How did your Cthulhu mythos story, “Chasing Sunset,” come to be included in editor Ellen Datlow’s recently-published collection The Monstrous?

    Wise: “Chasing Sunset” was originally written for Whispers from the Abyss, a Lovecraftian anthology from 01 Publishing. In writing the story, I wanted to play with different kinds of monsters, human versus inhuman, and I liked the idea of two horrific mythologies battling it out to see who is the biggest bad of the big bads. When Ellen put out a call to authors she’d previously worked with asking for reprint stories that weren’t the typical depiction of monsters, but were still monstrous, I sent it off hoping it would be a good fit. Luckily, it was!

    Q: How does reading affect your writing?

    Wise: Bits of inspiration are constantly creeping in from the things I read. A stray bit of imagery here, a throw-away line there. Sometimes they spark an immediate idea I can twist around into something new, and sometimes they linger for months or years until I unexpectedly find them in the middle of something I’m writing. In a more direct way, fairy tales and Lovecraftian fiction have provided inspiration for several re-tellings and tales that play with the mythos.

    Q: What are you working on now?

    ACWPortraitWeb_320Wise: I’ve always got a handful of stories on the go in various stages of completion – writing, editing, or just floating around in my head as ideas. (There may be some more Glitter Squadron stories in that last category.) On the editorial side, at Unlikely Story, we’re getting ready to release our first print anthology. Up until now, we’ve been online only. Now we’re dipping a toe into the print world with an anthology of flash fiction about clowns in all their various forms titled Clowns: The Unlikely Coulrophobia remix. We were lucky enough to get some really wonderful stories from some fantastic authors, and we can’t wait to share them with the world!

    A.C. Wise’s fiction has appeared in Clarkesworld, Shimmer, Apex, and The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror 2015, among other places. Her debut collection, The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again was published by Lethe Press in 2015 and is available DRM-free on Weightless Books. In addition to her fiction, she co-edits Unlikely Story, and contributes a monthly Women to Read column to SF Signal. Find her online at www.acwise.net.

    Beneath Ceaseless Skies Author Interview: Bill Powell

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    Andrea Pawley interviews Bill Powell for Weightless Books. Powell’s play “The Punctuality Machine, Or, A Steampunk Libretto” appears in Beneath Ceaseless Skies Issue 173.

    beneath-ceaseless-skies-issue-173-cover-200x266Q: How did “The Punctuality Machine, Or, A Steampunk Libretto” come together? Especially as a supposedly authentic Victorian script for a stage comedy?

    Powell: This is one of those extremely improbable projects where you break down and just write about the weird stuff you know you’ll love yourself, even though there’s no way it’ll actually get published. For this story, those loves include:

    • Time travel disasters, including fighting with your double(s). As a kid, Back to the Future completely messed me up.
    • Crazy comedies like I’ve been writing since high school (a format editors request rather infrequently).
    • The extravagant, amazing language and satire of Gilbert and Sullivan, especially Pirates of Penzance.

    As far as I know, Gilbert and Sullivan never happened to write about time machines and alien invasions — a most regrettable omission. But I had tons of fun trying to tackle these ideas as if I were one of their (much less skillful) contemporaries.

    Q: What’s the first play you remember wanting to write?

    Powell: Alas, I hesitate to inflict any of my juvenilia on the unsuspecting reader, even in summary form. :) But my first big audience for one of my comedy skits was a gym packed for my high school talent show.

    This must have been Election Year 1996, because the title of my skit was “Waiting for Perot,” which perhaps suggests the obscure quality of much of the humor. As I mounted the stage, I had no idea whether this heartless horde in the shadows would get most of the jokes. Comedy is wonderfully and brutally testable – people either laugh, or they most emphatically do not. You face ecstasy or evisceration. In public.

    The first few jokes got modest laughs, but then came a weird, complicated joke . . . and silence.

    A seething silence – I could feel hundreds of people all straining their mental muscles in concert. The question hung high above us all, like the long, long arc of a desperate three-point shot. Would they get it? Would they?

    Then came the explosion. Whoosh!

    They got it. And they got me – I’ve never recovered from the high of making an audience laugh as one. It’s an altered state for us all.

    Q: I understand in college you turned in philosophy essays in the form of plays when your classmates were taking more traditional approaches. Are you the first person in history to do this and get away with it?

    Powell: Ha! Definitely not. The honor of “first play-writing philosophy student” goes to that chap Plato. The Socratic dialogues really are dialogues, sometimes with a whole dinner table of argumentative characters.

    Personally, I stumbled early on into this rich tradition of disputation masquerading as drama, from the zany, high-spirited philosophical “novels” of G. K. Chesterton that I devoured in high school all the way back not only to Plato, at least, but also the delectable satire of his contemporary Aristophanes.

    In fact, I think my first college success at handing in a play instead of a paper was in a class where we’d read an Aristophanes comedy. I simply asked if I could write a modern retelling.

    This was for my “Great Books” seminar, a wonderful experience across all four years where everyone could actually talk about Plato, Homer, and all those names we’d always heard but never read. I suppose the course was already so offbeat that the teacher was comfortable letting me try something cool.

    Best of all, my class did a reading.

    After that, I hustled to write comedies instead of papers whenever I could. Professors, it turned out, were also human beings, at least part-time, and almost all appeared to be even more bored reading normal papers than I was writing them…up to and including my philosophy thesis advisor.

    Besides, comedy isn’t just a blast – it’s a most sensible way to discuss philosophy. People loved seeing these crazy philosophical positions come to life as even crazier characters. It’s one thing to read Descartes nattering on for chapters about how he might not exist; it’s quite another to watch Bob the Cartesian really try to get through his day.

    Q: If you could debate any living or dead comedian, philosopher, or playwright who would it be?  

    Powell: Wow! Are you kidding? All of them! I’d put everyone in a huge school cafeteria and lock the doors until they’d figured everything out.

    Things might get dicey once the grape juice started to ferment.

    Q: You’re a graduate of the the Odyssey Writing Workshop. How has your experience at Odyssey influenced your writing?

    Powell: Every possible good way! I can’t even list them all.

    Odyssey is like you’ve spent your whole life trying to build custom dollhouses, and you think you’re pretty good at it, maybe, and then Jeanne Cavelos walks in and:

    1) Turns your workshop light on (whoa!),

    2) Explains how to use hundreds of specialized carpentry tools, as opposed to your current toolset of a rubber mallet and a crowbar,

    3) Gently deconstructs your current attempts in microscopic, systematic, eviscerating and yet loving detail, illuminating every minute opportunity for improvement,

    4) Teaches you how to analyze and learn from other people’s dollhouses at this same incredible level, and

    5) Introduces you to a network of master carpenters, all of whom are delighted to meet you (even years later) simply because Jeanne chose you as a student.

    Apply to Odyssey. Everything will change.

    Bill PowellQ: Do you have any upcoming projects you’re working on now that you can share?    

    Powell: Sure! I’m writing a comedy novel about a hapless college student who gets trapped in a small, rural Virginia town where everyone is delightfully crazy. This town bears no resemblance whatsoever to the small, rural Virginia town where I happen to live.

    Bill Powell lives in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, where he eats and breathes regularly. He writes fantasy, science fiction, metaphysically problematic author bios, and character-driven stories about driverless cars. His website is http://billpowell.org, and you know what’s awesome? Mutual funds. Seriously! You can retire with a million bucks! How is that not science fiction?

    Beneath Ceaseless Skies, a three-time Hugo Award finalist and World Fantasy Award-winning online magazine publishing the best in literary adventure fantasy, is available for DRM-free purchase from Weightless Books.

    LCRW Guest Editor Interview: Michael J. DeLuca

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    lady-churchills-rosebud-wristlet-no-33-coverAndrea Pawley interviews Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet guest editor Michael J. DeLuca:

    Q: The theme of Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet Issue 33 is humanity’s relationship with the earth. When you became the issue’s guest editor, did you anticipate you’d get story submissions from the likes of Sofia Samatar and Carmen Maria Machado?

    DeLuca: As a matter of fact, I asked them specifically! Along with a handful of others, though those are the only two I solicited whose work appears in the issue. Which is a bit of a cheat, I admit. One of the reasons I love LCRW is how it has been a showcase for new writers. But I felt an imperative to hedge my bets a little, given that it’s a theme issue, and I am not a known brilliant editor like Gavin and Kelly.

    Q: LCRW 33 is filled with female perspectives and a strong undercurrent of feminism. What connections do you see between the two and the future in the age of the anthropocene?

    DeLuca: Insofar as there is feminism in the issue — and there absolutely is, and I’m very happy that’s the case — I take no credit for it. I’m as feminist as I think any financially solvent white cis American male can reasonably be expected to be, which is to say not as much as I’d like to be or should be. Women’s voices have been and are institutionally tuned out and devalued as much by the literary establishment as everywhere else. But I really didn’t have to make much conscious effort in that direction for the issue to come out the way it did. I solicited work from some amazing women, and I tried to make clear in the submission call that I was interested in points of view other than my own. But for whatever reason, an overwhelming proportion of the submissions came from women. And I don’t really have an explanation for it. Do women have a stronger relationship with the earth than men? Creative women in particular? I could speculate fancifully about Gaea and the sacred feminine, but I fear I’d be wading in too deep.

    I’m not a feminist scholar; I’m married to one, but I only manage to osmose so much. What I think I can say is that the future of the anthropocene has to involve a reevaluating and breaking down of traditional narratives of all stripes. And that absolutely must depend upon empowering women to reshape those narratives. The massive, deleterious effect humanity’s trajectory is having on the earth is the direct result of established, patriarchal modes of thought: the capitalist notion of progress, just to name one. And the people best situated to recognize and question those modes of thought are not the people currently situated to benefit from them, but rather the people they hurt: women, minorities, the disenfranchised, the poor.

    Q: If you could make the majority of the world do one thing to benefit the future of the planet, what would it be?

    I’m a little wary of wish-fulfillment: anything I say is going to be something that could never really happen in a million years. But okay, in the name of speculative fiction, I’ll speculate.

    What if everybody, everywhere, tomorrow, stopped using fossil fuels? There’d be enormous fallout. Economic collapse. Just in terms of food distribution — everything’s globalized, my fruit comes from Chile, my walnuts from California. We’d be forced into an incredibly rapid, drastic period of readjustment. Communities would change overnight. A lot of people would starve. A lot of people would have to relearn how to grow their own food. But in the long run — and I don’t think it would be that long, really, a generation let’s say — I think we’d bounce back, and the world would be so much better for it. We’d have learned a lesson. And meanwhile, the whole rest of the world would have bounced back too: forests, watersheds, animal populations, even the ocean.

    But can I actually wish for that, knowing the hardship it would cause? Only in fiction.

    Q: What do you see as the future of Solarpunk?

    I’m curious about that. It’s a very new idea, new enough I hesitate to even call it a movement. Applied broadly, I think it’s a great idea and I really hope it catches on. In other words, if it’s not really so heavily solar-focused, but is used more as a blanket term for all kinds of speculation, technological and otherwise, about where we could go, all taken in a spirit of optimism and play, that could really be amazing. If you think about it as an answer to cyberpunk rather than or not quite so much as steampunk: cyberpunk actually spawned a lot of real advances; it changed the world more rapidly than maybe any other movement in fiction ever has. But it was, for the most part, cynical. And with good reason. Those advances are all pretty amazing: cryptography, mobile technology, virtual currency, social networking. But they’ve led us to some dark places. If solarpunk starts and grows from a place of progressivism and hope — who knows.

    Q: What/who are some of your environmental influences?

    How about this? In chronological order by how I encountered them:

    1. My family. Camping, hiking, hunting, biking, berry picking, swimming, canoeing, fishing, gardening. Predictable, but it’s how we all learn, or don’t learn, to value the natural world.

    2. Thornton W. Burgess, a children’s writer of animal stories from Cape Cod. His animals are anthropomorphized to a great degree, but they also keep to their natural routines and in so doing taught me a lot.

    3. Ms. Howland, my middle school English teacher. She introduced me to the greenhouse effect, global warming, extinction, pollution, habitat loss, suburban sprawl, all these concepts of modern conservationism. She also taught me how to edit a story.

    4. Henry David Thoreau. “Thoreau” was one of my nicknames in high school. He’s blindly optimistic about some things, very narrow in his views about others — he’s a privileged, classically educated white guy from 19th-century New England, after all. But his prose never fails to blow me away, and his observations of the natural world and human nature and the relationship between them are incredibly perceptive and eye-opening even today.

    5. . . . Jack London, Ernest Hemingway, J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula K. Le Guin, John Muir, Carlos Castaneda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Ray Bradbury, John Crowley, Robert Frost, Kurt Vonnegut, Jon Krakauer, Stephen Harrod Buhner, Paul Stamets, Benjamin Parzybok, Paolo Bacigalupi, Rachel Carson, Mircea Eliade, Werner Herzog, Willa Cather, Elizabeth Dodd, Karen Russell, Karen Joy Fowler. . . .

    Note the absurd overbalance of white men. This is my fault, and not because men have or deserve any kind of monopoly on ecological writing or thought. And it’s something I’m trying to correct.

    Q: You’re a writer, too. How did that influence what stories you selected for this issue?

    Being a writer probably makes me harder to please. Purely idea-based SF doesn’t do it for me anymore, I’ve seen too much of it. Plot-driven fiction has gotten old for me. Likewise, writing that relies on prose fireworks to get away with lack of depth. Because it’s LCRW, there was a certain amount of stylistic consideration that went into my choices — it’s very easy for me at this point, having read many submissions for Gavin and Kelly over many years and also having been a big fan of the final product, to identify an LCRW story. But really, the biggest deciding factor wasn’t about whether it was weird enough or LCRW enough, but just whether it was a good story, whether I got caught up in it, cared about the people in it and felt like it all meant something at the end. To a certain degree, someone who knows how to write and understands the tools of storytelling will be affected in a different way by a story than someone who isn’t in it for the craft. But I think, I hope, a lot of it is universal: the tools for appreciating a good story are written in our bones, right next to the instructions for how to eat and sleep and die and procreate.

    Michael J. DeLuca is a fernlike, woody perennial native to the Eastern US, found on hilltops and in woodland clearings from Massachusetts to Michigan. Leaves astringent; strongly tannic; used in teas, to flavor ales and as an aromatic smudge. Flowers late summer in cylindrical catkins. Recent fiction in Ideomancer, Phobos, Betwixt. Tweets @michaeljdeluca.

    Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet is An Occasional Outburst, an arrow shot into the future, a harbinger. Edited since 1996 by Gavin J. Grant and Kelly Link. LCRW contributors include many writers whose names you may know and many more whose name you may not — and that there finding and reading unfamiliar voices is one of the joys of existence. Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet is available DRM-free in single issues or in a wide range of subscription options, which may or may not include chocolate.

    Cherries Worth Getting

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    cherries-worth-getting-cover-200x297Agent Keith Curry only ever had to use his mage pistol once, and that was against some goblin butchers. Curry never says if they were legitimate butchers or the bloodthirsty kind. Just assume they were murderous and magical because Curry works for the NATO Irregular Affairs Division (the Irregulars). Once a carnivore, Curry turned to vegetarianism after seeing the after-effects of too many homicides.

    Being a chef is Curry’s special skill. He uses it on the job to root out murder. “Portland’s art, music, and food scenes made it the perfect place to hide a blood orgy.” If that thought makes you laugh before you cringe, then your humor’s in just the right place for Nicole Kimberling’s Cherries Worth Getting. It’s not cannibalism if it’s not your own species, but it’s still murder.

    “Rumpled old magicians, witches in business suits, and faerie lawyers” fill the Irregulars, but humans like Curry do most of the work. Perpetrators infesting Portland span the fantastical realm, too. With the right glasses, even a human like Curry can spot hidden magical signs and “vulgar Gaelic epithets left by leprechaun gangs.”

    Curry doesn’t need magic glasses to see Gunther Heartman, an old flame and a new Irregulars partner. They’re investigating why human protein keeps turning up in different goblin venues around Portland. Against a backdrop of grilled cheese sandwiches, Curry and Heartman follow a well fleshed-out trail of vampires, pixies and sadistic restaurant owners.

    Cherries Worth Getting is a funny, disturbing and erotic novella. I enjoyed it from beginning to end and it’s available DRM-free here on Weightless Books.

    Nicole Kimberling lives in Bellingham, Washington with her wife, Dawn Kimberling, two bad cats as well as a wide and diverse variety of invasive and noxious weeds. Her first novel, Turnskin, won the Lambda Literary Award for Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror. She is also the author of the Bellingham Mystery Series.

    The Dark Magazine is Luminous

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    the-dark-issue-8-cover-200x309Fantastic stories lurk in The Dark Magazine. You won’t find gore, but you will find a treasure chest of creepiness and strange perspectives.

    “Welcome to Argentia” by Sandra McDonald tells of a real place with a real history. The vengeful spirit of Argentia feels real, too. The land haunts and is haunted. It takes the lives it wants, whether shipwreck victims clinging to rocks or pilots in crashed transports. Individuals see glimpses of the land’s haunting before and after the U.S. Navy abandons its World War II base. A young man “looked out his window to see dark horses pulling wooden coffins down the road. There are no horses on the station, and certainly no need for coffins.” Mundane events are made terrible in “Welcome to Argentia.” This story reminds the reader how little control she has if she’s part of a larger narrative. The difference between life and death is less than she likes to think.

    To the question of whether “Rumpelstiltskin” should be its own genre, “A Spoke in Fortune’s Wheels” keens yesssss. You remember the Rumplestiltskin story: years of modern retelling have mellowed the tale to something simply about a strange man spinning straw into gold and the price one woman pays for the favor. The story’s not so bad. Just a vehicle for a moral, right? Not the way Brooke Wonders tells it. Like so many other stories in The Dark Magazine, “A Spoke in Fortune’s Wheels” takes fairy tales back to their creepy roots. The girl in this story has a spinning wheel for a head. Nasty things happen to her after she meets the little man. This story disturbs, fascinates, and chills, which are all the right things to do in a horror story.

    In “An Ocean of Eyes,” Sigrid (not her real name) tries to convince a brash stranger to leave town. He’s drawn to Ulthar because of a legend he doesn’t believe, and he’s a fool. A town with stories about cats devouring people alive should be avoided. Also, Lovecraft made this place. Cats and their toxoplasmosis victims are wily. Like whatever’s pulling victims into Newfoundland waters, hiding in a favor or lurking in a cat’s meow, the stories in The Dark Magazine sneak up on you. This is a great e-zine.

    The Dark Magazine is available DRM-free from Weightless Books in single issues or as a 12-month subscription. “A Spoke in Fortune’s Wheels” by Brooke Wonders and “Welcome to Argentia” by Sandra McDonald are in Issue 7. Cassandra Khaw’s “An Ocean of Eyes” can be found in Issue 8.


    Author Interview: Damien Angelica Walters

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    Sing Me Your ScarsWeightless Books interviews Damien Angelica Walters, a 2014 Bram Stoker Award nominee and author of Sing Me Your Scars, a collection of short stories.

    Q: What do you care about most when you write a story?

    DAW: The characters, most definitely. Most of my stories start as what-ifs: What if there was a woman who was a composite of body parts and each part retained sentience? How would that feel to the dominant part? What if there was a man who was disappearing, one body part at a time, and what would it feel like to watch that happening, knowing there was nothing you could do to stop it?

    I try to put my head firmly into the characters’ hearts and minds from the start, because unless I know how they feel, I won’t know how they’re going to react on their journey and their story won’t ring true.

    Q: If all the main characters in Sing Me Your Scars met on the battlefield, which ones would emerge victorious?

    DAW: I love this question! I suspect the characters would throw down their weapons and go off to have coffee and talk about scars, but if coffee wasn’t an option, I think it would ultimately come down to Olivia from “Girl, With Coin” and Isabel from “They Make of You a Monster.” In the end, though, Isabel would be victorious because although Olivia can’t physically feel pain, Isabel’s ability to kill with a touch trumps all.

    In the alternate universe, they’ve switched from coffee to cocktails and wine and they’re no longer discussing scars, but have moved onto things like what constitutes the perfect origami elephant, black and white versus color photography, and whether or not artificial intelligence should be granted autonomy.

    Q: You’ve published a phenomenal number of short stories in the past five years. What motivates you to do this?

    DAW: I don’t know how to not write. Words and phrases and characters and the before-mentioned what-ifs pop into my head all the time. Some of them turn into stories, countless others become scribbles in my notebook that might eventually be stories or they might remain as is. When I first started to write short fiction, those disconnected bits and pieces were frustrating, but over time, I came to realize that those pieces, whether intro paragraphs, lines of dialogue, or even story titles, were just as important to the writing process as the finished work.

    Q: Though it doesn’t seem to happen a lot, how do you handle the times when your writing is rejected?

    DAW: I think there’s a misconception that once you publish X amount of stories in markets A, B, and C, rejections become a thing of the past. This isn’t true, at all. Rejection is part of the business. Sometimes a story simply doesn’t fit what an editor is looking for. It doesn’t always mean the story is bad or won’t find the right home.

    Truthfully, I’m very hard on my stories. When a story is finished, I jot down three or four markets I think it would be a good fit for, but if the story is rejected by those markets, then I set it aside. But I don’t see this as giving up, because I revisit the story later (might be weeks, might be months), make changes or not, and send it back out. I have trunked stories that I feel are flawed, but I’ve also given a story one last ride on the submission train and had it sell.

    Most of the time, I brush rejections off, but every once in a while, usually when it’s an editor I’d love to work with or a magazine that has previously published my work, there’s a definite sting, a bit of not good enough. But it doesn’t make me want to give up permanently, nor does it last very long. I’m too stubborn and too driven to allow that.

    Q: How does reading affect your writing?

    DAW: I still read a lot as a reader, but there are times I read as a writer. In particular, if I’m trying to find the right threads to stitch ideas together in a story in progress, I’ll step away and reread an anthology or a few of my favorite stories, not for the stories themselves, but for the glue that holds them together or the story arc or the underlying theme. Often, just seeing how another writer has crafted a piece will help the pieces of my own story puzzle fall into place.

    I also like reading successful stories that don’t grab me personally for one reason or another; again, not for the stories, but to discern what makes them work. I think reading with that sort of critical eye has made me a better storyteller and has made me more willing to take risks in format, points of view, and story structure.

    Q: You’ve worked all along the editing spectrum — from associate editor at Electric Velocipede to freelance editing to being edited by senior staff at dozens of zines. If you could give yourself of ten years ago any kind of writing advice, what would it be?

    DAW: It would be the same advice I’d give to anyone starting out: Take your time and don’t send your stories out too soon. Start with the top markets first and work down. Don’t be afraid to submit. Don’t give your work away for free. Rejections aren’t personal. And lastly, you are not in competition with anyone but yourself.

    Q: Your second novel comes out in August. What can you tell us about it?

    Damien Angelica Walters - Author PhotoDAW: Yes, Paper Tigers is my second novel, although it’s the first to be published under the name Damien Angelica Walters. Paper Tigers is about a disfigured young woman and an old photo album she finds at a thrift store. At its heart, it’s a ghost story, but it’s as much about the things that haunt us personally as it’s about the external ghosts. It’s closer in tone to my short fiction than my previous novel—Ink, published as Damien Walters Grintalis.

    Damien Angelica Walters’ short fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in various anthologies and magazines, including The Year’s Best Dark Fantasy & Horror 2015, Year’s Best Weird Fiction Volume One, Cassilda’s Song, Nightmare, Strange Horizons, and Apex. “The Floating Girls: A Documentary,” originally published in Jamais Vu, is on the 2014 Bram Stoker Award ballot for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction. Sing Me Your Scars, a collection of Damien Angelica Walters’ short fiction, is out now from Apex Publications and available from Weightless Books. Paper Tigers, a novel, is forthcoming from Dark House Press. Her other short fiction can be found here.

    Luna Station Quarterly Editor Interview: Jennifer Lyn Parsons

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    Luna Station Quarterly – Issue 21 cover - click to view full sizeWeightless Books interviews Jennifer Lyn Parsons, editor-in-chief of Luna Station Quarterly, a speculative fiction magazine featuring stories by emerging women authors.

    Q: What inspired you to start Luna Station Quarterly five years ago?

    Parsons: There was a magical mix of circumstances that gave birth to LSQ. I had been writing fanfic for a while and began branching out into original fiction. I was also unemployed and in a career transition.

    While working to find new job (smack in the midst of the Great Recession), I had time on my hands and decided to do something good with it. I started off writing a short story a week for a year. It was a haul, but I had a pile of stories at the end.

    As I searched for places to submit, I found a lot of chatter about the lack of safe spaces for new writers, particularly women. This was before the ‘geek girl’ movement started, and it really did feel like women were in some kind of weird minority. Not that there were no women authors anywhere, but the balance always seemed out of whack considering how many wonderful writers I knew when I was writing fanfic, where women outnumber men by a vast majority. There was a disconnect between my experiences, and I sought out a way to reconcile them.

    I had done a fair bit of beta reading for people and was a lifelong reader, so I felt I knew a good story when I saw it. I also had a background in graphic design and web development. Armed with that knowledge, I set about building a place where emerging women writers like myself could find a home for their stories.

    Q: From the way Luna Station Quarterly authors are promoted to the long list of editorial, social media, blog, and special projects staff, the magazine has a very collaborative feel. What was your journey like from a one-woman show five years ago to an army of supporters and collaborators?

    Parsons: I am very lucky, for starters. In the beginning it was just me, sorting out everything. Within the first couple of issues, things started to be a bit much to handle on my own. A wonderful problem to have, right? I reached out to Evan Mariah Petit, my first assistant editor, because she had been so supportive from the first issue. As things kept growing, I kept asking for help and got it.

    Last year really kicked things up a notch when I was finally able to fulfill a big dream for the site: starting a regular blog filled with columns, reviews, etc. by LSQ authors as well as a group of wonderful women from outside the community.

    I also added special projects staff to accommodate our upcoming print projects in celebration of our 5th anniversary. Seeing LSQ in print for the first time is so amazingly exciting.

    The journey, has always been organic, with growth coming steadily with every issue. And I’ve been lucky enough to be able to put a hand out for help and have it answered when I feel like it’s time to take on the next big step.

    Q: How do you know when you get a submission thats a good fit for Luna Station Quarterly?

    Parsons: To me the hallmark of a stellar story is when I can answer “yes” to a few simple questions: “Would I read this again?” and “Does it stick in my mind in a good way?” This is an important question because I will indeed have to read it at least a few more times throughout the production process. The story needs to stand up to multiple readings by the staff. And if we can see ourselves enjoying it, or being challenged by it, over and over, we know our readers will, too.

    Other than that, it’s an open field. We paint a wide swathe across the speculative fiction label. Weird urban stories, straight up fairy tales, hard sci-fi, and honestly a lot of things I don’t think you’d see elsewhere.

    I love seeing women authors take on writing male characters with integrity, but I also have no problem publishing a work where a woman’s sexual agency is integral to the story.

    Q: You’ve been an avid comic book reader since you were a young teenager. Has your taste in comics changed over the years?

    Parsons: It’s funny, it has changed vastly, but then lately it’s come full circle. I started out reading comics in the early ’90s, when Sandman was THE title and read a lot of Vertigo or indie comics, along with a bit of X-Men.

    A decade later, I was deep into DC and my childhood love of Batman, as well as great characters like Barbra Gordon who, as Oracle, became a hero with her geek cred and awesome glasses.

    When DC rebooted everything a few years ago, I found myself floating back to my indie roots. Now I’m digging Keiron Gillen’s stuff, loving Becky Cloonan’s art like mad, and trying to get everyone to read Lumberjanes. There are some exciting things going on right now.

    The great thing about comics is there’s always something new, and the stories are never constrained to any particular genre. Like any other great medium, you can tell any kind of story you want.

    Q: What are you reading now besides submissions for Luna Station Quarterly?

    Parsons: As of the moment, I’m between books! I’ve been bouncing between non-fiction and fiction this year. Consider the Fork is next on my, ahem, plate and I’m looking for a new fantasy to get my attention. The Norse myths are a perennial, and I’m dipping into some poetry by Mary Oliver.

    Q: What else do you do when you’re not editing Luna Station Quarterly?

    jennifer-lyn-parsonsParsons: How long do we have? By day I’m a web developer, making the internet less broken than it was yesterday.

    By night, I help run Luna Station Press, which publishes various fiction, non-fiction, and poetry. Our next book is LSQ’s best of the first five years anthology.

    I also do needle felting, knitting, crochet, basically anything I can do to keep wool under my fingers. I play some video games, of course, and make time for friends and family.

    At last count I have two novels actively in progress, and I put my hands on a bunch of other stories as the mood and inspiration strikes.

    I’m tired now just talking about it. But in the best way. I’ve got a great life.

    Luna Station Quarterly is a speculative fiction magazine featuring stories by emerging women authors.Luna Station Quarterly is available DRM-free in single issues or as a 12-month subscription.


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    THE VAMPIRE responds to “Ten Feet Tall and Bulletproof at the Potluck” in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet No. 30.

    as dictated by THE VAMPIRE to THE NOVELIST

    24998-cover-200x242VAMPIRE: It is true, of course, that VAMPIRES attend potlucks, present, as we also are, in train stations, the staging areas of distribution warehouses, priories, shopping malls (especially shopping malls), dentist’s offices (less often), garrets and garret-imaginaries or garret-subsidiaries, great and venerable libraries, coliseums, arcade parlors, bakeries, theaters and discotheques. VAMPIRES can be said to be nowhere, especially, even as we are simultaneously everywhere, particularly, and Friday in the park with middle management nearby (fluffing their anxious wings) is no exception.

    VAMPIRES dictate gory sentences about potlucks to NOVELISTS, disdaining any direct act of writing. VAMPIRES make company nervous by announcing a savory dish brought in INDIVIDUAL RAMEKINS . . . a plush color. The grapes in Pan’s Labyrinth didn’t even look that good. Baroque eddies of fruit and flowers, VAMPIRES believe, are best suited to picnic tables.

    VAMPIRES, like VEGANS, would prefer not to.

    (THE NOVELIST would like a yam chipotle enchilada.)

    The function of THE VAMPIRE at the corporate or collegial potluck is of a hieroglyph with tie pin. This chicken is so dry. Hello, I’ve heard so much about you. Will there be a round of Guitar Hero following the disappearance of the innocents? The hoagie is to be eaten with knife and fork, from the center moving swiftly outward in a V in either direction. At my home, you know . . . in Rialto . . . with the pair of wet-eyed cocker spaniels, Abelard and Heloise, and the lead pipe . . . I don’t have a job title as of yet, as my position is considered experimental . . .

    VAMPIRES consider themselves unpopular but necessary, with the interruptive force of a hammer! Into the egg salads on leaves of endive!

    It is considered impolite to compete directly with VAMPIRES, especially since our leisure time is without blemish. We have a perfect attendance record. The napkins were arranged in artful sequences, and it was time . . . for Twister . . .

    A.B. Robinson lives in Western Massachusetts. Her poetry can be found in TINGE as well as Industial Lunch, which she currently co-edits. Her first chapbook, Dario Argento is not my Boyfriend, was selected as a jubilat contest winner. Five of her poems appear in Lady Churchill’s Wristlet No. 30, which is available DRM-free as a single issue or as a subscription.

    Author Interview: Erica L. Satifka

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    Andrea Pawley interviews Erica L. Satifka whose most recent publications appear in Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet and Shimmer.

    24998-cover-200x242Q: When did you first know you wanted to write science fiction?

    Satifka: I came to genre reading (and writing) late. As someone who grew up pre-Internet in a shitty small town, I was restricted to reading what was in the school library, which had some SF (mostly Bradbury and Vonnegut), but not much. I did watch a lot of SF, mostly anthology shows like The Outer Limits. My college advisor said my stories were good but would be better if I didn’t insist on writing science fiction. It was a surprise to me that I was even writing science fiction! In college, I also gained access to a wider variety of books and there was also the arrival of a few online fiction markets (Strange Horizons is the only one that’s still around, I believe). I guess mostly I just want to write crazy stories, and crazy stories are usually going to be labeled as some kind of science fiction.

    Q: Almost two dozen of your short stories have been published since 2005. How has your writing changed?

    Satifka: I’m not sure I completely knew what I was doing in 2005. My introduction to genre was so late and spotty that I had a lot of disparate influences. Many of my earliest stories were basically style imitations of Vonnegut or Philip K. Dick. Now that I’m more widely read, I think I’ve developed a bit more of a personal style. Or I’m just getting better at copying people.

    shimmer-magazine-issue-21-cover-200x319Q: What technological advance do you most hope to see in the next fifty years?

    Satifka: Sounds boring, but eradication of various diseases. I really don’t think we should be launching people into space until we figure out how to stop people from contracting polio. I’d like to see a world where nobody dies from infectious disease because I think it’s insane that we’re still dealing with things like polio and measles in the year 2014. Then, space.

    Q: What do you care most about when you write a story?

    Satifka: Finishing it. Most of my short stories are written in one or two sessions, because if they run any longer than that, I get bored and start working on the next thing. I think this helps maintain a certain consistency of voice, which is also important to me. Short stories, more than novels, are really about the idea and I like to go really deep inside the concept to find the most resonant take on the idea.

    Q: What’s it like to be part of the Codex Writers’ Group?

    Satifka: I think it’s a wonderful community. It’s a lot of what you’d get at a place like Clarion, but it’s free! I’ve also met many writers through there who became real-life friends. I honestly think I’ve learned more about genre writing and marketing on Codex than I have in any academic setting. I really recommend that anyone who’s reached the minimum entry requirements (one pro-published story or attendance at a writers’ workshop) join Codex. If nothing else, it shows you that even people who have published way more than you or I have the same insecurities and self-doubt.

    Q: You live in Portland now, but you’ve lived in Pittsburgh and Baltimore. Does being on the West Coast versus the East Coast make a difference to your writing?

    Satifka: The East Coast is full of lovely people, but it’s not the best place for creative people. On the East Coast, your job is your life, and writing (or art or music) is just a hobby. Even though I produced some good work in Baltimore, and it’s where I became a writer again, I felt like too much of my identity was being steamrolled under my “real job.” (Pittsburgh isn’t really the East Coast, more the Midwest and is completely different from both coasts.) Portland is much more “work to live” and people don’t wrap themselves up in their day jobs as much. I almost never get asked “what do you do?” out here, and if you are asked that, it’s just as likely that the asker is inquiring about your creative outlet. This matters for my writing because it allows me to mentally put it front and center.

    Q: Do you have any upcoming projects you can share?

    Erica L. SatifkaSatifka: I’m putting the finishing touches on a novel. It’s about a young schizophrenic woman who battles against an alien invasion of Earth taking place in a small-town big box store, and it should be done very, very soon. I also have another novel project in very early stages. Of course, my main focus is still short stories and while my output has slowed slightly due to novel work I’m still on pace to write one new short story every month. I’ll also be teaching an adult extension class on Writing Science Fiction and Fantasy at Portland Community College in January 2015.

    Erica L. Satifka’s fiction has appeared in Shimmer, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and Clarkesworld Magazine, among others. She lives in beautiful Portland, Oregon, with her husband Rob and too many cats. Visit her online at www.ericasatifka.com.

    Plasma Frequency Editor Interview: Richard Flores IV

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    plasma-frequency-magazine-issue-13-coverAndrea Pawley interviews Richard Flores IV, editor-in-chief of Plasma Frequency, a bimonthly magazine of speculative fiction which just started their third year of publication:

    Q: Plasma Frequency publishes a wide range of speculative fiction stories including science fiction, fantasy and horror. How do you know when you get a submission thats perfect for Plasma Frequency?

    Flores: Deciding what stories go into an issue of Plasma Frequency is a lot harder than I ever imagined. First, a story has to go through two other editors before it comes to me for a final decision. Either of those other two editors can reject the story for a variety of reasons. So once a story gets to me for the final decision, they are usually all very good stories. At this point, I am looking for something different, something that takes me by surprise. It could be a twist that captivates me. It could be a new spin on an old idea. It could be something Ive never seen before. All these things lead me to select those stories. They have to stand out from the rest of the really good stories. It usually isnt easy to pick.

    Q: What inspired you to start Plasma Frequency?

    Flores: There is no shortage of very good fiction out here.And a lot of it gets rejected simply because there isnt enough space for every story. So I wanted to offer one more home to stories. And it was important to me that authors were paid for their work. So that inspired me. But researching how the magazine market worked fascinated me, and that was what finally pushed me over the edge to actually start the magazine.

    Q: As a child, who was your favorite science fiction or fantasy author?

    Flores: I actually wasnt a fan until much later in life. In high school, I hated to read. I was tired of being forced to read these books that didnt interest me. But I was forced to read Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury. Since that time, I have always held a spot for his work as one of my favorite artists, because it was his work that introduced me to the joy of reading science fiction.

    Richard Flores IVQ: Whats the most unexpected thing youve encountered as editor of Plasma Frequency?

    Flores: Rude authors. Hands down I never saw that coming. When we started Plasma Frequency, we were a personal rejection only market. We didnt use any form letters. And we got some very nasty replies back from authors. Some were even very threatening. It wasnt that our rejection letters were rude, we only offered them the reason for rejection. I had one reader quit because of it. And now, even though we have switched to using a lot of form rejections, we will still get one or two rude replies every now and again. It surprises me that authors will act like that.

    Q: You make good use of an army of dedicated volunteers. What makes for a good volunteer?

    Flores: They have to be committed. It can be very tough to ask someone to set aside some of their time to work hard for a magazine that they dont get any money from. So they have to be very loyal to seeing good fiction get published. The volunteers I have really do want to see Plasma Frequency succeed, and it shows in the amount of work they put in. They are also very understanding that Plasma Frequency doesnt make any money at this point. Sales and subscriptions dont yet pay for the issues, let alone the other business costs. And the volunteers we have are like-minded to me, they arent in this to make money, they just want to see good stories find a home.

    Q: Your third year of publication starts this month with the September/October issue. What changes will Year Three of Plasma Frequency hold?

    Flores: We do have something new coming down the pipeline. I am not sure when we will start this up, but it will be more behind the scenes helping the authors. We are working out a program where selected stories that have great potential but need more work can join a one-on-one critique session with our proofreading editor. He will then be able to work with the author to make changes. That is the idea anyway. We are currently ironing out all the details. It wont be released until further down in Year Three, hopefully early 2015.

    Plasma Frequency is a magazine of speculative fiction that offers short stories in science fiction, fantasy, horror and all other aspects of the genre. Plasma Frequency is available DRM-free in single issues or as a 12-month subscription.

    Lightspeed Author Interview: Sarah Pinsker

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    lightspeed-magazine-issue-49-women-destroy-science-fiction-special-issue-cover-200x300Andrea Pawley interviews writer / singer / songwriter Sarah Pinsker. Yesterday it was announced that Pinsker’s story “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind” was the winner of this year’s Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award.

    Q: This year you were nominated for a Nebula Award and won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award, plus fourteen of your stories have been accepted for publication,  including one in the Women Destroy Science Fiction issue of Lightspeed. That’s impressive! How do you decide where to submit your stories?

    Pinsker: I read a lot of short fiction. I think I have a good feel for which magazines are publishing what kind of stories. I’ll try the most likely market first, and then the editors ultimately decide whether my intuition lines up with theirs. If I believe in a story, I feel an obligation to try the most suitable magazines first. I’m also a big advocate for starting at the top, however you define the top. Aim high.

    Q: Why do you write science fiction? 

    Pinsker: I’ve been reading SF & F my whole life, starting with Madeleine L’Engle’s Wrinkle in Time series, Le Guin’s Earthsea, Heinlein’s young reader books. I don’t remember how old I was when I discovered my father’s collection of science fiction magazines, but I would have been in the single digits. We got a computer when I was seven or so – one of the first PCs – and I started writing fiction immediately, mostly SF and horse stories. I think part of what I was doing was retelling novels I had read as short stories, but that was probably good practice for something. I love a good story regardless of genre, but if the question is why do I write SF, the adult me answers that it gives an opportunity to look at ourselves through a prism of otherness.

    Q: What changes have you seen to SF&F since you started reading it?

    Pinsker: I love the multitude of voices that we are finally getting to hear. Writers of all different backgrounds, telling stories of characters of all different colors and genders and nationalities and sexual orientations and ages and abilities/disabilities and economic backgrounds. SF is richer for this inclusion.

    There’s also the rise of audio fiction – story podcasts, in particular – which open up a whole new range of ways to experience fiction. And eReaders, which I think can increase access to short fiction. But I’m selfishly glad that the act of reading hasn’t changed all that much. I can still pick up a book and be transported.

    Sarah PinskerQ: You’re very active in the Baltimore Science Fiction Society. What’s the most unexpected thing that’s happened to you as a result?

    Pinsker: The whole thing, really. I’ve lived in Baltimore for eighteen years, but never discovered that community until two years ago. I’ve made some good friends there, gotten some great story critiques. BSFS also gave me a chance to moderate panels before I’d done that sort of thing. As it turns out, I think I’m pretty decent at it. That gave me the confidence to apply for panels at cons, and to seek out those opportunities.

    Oh, and I definitely never would have expected to be hosting a reading series/quiz show, but I’m co-hosting a series there, the quarterly Dangerous Voices Variety Hour.

    Q: Some of your music contains references to fantastical feelings or events. Do your songs ever think they want to be short stories or vice versa? 

    Pinsker: They’re usually pretty clear about which they want to be. Some of my songs definitely are stories. They have to accomplish a lot in a small number of words. The nice thing about a song is that you’re allowed to be a little more cryptic. I can paint a feeling and give the illusion of plot.

    There’s a song that’s going to be on my new album, about a circus sideshow’s “living doll,” in love with the star of the show. It starts “I am just the size of a half-finished thought/and most of my thoughts are on you.” It’s full of hope and longing and the search for commonality, but I think I’d have to explain too much if it were a story.

    Q: Is it true you once performed your music at a nudist colony? 

    Pinsker: Absolutely! It was a great gig. The Avalon Music Festival. The audience is clothing-optional, and the performers can choose. I kept my clothes on. They have a gorgeous resort, and the people were all lovely. No phones or tablets or cameras allowed, so the audience pays better attention than at other festivals, which works well for lyric-driven music like mine.

    Q: What are you working on now?

    Pinsker: My new album is very close to done. This one has taken me a long time, but I think it’s going to be worth it. I’m writing a lot of stories, and I’ve got a couple of novel projects I try to give love to when I get a chance.

    Sarah Pinsker is a singer/songwriter with three albums on various independent labels: two solo, one with her band, the Stalking Horses. A fourth is forthcoming. Since returning to fiction, she has made over twenty story sales to magazines, podcasts and anthologies. Her 2013 novelette, “In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind,”  was nominated for a Nebula award and won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. A DRM-free subscription to Lightspeed (including theThe Sewell Home for the Temporally Displaced” in Women Destroy Science Fiction issue) can be purchased on Weightless Books.

    Highfell Grimoires Author Interview: Langley Hyde

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    37801-coverThis month sees the publication of Langley Hyde‘s debut novel, Highfell Grimoires, from our friends at Blind Eye Books (publisher of Ginn Hale, Astrid Amara, et al.). Highfell Grimoires is a steampunk adventure set in a private school (with shades of both an orphanage and a workhouse) which floats in the aetheric currents high above the city below:

    Q: Your novel, Highfell Grimoires, is set in a boarding school high up in the atmosphere and riding the aether. The story is part steampunk, part fantasy, and part gay romance. Which one of those ideas came first?

    Hyde: Oh my. Well, the romance and the characters. The setting developed after that, inspired by my favorite books, my own experiences, and my interests. Then the magic happened. Magic always happen when I write. : )

    In college, I always tried to write contemporary short stories because writing classes were all literary. I ended up with hideous literary/fantasy hybrids. Monsters! I’d try to write a literary story about a superbly fashionable girl with a tragic past who’s walking down an alley, navel-gazing (very difficult to do this when walking, she has to be a master at multitasking not to trip) and then all of a sudden she sees a small coat shop, and it takes her to—

    Well, not Manhattan. That’s for sure.

    When other students encountered my work, often the response was chilly. I even had classmates refuse to read my stories because they weren’t literature (ha, what is?) and once a girl drew me aside to say, in a tone of deep concern, “Magic isn’t real. I mean, you do know that. Right?”

    When she asked me that question, I couldn’t help but feel a little sketchy as I looked around, trying to judge exactly what would to relieve her concerns, and then muttered, “Um . . .”

    Q: In Highfell Grimoires, your main character claims fantasy aspects like aether and bloodlocks are explained by science, but he still invokes the gods. Why did you choose this approach? 

    color with spirals web resHyde: When I created my main character, Neil, I wanted a character with a complex relationship to his society. Becoming a true adult involves negotiating what role a person wants to take in society. This is integral to identity. I think one’s society of origin plays a larger role in people’s decisions than they often want to admit.

    In my main character, the young Lord Cornelius ‘Neil’ Franklin, conventional societal beliefs and rules penetrate him more than he’d like to admit.

    In real life I’ve yet to meet an atheist who did not once say, “Oh my God!” or use other religiously derived curses or figures of speech like, “It’s my cross to bear,” or “an eye for an eye.” Just because an individual has chosen skepticism as a personal point of view does not instantly erase thousands of years of history or the modern religious beliefs still held by the dominant culture, right?

    So I wanted to try and create this same richness of language for Higher Eidoland. And I wanted to use Neil’s invocations of deities like Loxa the Lucky to subtly show that even though he doesn’t intellectually believe in gods, he still calls on them when he’s hanging off the edge of a flying ship in the middle of the night—lol.

    Q: What are you hoping your readers take away from Highfell Grimoires?

    Hyde: When I was in college, I used to read aloud at open mic. Once, after I’d read a flash piece about a family mourning at a river, a girl came up to me crying. My story had reminded her of her golden retriever. He’d been a happy dog, she told me. A good dog.

    For years, her reaction puzzled me. Then, about two weeks ago, I realized: Her dog must have died. At first, I felt terrible. But how she’d thanked me!

    I don’t want to write stories with a specific meaning. I want to write stories that are meaningful. And also stories that are fun, sexy, and interesting. Highfell Grimoires doesn’t have a specific meaning for me. But it may for others, and that’s wonderful.

    Q: What’s your favorite place to write?

    Hyde: I like to migrate as I write. When I’m at home, I’ll move between my desk, the couch, the kitchen nook, the dining table, even the floor. I write at coffee shops, libraries, bookstores. I love sitting with my laptop on trains, even buses. Whenever my mind is stuck, I move my body. Motion inspires me.

    Maybe if I get in a real rut, I’ll finally move to Mars like my husband’s always wanted.


    Q: What was it like to attend Clarion Writer’s Workshop?

    Hyde: It was incredible. Intense. For those who don’t know Clarion, it’s a six-week summer camp for writers. Participants write one story per week and critique five stories a day. So basically I critiqued from eight a.m. to one p.m., got lunch, read for a couple of hours, and then wrote until morning, when I had to do it all again.

    It was like having a fever. Actually, that was because I did have a fever. For two weeks. But I’d highly recommend Clarion to anyone thinking of becoming a professional writer. The chance to meet other writers and prepare yourself for the submission as well as the editing process is invaluable.

    Q: Do you have any upcoming projects you can share?

    Hyde: Yes, I have them. No, I can’t share them. Just joking. I have a superstition where I can’t talk much about what I’m working on or it’ll die.

    What I’m working on now has spies, imposters, magic, love—and betrayal.

    Langley Hyde first fell in love with steampunk while studying abroad at Oxford University. There she spent most of her time reading about alchemy and heresy in Duke Humfrey’s Library or caressing manuscripts. Langley then lived in London, close enough to the Science Museum that she could regularly gawk at Babbage’s Difference Engine No. 2. Her favorite neighborhoods in London were Soho and Camden Town. She has also lived in New York, where she lurked in the Cloisters on the weekends, and Germany, near the old center of zeppelin manufacturing. Her hobbies include making wire sculptures, talking to cats, and wearing tiny hats. Hyde’s novel, Highfell Grimoires, is available for DRM-free purchase from Weightless Books.


    Flash Fiction Online April 2014

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    flash-fiction-online-issue-7-april-2014-coverIn less time than it takes to make a peanut butter and melted Peeps sandwich, you can read one of the excellent stories in Flash Fiction Online.

    April’s issue encourages readers to contemplate what the solar system would be like as a carnival, whether it’s worth losing bad memories if the good ones disappear, too, and how a poor woman differs from the noble she imagines herself to be. This last piece, “I Imagine Myself as Rath Ducha” by Brynn MacNab, is particularly compelling for such a personal view of the sameness in disparate situations. Flash Fiction Online tends toward speculative fiction, but the editors promise they’ll publish well-written stories regardless of genre.

    “Mrs. Darwin Has Visitors” by David Barber, was my favorite piece in March’s issue. In that story, Barber inadvertently makes the case that a 19th-century woman who wants to protect her family would do best to master the defensive arts, and not just the verbal ones. In February’s issue, “Love in the Time of Cthulhu,” Cassandra wants her speed dating session to land her the great Yog-Sothoth. Like any speed dater, she must overcome some disappointment, like when “the elder gods sent a proxy. How hard was it to show up for themselves?”

    Flash Fiction Online’s drawings are worth contemplating before you dive into each story. Could March’s man-wolf possibly know someone named Red? What’s February’s fairy whispering to the fellow with the bushy mustache? There’s one way to find out. Flash Fiction Online is available DRM-free in single issues or as a 12-month subscription.