E.C. Myers attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in 2005 and is a member of the NYC-based writing group Altered Fluid. His short fiction has appeared in magazines and anthologies such as Sybil’s Garage and Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, and his first young adult novel, Fair Coin, will be published by Pyr. He writes weekly about Star Trek at TheViewscreen.com and his website and blog are at ecmyers.net. His story “All The Lonely People” appears in Shimmer Issue #13.
What was the genesis for “All the Lonely People”?
This is probably one of my oddest inspirations: I read a billboard that said, “Don’t Fade.” Somehow those two words suggested a story about “faders” and someone who can see and help them. Most of my stories begin with an image like that. I jotted down notes for almost the whole plot right then in my notebook, and a few days later finished a first draft with the unimaginative title, “Have You Seen Me?” When someone in my critique group mentioned that it reminded her of Eleanor Rigby, I latched onto the Beatles reference in revision; that’s also why I changed Emily’s last name from Ford to Roberts, though I didn’t expect anyone to notice.
I later found out that billboard was an ad for a sports drink.
How did you celebrate your first fiction sale?
My first sale was to an online flash fiction magazine. I’m pretty sure my girlfriend—now fiancée—and I went out for a nice meal that cost much more than I made from the story. What I remember best is that she also presented me with a paper hat she’d folded, pronouncing me a “Published Author” and decorated with encouraging words and drawings. I still have it, and if I ever have an awards shelf, it will have a prominent place on it. This is indicative of the kind of enthusiasm I’ve received from many of my friends while writing, and I can’t overemphasize how valuable and important this support is.
Did you ever want to write “just like” someone else?
I’ve never wanted to mimic anyone else’s work, but I did want to write stories as powerful, moving, and thoughtful as Harlan EllisonTM, Orson Scott Card, Roald Dahl, and Connie Willis. The first time I read Ellison’s “The Whimper of Whipped Dogs” I was depressed not only because it’s such a dark story, but because I didn’t think I could ever write anything that well.
What was the absolute worst piece of advice someone gave you about writing?
Outline! In sixth grade, my English teacher insisted that the class outline our research papers on index cards. I easily wrote the paper without an outline and it turned out fine, but she wouldn’t grade it unless I also turned in those cards. So I had to outline the paper after the fact, which made me resent the pointless exercise even more. In fact, I still outline novels after I write them—except when I don’t. I think if anyone tells you that you must write a certain way, you’re getting bad advice. Every writer and every project is different.
A favorite/influential book you read as a child would be? Have you read the book as an adult, and if so, did it have the same impact?
Interstellar Pig by William Sleator is the first science fiction book I recall reading. There may have been others before it, but that’s the most memorable. It diverted my interest from the mystery genre, and led to a lifetime of reading and writing science fiction and fantasy. I reread it a few years ago when the sequel, Parasite Pig, was published. Interstellar Pig did hold up for me, but I was also looking at it differently—not just as an adult, but as someone learning the craft from a master.
Favorite short stories you’ve read of late?
I haven’t read enough short fiction lately, but some have stood out: Carrie Ryan’s “Hare Moon” (in the anthology Kiss Me Deadly), set in the world of her Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy; “Conditional Love” by Felicity Shoulders (Asimov’s Jan 2010); “Stonewall Truth” by Caroline M. Yoachim (Asimov’s Feb 2010); “Dance of the Kawkawroons” by Mercurio D. Rivera (Interzone #227); “Foretold” by Bradley P. Beaulieu (Steampunk’d); and “Seeing” by Genevieve Valentine (Clarkesworld). One of my favorite soon-to-be-published stories, which I had the opportunity to read in my ridiculously-talented writing group, is “Mama, We are Zhenya, Your Son” by Tom Crosshill; keep an eye out for this one in Lightspeed Magazine—it’s absolutely beautiful.
Do you have a favorite short story among your own?
It’s probably a tie between two stories. “My Father’s Eyes” was published in Sybil’s Garage No. 7 last July, and it was one of those rare pieces that emerged in one day and didn’t change much from that raw first draft through the revision process. My other favorite is still unpublished: “Collection Day,” which is about an old woman who dies and moves her soul into an antique sofa that her granddaughter inherits, so she can watch over her. I think that one may be the best short story I’ve ever written.
What authors, if any, have influenced your own writing?
William Sleator’s books, particularly his older YA science fiction like Singularity and The House of Stairs, have been a major influence on the kinds of stories I want to tell and how I tell them. Richard Matheson by way of The Twilight Zone, and Rod Serling for that matter, are also responsible for my interest in stories that put ordinary people in extraordinary situations and comment on the human condition—though I have yet to master their flair for surprise endings.
If you could choose any five literary people — real or imagined, living or not, friends or otherwise — for a gathering… who would they be?
Roald Dahl, William Sleator, E. Nesbit, John Bellairs, and Beverly Cleary. I hope they can keep it civil.
You have been re-watching Star Trek and sharing your thoughts on the episodes at tor.com (or is it the Viewscreen? am I confused?); if you were Kirk, what would you have done differently in the battle against the Gorn?
It is a bit confusing! We started our Star Trek Re-Watch at Tor.com, but decided to take our reviews to our own site, TheViewscreen.com.
I recently saw the Mythbusters episode where they demonstrated that Kirk couldn’t have pulled off that stunt. (Sorry, Trekkies!) Even so, there’s no way I could have begun to put the pieces together the way he did—I was never very good at Chemistry. Honestly, I probably even wouldn’t have thought to drop boulders on the Gorn! But since the lizard was moving so slowly and had poor eyesight, I probably would have waited until nightfall, snuck around behind him, choked him with those rope-like vines until he passed out, and tied him up neatly for the Metrons.
How many writers does it take to change a light bulb?
Just one—to write the instructions for someone else.