Last Dance

It’s the last time shimmer can be on the Hugo Awards ballot. It’s never happened. Will it? The suspense is terrible! I hope it will last!

Our cover artist, Sandro Castelli, is eligible in the fan artist category. Our editor, E. Catherine Tobler, is eligible in the short form editor category. And Shimmer itself is eligible in the semiprozine category.

What did we publish last year? Here’s the list! (Each and every story is a short story by the Hugo definition, 7500 words or lesss.)

Black Fanged Thing, by Sam Rebelein
An Incomplete Catalogue of Miraculous Births, or, Secrets of the Uterus Abscondita, by Rebecca Campbell
Me, Waiting for Me, Hoping For Something More, by Dee Warrick
Held, by Ian O’Reilly
The Triumphant Ward of the Railroad and the Sea by Sara Saab
They Have a Name For That by Sara Beitia
The Imitation Sea by Lora Gray
If a bear… by Kathrin Köhler 
Faint Voices, Increasingly Desperate, by Anya Johanna DeNiro
Gone to Earth, by Octavia Cade 
What the Skeleton Detective Tells You (while you picnic), by Katherine Kendig
You, In Flux, by Alexis A. Hunter
The Passenger, by Emily Lundgren 
Milkteeth, by Kristi DeMeester 
Bleeding Through the Shadows, by David Rees-Thomas
Rapture, by Meg Elison 
The Ghost Pet Detective, by Ryan Row 
By the Hand That Casts It, by Stephanie Charette
Find On Your Body the Bruise, by Maricat Stratford
Lighthouse Waiting, by Gwendolyn Clare 
Dead Things, by Becca De La Rosa 
Rotkäppchen by Emily McCosh 
The Witch in the Woods Falls in Love For a Third Time, by Kate Lechler
Streuobstwiese, by Steve Toase 
Lake Mouth, by Casey Hannan
40 Facts About the Strip Mall at the Corner of Never and Was, by Alex Acks
Antumbra, by Cory Skerry 
The Time Traveler’s Husband, by A. C. Wise
Tyrannocora Regina, by Leonie Skye 
Rust and Bone, by Mary Robinette Kowal
From the Void, by Sarah Gailey 
Thistledown Sky, by Stephen Case
Ghosts of Bari, by Wren Wallis

Authors in their first year of eligibility for the John W. Campbell Award are: Leonie Skye.

Shimmer authors in their second year of eligibility for the Campbell are: Ashley Blooms, Emily Lundgren, and Lina Rather.

Ballots are due by March 15. We thank you for your consideration this year, and every year — thank you for taking this journey with us!

Ghosts

Today, we’re delighted to share our final story with you, “Ghosts of Bari,” by Wren Wallis.

When I put the final issue of Shimmer together, I did it as deliberately as I’d done every other issue of Shimmer, considering where each story should fall in the issue. It was something Beth taught me how to do when I edited my first issue—because the story you open with is not necessarily the story you want to close with.

I gave Wren a heads-up the moment I realized I wanted to close out Shimmer with her story. Having your story appear last may not seem like a great thing; if I’d held to the original release schedule, it would have had Wren’s story appearing after Hugo balloting had closed. I didn’t want that for the story, or Wren, because the story is gorgeous and should be read by as many Hugo voters as possible.

Putting a story last doesn’t mean it should be overlooked, it doesn’t mean it’s being hidden away. In fact, in the case of “Ghosts of Bari,” I put it last because it ends on a very specific note. It ends with a directive, a directive Shimmer wants you to undertake. Wren’s story encompasses so much of what Shimmer hoped to do, what we wanted to be. And by placing it as our final story in our final issue, I hope that is evident.

Relatedly, thinking about how we made issues (stories fitted together like puzzle pieces), I got curious as to how many stories Shimmer published in its thirteen years. Near as I can tell, it’s 288 stories, from 224 authors—but I suspect that author count is off, because I’m not convinced every single Shimmer author is on the website list yet. #goals

In my searching and looking through old issues, I was genuinely amazed at all we accomplished over the course of those 288 stories, so here are some notes from along the way.

Issues 1-4 had nine stories each. Our biggest issue, with twenty stories, was eleven which was our Clockwork Jungle Book—stories about steampunk animals. Genevieve Valentine appeared in that one, and so did Alethea Kontis. Aliette de Bodard made her first appearance in issue three, as did Angela Slatter. We got Amal el-Mohtar in issue four, and our first translations in issue five (Lavie Tidar translating Nir Yaniv). Silvia Moreno-Garcia also made her first appearance in issue five. Silvia’s story, “King of Sand and Stormy Seas,” stands out brightly in my memory; it was one of the first stories I remember falling for when I came across it in slush—the first story I really advocated for and wanted to see published.

Issue six contained Cat Rambo—another story I remember being deeply affected by (“Eagle-haunted Lake Sammamish”). Also “Sparrow and Egg,” again from Amal el-Mohtar—made me burst into tears. This issue also contained “Tom Cofferwillow Comes Undone,” by Stephen L. Moss—possibly the first story that made Beth realize what weird taste I can have in fiction. This story plays with language in ways that still delight me.

John Joseph Adams guest-edited issue seven, which was packed with pirate stories! Issue eight brought us “Monologue With Birds & Burin” by Daniel A. Rabuzzi. Another story that stands out in my memory. Both the place and the character get me here, hard in the heart.

Monica Byrne’s “5 Letters From New Laverne” showed up in issue twelve; this story made me bawl the first time I read it. We got our first K.M. Ferebee story in issue thirteen (pulled from slush by Keffy Kehrli), and our first Stephen Case, who would also join us in our final issue. Issue fourteen blew me away when I was thumbing through it: our first Sunny Moraine, our first A.C. Wise, and our first Karin Tidbeck! I mean…talk about all-stars.

Issue fifteen was my first to pick stories for; it brought us Megan Arkenberg, Mari Ness, and Milo James Fowler. It also taught me that it’s okay to really fight for a story you want—I bought a story I’d previously rejected, so never say die people. You never know.

K.M. Szpara came to us in issue sixteen, and Damien Angelica Walters and Carmen Maria Machado in issue seventeen. Issue seventeen has seventeen stories, did you know? More than half of the authors moved in the course of publishing that issue… Nightmare level unlocked.

The great Ann VanderMeer guest-edited issue eighteen, which would become our final print issue, containing an Area X story from Jeff VanderMeer. Issue nineteen is when we leapt online—with another K.M. Ferebee story (with a heroine named Elyse, hmm!).

We published 28 issues online over the course of five years, finding yet more wonderful authors. We got an Alix Harrow, a Sam Miller, an Eden Robins, a Tara Isabella Burton, an Alex Acks, a Malon Edwards, a Maria Dahvana Headley, an Isabel Yap, a Helena Bell, an Erika Satifka, a Kristi DeMeester, an Arkady Martine, a Natalia Theodoridou, a Fran Wilde, a Charlie Bookout, and so many other authors who made editing an absolute joy.

Shimmer ended each digital year with a beautiful print anthology featuring artwork by Sandro Castelli, as did almost each and every issue once we found him (issue six was his first cover, I believe, but with issue fifteen, he was our regular cover artist). Beth and I still talk about an anthology called The Best of Shimmer, and we’ll see how far I can twist her arm, eh? We published such an array of wonderful things, and when I think of every nugget hidden in these issues…ah, I want you to read each and every one of them, because they are each dear and special and yeah, shimmery. WHAT IS SHIMMERY? the masses cried. Go read everything we published. You’ll see.

If you’re tempted, we still have some print issues available in our shop, and everything available in digital. Maybe treat yourself to a back issue or two. There’s so much to read!

Thank you for being part of our journey.

Rockin’

Thanks to all 89 of you who submitted a first line for our contest! The competition was fraught, but we’re happy to report that the voting was not impacted by dangling chads or Russians, so without further ado, we present the winning line:

Grandmother’s rocking chair is made of iron.

 

Thanks Josh Johnson for crafting an awesome and specific image! What’s grandmother up to with that rocking chair? We’ll soon find out. Mary Robinette Kowal will write the story that goes with this opening line, and the story will appear in the final issue of Shimmer, this November.

Thanks for your support!

Opening Lines with Mary Robinette Kowal

Opening lines do important work in storytelling. When you reach the end of a story, an opening line may read completely different than it did when you began, because the story has changed its meaning. An opening line may be a hook, a light in the darkness, a way forward.

I try to take a picture of the eerie.  (The Passenger, Emily Lundgren)

She came out of the peat like a sixpence in a barmbrack, her face shining like wet iron between the spade-edge and the turf, the bright rusty plait of her hair broken like a birth-cord around her neck. (The Creeping Influences, Sonya Taaffe)

He descended on the town like a saint sent from Dark Heaven six-guns shining like twin torches in his hands, down to the border where we had our battle on.  (Salamander Six-Guns, Martin Cahill)

It’s Midsummer’s Eve, and even this close to midnight there’s no darkness, only a long, translucent dusk that will eventually slip into dawn. (Hare’s Breath, Maria Haskins)

As part of our final issue ever (!), we solicited some authors who were there in the beginning. Mary Robinette Kowal was Shimmer‘s art director when the magazine started, and though she’s gone on to much greener pastures (her science fiction debut,The Calculating Stars, came out just last week!), she also published with Shimmer last year.

We invited Mary to be part of the final Shimmer and she suggested we turn part of her story over to you, the readers.

Comment on this post with a killer opening line to a story you’d like Mary to write.  Beth and I will go over all the entries, and pick a winner, which Mary will then write a story for.

Comments open until JULY 20. Beth and I will vote that weekend, and announce a winner on JULY 23.

And in November, you can read Mary’s story in the final issue of Shimmer!

Note: Many of you are submitting whole paragraphs and not a single opening line. We are not approving these. Thank you!

The End

We have an announcement: after thirteen years, Shimmer’s closing.  Our last issue will be November 2018. The 2018 anthology will be released in late 2018.

Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha | Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond. Oh, what an awakening!

For thirteen years, we’ve been haunted by stories of longing beyond loss, of love beyond death, of beauty beyond heartbreak. Now we’re writing our own story of exquisite endings and pain and joy. It’s time. We’re gutted and relieved and weepy and laughing and eager to see what comes next.

We are incredibly thankful to all the people who have made Shimmer a success over the years: our hard-working staff of volunteers, the luminous authors and artists who contributed their work, the readers who’ve supported us, and the entire SFF community, who welcomed a team of naive upstarts and helped shape who we became.

Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha | Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond. Oh, what an awakening!

I owe an unpayable debt to Mary Robinette Kowal. She was there at the beginning as our art director; she’s why Shimmer looks the way it does, and the reason why we had a print edition. She was there in the middle, as she helped us raise our rates to what was then a pro rate. And she’s there at the end, as a friend and a shining light in the industry.

I owe an unpayable debt to E. Catherine Tobler, who’s become my closest friend. She joined the Shimmer staff in our second year, and quickly made herself indispensable. She’s thoughtful and talented and her steadfast diligence is, honestly, the only reason there’s been a Shimmer at all for the past several years. Everyone needs an Elise.

Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha | Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond. Oh, what an awakening!

If you’re a reader — the site will stay up indefinitely, and we’ve got lots of great fiction for you to browse and buy.

If you’re a subscriber with a subscription that goes past November, you’ll get a separate email from me about how we plan to fulfill your subscription.

If you’re a writer, good news: we still have a few slots in the final issues, and will remain open to submissions until 11:59 PM  Mountain Time on July 14. Last call, gang; make it count.

Gate, gate, paragate, parasamgate, bodhi svaha | Gone, gone, gone beyond, gone altogether beyond. Oh, what an awakening!

 

 

2017 Award Eligibility Doings

Greetings, gentle reader.

It’s Hugo Award season, so we’re happy to present you with a list of everything Shimmer published in 2017. Shimmer only publishes short stories–we do not traffic in the tastiness of novelettes or novellas.

Authors to consider for Campbell Award nomination are: Lucia Iglesias, L.M. Davenport, and Emily Lundgren. Shimmer is eligible as a Semiprozine. Cover artist Sandro Castelli is eligible as Fan (?!?) Artist, and our editor E. Catherine Tobler is eligible as Editor (Short Form).

January 2017, Shimmer #35
Hic Sunt Leones, by L.M. Davenport
Shadow Man, Sack Man, Half Dark, Half Light, by Malon Edwards
Trees Struck by Lightning Burning From the Inside Out, by Emily Lundgren
Your Mama’s Adventures in Parenting, by Mary Robinette Kowal

March 2017, Shimmer #36
Birds On An Island, by Charlie Bookout
The Cold, Lonely Waters, by Aimee Ogden
Extinctions, by Lina Rather
And in That Sheltered Sea, a Colossus, by Michael Matheson

May 2017, Shimmer #37
Fallow, by Ashley Blooms
Feathers and Void, by Charles Payseur
We Lilies of the Valley, by Sonja Natasha
Dandelion, by John Shade

July 2017, Shimmer #38
Salamander Six-Guns, by Martin Cahill
Itself at the Heart of Things, by Andrea Corbin
Maps of Infinity, by Heather Morris
The Moon, the Sun, and the Truth, by Victoria Sandbrook

September 2017, Shimmer #39
The Creeping Influences, by Sonya Taaffe
En la Casa de Fantasmas, by Brian Holguin
Fixer, Worker, Singer, by Natalia Theodoridou
Hare’s Breath, by Maria Haskins

November 2017, Shimmer #40
Boneset. by Lucia Iglesias
The Atomic Hallows and the Body of Science, by Octavia Cade
Raise-the-Dead Cobbler, by Andrea Corbin
The Weight of Sentience, by Naru Dames Sundar

We thank you for your consideration, and hope you love these stories as much as we do.

Psyched For the Sequel

Last year around this time, we were getting psyched for Hunger Makes the Wolf, the debut novel from Alex Wells (whom you might know from Shimmer pages as Alex Acks). THIS year, we’re psyched for the sequel, Blood Binds the Pack, wherein everything is turned up to at least eleven.

Blood Binds the Pack is out today from Angry Robot (well today in the UK, in the US it’s February 8th!), and Alex was awesome enough to share some thoughts with us about writing, workers’ unions, and hey, video games!

Blood Binds the Pack is the sequel to 2017’s Hunger Makes the Wolf; how is writing a book two different from writing a book one? What was easier? What was made more challenging?

Writing a second book was actually very intimidating. I’ve written a lot of first books before. This is the first time I’ve ever written a second book—discounting the novella series I did, which feels like a different thing since it was supposed to sort of episodic anyway. I was afraid that I’d have lost the voice, for example, because I wrote most of Hunger Makes the Wolf over five years ago. I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to make the second book as cool or fun as the first book. I was so intimidated by this that I put off writing for way longer than I should have, and all that kicked me into gear was my agent gently but implacably reminding me that I needed to have this thing ready to turn in by a due date. (I do work better to due dates, though. There’s a point where I know I have to stop procrastinating, and I calculate it out fairly precisely.) Once I got over the psychological hump, actually writing the book was a lot easier than I expected. I got my outline done first so all of the major plot mechanics issues were already hammered out, so then I could just write, and I knew exactly what I needed to be writing when. I finished the rough draft in about three months, which is the fastest I’ve ever completed a book.

Blood Binds the Pack deals heavily with workers’ rights, with the idea that workers are people and are entitled to, gasp, certain protections in the course of their work. Where/when did your interest in labor politics begin?

It’s something that’s always been with me, though largely dormant until I hit my late twenties or early thirties. I grew up in a union household—my dad was the Chief Steward for the CWA local 7750 for a while—and we went through one strike while I was pretty young. Then I was actually part of the CWA while I worked for AT&T, right after high school. At the time, I didn’t appreciate it as much as I should have—it was later, once I’d been through several jobs and started really noticing shady labor practices (my favorite bit of subtle ick: the way everyone is discouraged from discussing how much they’re paid with coworkers), that I began to realize how much power workers had lost because most don’t have access to unions. That personal experience and Colorado’s local labor history (see: Ludlow Massacre) were really the foundation that all this grew on.

For readers who might be interested in learning more about such topics, can you point them to any good non-fiction reads?

Here, let me just give you the bibliography that will be at the back of Blood Binds the Pack:

Andrews, Thomas G. Killing for Coal: America’s Deadliest Labor War. Harvard University Press, 2010.

Clyne, Rick J. Coal People: Life in Southern Colorado’s Company Towns, 1890-1930. Colorado Historical Society, 2000.

Green, James. Death in the Haymarket: A Story of Chicago, the First Labor Movements and the Bombing that Divided Gilded Age America. Anchor, 2007.

Jones, Mary Harris. The Autobiography of Mother Jones. Dover Publications, 2012.

Martelle, Scott. Blood Passion: The Ludlow Massacre and Class War in the American West. Rutgers University Press, 2008.

Papanikolas, Zeese. Buried Unsung: Louis Tikas and the Ludlow Massacre. University of Nebraska Press, 1991.

Was there anything fascinating you discovered in the course of research, but it still didn’t fit into the book?

Pretty much every real detail of the Colorado Coal Field War isn’t included, since I used the history as inspiration but didn’t want to get too precious about it. Some of the stories that Mary Harris Jones tells in her biography will simultaneously make you laugh and curl your hair. I think the book that made the biggest impression on me was actually the one about Louis Tikas, though. Since there isn’t that much information about Tikas in the records, a lot of the book is a history that examines more the general lives of the Greek immigrant miners, and the way they went from outsiders to the backbone of labor resistance.

What was the most fun scene to write in Blood Binds the Pack?

Definitely the heist scene. I had a ridiculous amount of fun writing all the dialog for that, particularly Dambala’s. (Also, the chapters leading up to the heist when the plan is conceived.) I don’t want to get into more detail than that because it’s major spoiler territory, but the whole thing was so fun and easy to write!

How the hell do you keep writing when the world is on metaphorical and literal fire, and have these fires changed the way you approach and continue your work?

It’s hard as hell. The only reason I got Blood Binds the Pack done in good time was that I had a deadline, and flogging myself through deadlines is what got me through both undergrad and graduate school so I’m still in the habit. But the amount of time I’ve wasted angrily reading Twitter is downright shameful, and sometimes it’s hard to focus after all that. So I’ve had to just set times where I have to write, and set myself pretty stringent goals just to keep from getting distracted. I’ve noticed that everything I’ve written lately has been a lot angrier, though, even when I don’t want it to be. And it’s made me more determined to write about workers saving themselves, and rich people being shitty, and queer people being everywhere.

I hear you’re good at trivia; what’s one fun bit of trivia you learned while writing Blood Binds the Pack?

The current fastest helicopter in the world is the CH-47F Chinook, which looks like something out of an Avengers film, can fly 315 kilometers per hour.

I also happen to know that you enjoy a good game, be it tabletop or video. What’ve you played lately that you think your readers might dig?

Video game-wise, I’m still eternally stuck on Destiny, since that’s the game of my heart. Titan for life, basically. For tabletop, I’m now in two different D&D Fifth Edition campaigns, and this is a big deal for me… I’ve never actually liked D&D until this edition. And now suddenly, I can understand the rules! It’s glorious. It also doesn’t hurt that I have two great DMs that I play under. I’ve also loved playing Mysterium, which is by the same people who made Dixit, and you can play using Dixit cards if you want. It’s a semi-cooperative sort-of board game, where someone playing a “ghost” tries to communicate with you using very abstract cards. It’s easy to enjoy because it gets silly, and the cards are beautiful.

What’s next for you?

I’ve done some work for Six to Start’s Racelink, so hopefully those will be out in the world soon! And I just finished writing a scifi novel (not related to Hob’s world) so I think something fantasy is definitely next on my list. Oh, and I owe this really cool anthology about Battle Bards a short story…

HEY, that’s probably Sword & Sonnet, which readers should also check out. But first, go grab a copy of Blood Binds the Pack, and if you aren’t already on the Hob and Mag train to Wonderland, get Hunger Makes the Wolf while you’re at it! Alex, thanks for coming by, and thanks too for an AWESOME book!

B&NAngry RobotAmazon
Goodreads
Alex’s Website!

2016 Honorable Mentions

The brilliant Ellen Datlow has released her full list of Honorable Mentions from 2016, and six Shimmer stories find themselves in the mix!

Read the entire list starting here!

New Horizon(s)

In 2015, Fran Wilde’s Updraft hit shelves and went on to win the Andre Norton Award and the Crompton Crook Award, as well as be nominated for the Nebula. Next week, the series concludes with Horizon (and don’t let us forget the middle volume, Cloudbound, on the Locus Recommended Reading list!).

Fran was awesome enough to stop by and talk with us about the writing and feeding of a trilogy. (Did we mention her Shimmer story, “Only Their Shining Beauty Was Left” is a finalist for the WSFA Small Press Award? It is!)

artwork by Tommy Arnold

 

Talk to us about the writing of a trilogy.

Announcer’s Voice: I thought I knew where the story was going, but I didn’t really, until I wrote it: The Writing of A Trilogy By Fran Wilde.

Seriously, though, a trilogy is an opportunity to really explore the evolution of issues – it’s a great chance to play in the world you’ve built. And – especially for me – it’s a chance to layer and expand and develop plotlines that I started in Updraft in the background. I really enjoyed that part.

Updraft was your first novel so does Horizon encompass the initial vision you had for the series and its world, or did it change as you wrote Updraft and Cloudbound?

It does, I believe! The progression of many things within the three books – including who gets to speak, who gets to lead, and what community means, was really important to me from the start. Also the progression of songs being inherited things turning into something one makes anew also was an initial theme. The progression of the skymouths and the bone eaters took me by surprise, as did some of the characters’ decisions. But I knew where I was going with the cities from the very beginning.

Did Kirit go where you expected, or were there surprises on the ground for you?

Writing Kirit – hah. There were a lot of surprises with her character! I liked that enormously, actually. I think when you build a character, and then they push back against the outline (ahem, for me that’s when the writing goes a lot slower) and kind of start deciding what they want to do in the narrative (I gave Kirit a free-form writing day-off to see what she’d do if she could do anything and she totally surprised me), then you may have a character with agency. It’s not convenient sometimes from a plot perspective, but it results in a lot of interesting turns.

Which came first: Kirit or the bone towers?

The towers! And Djonn (the artifex in Cloudbound), believe it or not! He’s in the very first story. And in the story that started everything, which was more of a world building document. Kirit and Nat came later.

Related, where do you begin when it comes to world building?

I begin with what fascinates and scares me most. In the case of the Bone Universe, I began with falling, and flying – which is sort of like failing to fall. Once I know what’s caught me up, I start researching and making lists of things I don’t know, and then I continue researching those things while I write.

You shared some of the research you did for this series on your blog–you flew in a wind tunnel! What was the most unexpected thing you learned in the course of your research for the trilogy?

The most unexpected things I learned were probably that echolocation works, but not exactly the way people outside the blind community think it does. The weirdest were the facts about lammergeiers – they rub their faces with clay to look fiercer, and they’re already huge and fierce. Also the different ways bone can smell. That was pretty weird. And cephalopods. So much weird there. And…

Yeah, I like weird.

You have an MFA in poetry; how has poetry influenced your work, and do you have favorite poets we should look up after we finish this interview?

I think poetry has always influenced my writing – mostly the sounds of words hitting together and weaving together. I get very caught up in sounds. I still write poems, but they’re quick things that I post on Instagram now and then.

Favorite poets – oh gosh I have so many. Rita Dove (one of my teachers), Larry Levis (another teacher – basically all of my teachers go on this list), Gerard Manley Hopkins, Elizabeth Bishop, Wyslawa Szymborska, Pablo Neruda, Mary Szybist, Tracy K. Smith (the newest US Poet Laureate), John Berryman, Eavan Boland, Seamus Heaney, Christina Rosetti, Sofia Samatar, Lynda Hull, Whitman… not to mention Amal El-Motar, Valya Dudycz Lupescu, CSE Cooney, Rose Lemberg, and more.

What is the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

“This isn’t good enough. You should stop working on this and start something new instead.” – from Past Me.

I am learning to not listen.

You have an affinity for fountain pens and ink. Do you have a favorite pen? A favorite ink?

YES I DO. I love TWSBI demonstrators. Except now I have more pens because people are lovely and are trying to educate me about them. My new favorite favorites are a Jinhao and a Boerer 8 Horses. Both fine nib.

My favorite inks right now are the really moody Sailors and iroshizukus, and the J. Herbin 1670s.

I’m not sure that ‘affinity’ is the most accurate word…. What’s the level up from that?

What came first, sketching or writing?

Writing was fir—no wait, it was sketchi—hmm. I’m not sure. I’ve always done both, usually together. I think it’s a pretty natural thing to draw and write at the same time… something we’ve lost due to the keyboard effect.

Cooking the Books is your blog about food in works of speculative fiction; do you have a favorite speculative food, a perhaps-fictional food that made you think “oh I want to go to there”?

I’m always interested in the coffee analogs – and the things people are willing to do for coffee and spices. So many foods in Aliette de Bodard’s worlds (she’s my Cooking the Books co-host, so maybe sometime we’ll get to cook together). I remember wondering what the foods in Alice and Wonderland tasted like, and how it felt to eat words in the Phantom Tollbooth, so it started pretty early.

While reading Updraft, I had a memory of reading the Pern books; for me, they share a sense of wonder and newness and strangeness and scope. And yes, flying! What authors/books do you remember loving in your childhood?

McCaffrey, for sure was a favorite, so that’s an honor you thought of Pern! The Ship Who Sang especially – Helva was my first and best ship. Natalie Babbitt (Tuck Everlasting), Norm Juster (The Phantom Tollbooth), Richard Adams (Watership Down). I had a copy of The Annotated Alice that I loved very much. And some very early science fiction…mostly out of Gardner Dozois’ Best Of collections.  Ursula K. Le Guinn’s Earthsea. Madeline L’Engle.

Has the world of 2016/2017 changed the way you approach writing, or the kind of content you’re creating?

I have discovered I write better and more honestly when I allow myself to be angry. 2016 & 2017 have provided plenty of opportunities for writing better.

Are Kirit’s stories concluded?

I think so…. Maybe not everyone in the Bone Universe is ready to settle down yet, but I think Kirit’s pretty happy where she landed.

What’s next for you?

I’ve finished a middle grade novel that took me completely by surprise, and am working on the next two Gem Universe novellas for Tor.com as well as a number of short stories!

Fran, thank you so much for sharing your journey with us! Readers, grab Horizon if you haven’t already, and also be sure to check out Fran’s own interview with her cover artist Tommy Arnold — it contains sketches for the covers, and shows how author and artist work together to show you what you’re reading! Fran is also over at Scalzi’s The Big Idea today, so check that out, too.

Fran will be at Powell’s (Cedar Hills Crossing) to read and sign on October 18th.

Horizon can be found at: Amazon | B&N | IndieBound | Powell’s

Beneath

Shimmer author Kristi DeMeester’s debut novel, Beneath, is out on April 30th from Word Horde. Kristi was kind enough to spend some time with us, pondering scary things and the nature of snakes…

Tell us how Beneath came to be.

Beneath started while I was in grad school as a very different book. I’d been reading far too much Pat Conroy and was trying to write a bastardization of The Prince of Tides. In order to graduate, you had to submit 150 pages of a novel to selected advisors, go through the critique and revision process, and then do a formal presentation. I got about fifty pages into that first book, when I realized I wasn’t telling the right story. The mother in that first book was Ruth McDowell, and her story—filled with snake handling and delusion—was infinitely more fun than the one I was writing, so I turned tail right then and started writing of the night Ruth gave birth to her daughter with the fleck of red in her eye. After that, I dutifully wrote 100 more pages, submitted it in dead exhaustion, and then didn’t touch it for another two years. It was only when an agent reached out to me, asking if I had a novel, that I dusted off Beneath and realized it wasn’t as terrible as I remembered. I made a pledge to myself that I would spend that summer finishing it, and so, slowly but surely, I added 1,000 words and then 2,000 words a day until it was finished. By that time, it had become something completely different: the story of a journalist facing what seems to be demonic possession but is actually the awakening of something much older. After that, it went through rounds and rounds of revisions until Ross Lockhart asked to take a peak, and he was kind enough to see something in it and agreed to publish it. Four years after I started it.

Do you have a favorite snake?

NOPE. I don’t like snakes. At all. I realize the irony in that, but I’m terrified of them.

What kind of research did Beneath entail? Was there anything fascinating you discovered in the course of research, but it still didn’t fit into the book?

I pulled quite a bit from my own background with fundamentalist religion, but I did research on the practicalities of snake handling. How the preachers will keep the snakes close to starving in order to keep them docile, which seems like the opposite of what you would want, but is true. A lethargic snake is less likely to bite or feel threatened than a lively one. Research about the flora and fauna of Appalachia itself was something I had to pare back but wasn’t that interesting. There’s a detail in there about how to siphon gasoline out of a car without using your mouth, which I thought was cool. It’s still in there. I don’t think anything fascinating didn’t make it in. I wish I did have a little nugget to share!

Beneath deals a lot with ritual, with belief. Do you have rituals when it comes to the writing process?

Right now, my ritual is firmly grounded in being flexible. I write most often upstairs, in my bedroom, in a little nook that has a chair. If I have quiet, I need ambient music, but usually the television is on in the background and someone is trying to talk to me.  In the summer, when I have hours that belong only to me, the ritual is coffee, stare at the screen, type a little, check my email, more coffee, type some more. Minimum of 500 words a day. If I get more, great. If I don’t, that’s okay. Slow and steady.

When did you decide you wanted to be a writer?

I came to writing later than a lot of people, and for that I have some regrets, but I also think those years formed and shaped the fiction I was going to create. In 2008 I started writing semi-seriously. I had just gotten married, and I was going through some old folders when I found a story I’d written while I was student teaching. I remembered how I’d written it only for me, for the sheer enjoyment of doing it, and I thought yes, this is something I want to do. I applied for grad school and got in and then spent two and a half years writing terrible workshop pieces, but I learned a lot and find the experience invaluable. In 2010 I started submitting in earnest.

What is it about dark fiction that draws your interest? Was there a certain moment that you remember saying “oh yes, this is for me”?

I’ve always liked spooky stuff. I was the kid who got into trouble for the books I brought to school. I tried for a long time to write things that were not dark, but everything felt forced and stilted and when I finally came back to it, it was like coming home. The very first story I remember reading and wanting to emulate was Charlotte Perkins Gilman “The Yellow Wallpaper.” There was something that disturbed me so much about that story. Later, I realized it was the true horror of that quiet, little story. How things in our lives can morph and change into things we don’t understand, and I wanted my fiction to be like that.

Related to that, what’s the moment in a horror movie or book where you were really and truly scared? Whose work made you feel that?

That’s the hardest question ever for a horror fan. Because after a time, you aren’t really scared anymore. Perhaps unsettled or disturbed or uneasy, and, for me anyway, those emotions are more powerful than the jump scare. Stephen Graham Jones has been one whose writing has left me feeling that way lately. Laird Barron. Robert Shearman. Livia Llewellyn. Joyce Carol Oates. Michael Wehunt. For films it’s even narrower. Stoker left me both fascinated and terrified. I like my horror quiet and gentle. The kind that sneaks up behind you and whispers poison into your ear. Picnic at Hanging Rock and Lake Mungo did that for me.

You write both short stories and novels; how is the process different for you? How is it the same?

Novels can feel more defeating because the pay off of the end is so far away. The process is largely the same because I don’t outline, but I have to allow myself to stretch out and breathe, which is hard for me sometimes because I’m such a fan of ambiguity and brevity.

Do you have a favorite story among your own?

As of now it’s a tie between “The Language of Endings” which appeared in the April 2017 issue of The Dark and “Saints in Gold” which is forthcoming in a Ramsey Campbell tribute anthology titled Darker Companions.

Picture your own work as a compass; are there authors who make up north, south, east, and west for you? Authors who gave/give you guidance along the way?

Damien Angelica Walters. Michael Wehunt. These two always point north for me.

What challenges you?

The constant need to put out new work. To not settle for the same story I’ve always told.

What scares you?

Loss. Not living up to my own expectations. Failure.

Does Beneath have a soundtrack?

The Southern Gothic playlist on Spotify.

If we came to visit you in Georgia, where would you take us?

For a beer at one of our local breweries and then outside under the stars somewhere to experience what it smells like in Georgia when the sun sets.

What’s next for you?

My debut short fiction collection, Everything That’s Underneath, is forthcoming from Apex Publications this summer. My second novel, The Kingdom of Beasts, is out with agents currently. I’m at work on my third novel, currently titled Lessons in Vanishing.

Thanks, Kristi! Readers, you can get a signed copy of Beneath with the ebook directly from Word Horde when you buy the Beneath bundle! You can also find Beneath at the usual suspects, Amazon and B&N.

 

Speculative fiction for a miscreant world

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