Category Archives: Author Interviews

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.

 

Stay Crazy, Erica L. Satifka

Nickolas Brokenshire
Nickolas Brokenshire

Shimmer has had the pleasure of publishing Erica L. Satifka’s short fiction twice, “We Take the Long View” (Shimmer 21) and “States of Emergency” (Shimmer 26).

Today, Erica’s debut novel, STAY CRAZY,  arrives from Apex Book Company, and it’s probably quite unlike anything you’ve ever read — exactly like her short fiction is.

Erica dropped by to talk about the book, mental illness, and badgers in books.

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Tell us how Stay Crazy came to be.

I had just graduated from college and I was working in a certain big-box store, frozen food aisle, night shift. The work was extremely tedious and to pass the time I started making up stories in my head, and eventually I’d built the story that would become Stay Crazy and I spent the next year thinking about it until I finally started writing it down. I’d also just discovered Philip K. Dick, so a lot of my story ideas were pulled in the direction of alternate realities. The story went through numerous mental revisions, and the only constant was a being that spoke through RFID chips.

Anyway, in 2005 I actually wrote the book, and then I revised it a decade later, because my writing process is counterproductive and makes absolutely no sense. However, I became a much better writer in the time that elapsed between the two drafts, so it’s a lot better for that period of abeyance.

Stay Crazy tackles some big themes, namely mental illness.  How did you approach research?

In the year before I wrote it and while I was working on the revision (these two things happened almost a decade apart), I read upwards of two dozen memoirs written by people with schizophrenia. I read a few clinical books, too, but for the most part I stuck strictly to first-person narratives. Among the best of these were The Center Cannot Hold by Elyn Saks, The Eden Express by Mark Vonnegut, and The Day the Voices Stopped by Ken Steele.

But even more than striving for authenticity, I was striving for empathy. Fictional characters with schizophrenia typically only fill one role, that of a killer. In reality, someone like Em would be vastly more likely to be a victim of violent crime than a perpetrator. I also didn’t want the novel to be about mental illness; Stay Crazy isn’t meant to inform but to entertain. If it does happen to change someone’s perspective on people with schizophrenia, though, so much the better.

One of the things I like best about Stay Crazy is that Emmeline gets to be the hero–where normally someone with a mental illness would not be thrust into that role. She’s almost a Cassandra at times–with people not believing her because her illness has caused them to doubt even her normal reactions. Was that a challenge to write–everyone in the book may think Em is unreliable, but she knows her own truth?

That’s actually my favorite thing about the book, the layering of different types of unreality. Even Em doesn’t really know her own truth at first, and she backs off from it several times. And not to get too far into spoilers, but she isn’t always right – I wanted to make her both reliable and unreliable, sort of a broken Cassandra. One coping mechanism used by most people with schizophrenia is reality testing, the constant checking of one’s internal sense of what is real with the way other people are reacting to a stimulus. So there are two conflicting realities; on the one hand there’s definitely something supernatural going on since Em’s coworkers are dying in droves, and her internal senses tell her that Escodex and the entity are real, but she’s been wrong so many times before. And the stakes for her are so high; a neurotypical protagonist who uncovers a sinister plot against the universe might get brushed off, but Em is in real danger of getting locked up in a mental hospital if the people around her discover what she’s doing. This is the kind of ontological quandary that I eat up with a spoon.

I quite enjoyed Escodex, an interdimensional investigator who must’ve been often frustrated by the limitations placed on him in this case. Any plans to explore Escodex’s world?

This is a standalone novel, so probably not. Although I guess if people really wanted a short story from his perspective…

The artwork for Stay Crazy is amazing; who’s the artist? Did you have input on the art?

Isn’t it so great? The art is by Nick Brokenshire. He’s the artist for Amelia Cole, a comic that just finished its run and is available from IDW in 5 volumes. I met him because my friend Adam Knave co-wrote the story with his frequent collaborator, DJ Kirkbride. It also features a young woman in a contemporary setting who stumbles across a supernatural realm.

It was really difficult to find pre-existing art that worked, because a store doesn’t usually make for exciting subject matter. A lot of the potential art just seemed way too dark when paired with the title, so I asked Apex if we could pay for original art instead of licensing something, and Nick came up with some sketches based on the synopsis. So far people seem to really like it! I think it really fits with the tone of the novel, plus it ties into Em’s interest in alternative comic books.

Was there a particular scene in Stay Crazy that was especially challenging or fun to write?

Em’s hallucination scenes were the part of the book that required the most research but also flowed the best once I actually started writing them. The challenge was to always keep two seemingly opposing truths in mind: Em knows her hallucinations are not real, but at the same time they feel so real that she gets swept up anyway. So they had to come across as both true and false, be something that readers can tell is too bizarre to be real yet have them understand how and why a person would still be taken in by them.

Do you think Em has sworn off TV dinners forever?

Wouldn’t you? Of course, one can’t truly trust fresh foods either. Don’t trust anything!

Your fiction is often touching, but still always recognizable for the absolutely weird things going on: eyeballs in unexpected places, sentient forests, cyborg butlers, people selling actual pieces of themselves. Are there any specific writers who influenced your style?

Aside from the obvious influence of Philip K. Dick, I’m also a fan of James Tiptree, Jr., Cordwainer Smith, Samuel Delany, and J.G. Ballard. Among newer writers, Daryl Gregory and Kelly Link are two of my favorites. I’ve had a weird, uneven schooling in science fiction. Never read Asimov, only read one Heinlein and that was as an adult. So I don’t feel constrained at all by any Golden Age nostalgia. I think SF should be as weird as possible at all times.

Do you have a favorite short story among your own?

I’m pretty partial to “States of Emergency” (which appeared in Shimmer #26) just because it was an attempt to be as weird as possible without the hindrance of a cohesive plot. Down with plot! My current best story is still in a slush pile, and saying too much about the story will jinx it, but it may just have the strangest voice of anything I’ve ever written.

Will you put a badger in your next book?

No, but there’s a woodchuck that navigates the multiverse.

What do you want to be when you grow up?

When I figure it out you’ll be the first to know!

If Stay Crazy had a soundtrack, what would the first three tracks be?

I actually had a full soundtrack for the novel at one point, each song cued to a specific scene, but I don’t know where it is anymore. But the tracks that were most thematically apt (as opposed to just having the right tempo for the scene) were “Where Is My Mind?” by the Pixies, “Heimdalsgate Like a Promethean Curse” by Of Montreal, and “Sick of Goodbyes” by Sparklehorse.

What’s next for you?

In January I finished an alien abduction/sinister terraforming novel currently called Human After All, and once Stay Crazy is released I hope to get into editing the thing. I also want to write more short fiction, I haven’t written a single short story in 2016 and that’s way too big of a gap. I’ll be honest, getting this book out was a lot more stressful than I thought it would be, so I’m also looking forward to just relaxing a bit and working on some projects that don’t come with a timeline. Although I hope it doesn’t take me ten years to revise the next book!

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Buy STAY CRAZY on Amazon + add STAY CRAZY to your Goodreads + visit Erica’s blog!

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Erica L. Satifka is a writer and/or friendly artificial construct, forged in a heady mix of iced coffee and sarcasm. She enjoys rainy days, questioning reality, ignoring her to-do list, and adding to her collection of tattoos. Her short fiction has appeared in ClarkesworldShimmer, Lightspeed, and Intergalactic Medicine Show, and her debut novel Stay Crazy will be released in August 2016 by Apex Publications. Originally from Pittsburgh, she now lives in Portland, Oregon with her spouse Rob and an indeterminate number of cats.

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Queers Destroy Horror

Nightmare_37_October_2015Queers Destroy Horror is a double-issue of Nightmare that’s written, edited, and illustrated by LGBTQUIA creators. There is a former Shimmer badger among them — not to mention a couple Shimmer authors in the mix, which we love to see. Today, we’re talking to guest editor Wendy N. Wagner about the project, monsterflails!

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QDH is the newest member of the Destroy family. How did this amazing journey begin?

The Destroy projects really ARE amazing. Back in 2013, Christie Yant, one of our Lightspeed Assistant Editors, got fed up with the state of genre fiction. The genre’s main trade organization, SFWA, had included some articles that were disrespectful to women; bloggers and analysts (like Nicola Griffith) were putting together uncomfortable statistics about the ways women writers don’t make recommended reading lists or get reviewed in the same ways that men do. And then an article came out that claimed Lois McMaster Bujold’s books weren’t real science fiction, because they included romance and balls and court scenes with descriptions of people’s clothes. So Christie made a joke on Twitter about how women were just DESTROYING science fiction with all our icky girl germs, and the joke sort of snowballed.

The publisher of Lightspeed and Nightmare, John Joseph Adams, thought the joke could be used to make a positive difference in the industry, so invited Christie to do a special issue of the magazine that would celebrate women’s work in science fiction. They wanted to make it really special and really inclusive, so they decided to run a Kickstarter campaign to give them some extra funds to work with. The Kickstarter exploded! They (we, by that time, because John had brought me on as the Managing/Associate Editor of his magazines, and I immediately wanted to help with Women Destroy SF) raised ten times the amount of money they had hoped to make. And the feedback was phenomenal! People wanted us to destroy everything. And everybody wanted a chance to come out of the shadows and show the world how they could contribute to the field.

Last year, we published Women Destroy Science Fiction!, Women Destroy Horror!, and Women Destroy Fantasy!; this year we’ve asked gender and sexual minorities to smash up the genres. Next year we’ll be putting people of color in the driver’s seat.

Talk to us about this cover art — it’s amazing. How did this concept come about?

When the team was working on the cover for Queers Destroy Science Fiction!, they really struggled to find an image that meant “science fiction” for them. I was just a fly on the wall, listening to their conversation, and I found myself thinking that for me, nothing said horror like a skull. And I immediately had this vision of a skull with this black beetle crawling on it, and the beetle’s carapace had this wonderful rainbow shimmer on it.

So when Cory Skerry, our art director for QDH, asked if I had any ideas about the cover art, I shared that idea, and he thought it would be cool. Neither one of us was really prepared for AJ Jones to come back to us with this image. It’s so much more nightmarish and exhilarating than what we imagined!

Why horror? What draws you to the genre?

The strongest memories I have from early childhood are all about Halloween. My mom and my sisters always made these great costumes and we decorated the house and made a big fuss about it. It seemed like Halloween was made out of some kind of magic — the kind of stuff that let three-year-old kids turn into bats and made candy into an acceptable meal. I loved (and still love!) everything about Halloween. I can not get enough of it. So much of horror looks and feels like Halloween. I can’t resist that aesthetic!

On the other hand, I’m also a super emotional person. Unhappy things affect me deeply, and the heart of horror is unhappiness and darkness and the deep injustice of bad things happening to people. And reading about that stuff in a safe, fictional way helps me cope with the real world.

Plus, being scared when I know I can hide under the covers is the most delicious feeling possible!

After choosing the stories for this issue, what advice do you have for writers working in horror?

Worry less about being original and more about being meaningful. If you infuse your work with a feeling that comes from your core, you can make any situation, any trope, any monster interesting. Look at Let the Right One In. At a time when people were rolling their eyes about vampires, this story came along and hit them over the head. Why? Because it’s such a powerful story about being isolated and lonely and finding someone who gets you. It’s very meaningful and real.

I want to read stories that make me feel. So get out there and scrape up some feelings!

What makes for a great horror story?

A main character whose feelings and thoughts come clear in the prose. Every image and plot development is only as interesting as that character’s response to it, so if your character is a piece of cardboard being dragged along by the story, your story will fail.

In your QDH editorial, you mention falling in love/horror with “The Raft,” from Stephen King’s Skeleton Crew collection. What other authors and stories have influenced your writing (and perhaps editing)?

The unintentionally big influences on my writing are Margaret Mahy, Pamela Dean, Robin McKinley, and David Eddings. These are the writers I read and re-read as a kid and I absorbed them like I was a sponge. I don’t mind writing like the first three, but I am still trying to expunge David Eddings from my brain, because I don’t think I want to write like him. (His books are still fun — they’re just not me.) Some influences I’ve tried to cultivate are Octavia Butler, David Mitchell, Tana French, and Scott Fitzgerald.

But the person who has had the biggest effect on my work as a writer (and editor) is John Joseph Adams. He’s published me a couple of times and the edits he gave me were incredibly insightful—I learned a lot just working on them. And I’ve been his editorial assistant or assistant editor or associate editor on and off since 2010. I’m hoping some of his good taste has rubbed off on me.

You recently did an amazing thing–bringing home a Hugo for the work done on Lightspeed, Nightmare’s parent pub. Is that thing heavy, or what? 

The Lightspeed team won the Hugo for Best Semiprozine, and the group included John Joseph Adams (our editor-in-chief/publisher), Stefan Rudnicki (our podcast producer), Rich Horton (our reprints editor), Christie Yant (head of special projects and Guest Editor of WDSF), and me, so there was rather a horde of us. It takes a lot of people to make the magazine come together!

The Hugo award this year weighs about 8 or 9 pounds. The base is also covered in metal triangles that are quite poky and sharp-edged. It looks like a medieval mace or something. It’s kind of terrifying.

Horror seems to be making something of a comeback with television series like Scream Queens, American Horror Story, and Hannibal. Do you think visual horror is more effective than written horror, or are they simply two sides of the same coin?

I think visual horror is a paper dollar bill and written horror is a gold one dollar coin — they’re equally effective, but most people seem to prefer using paper. Visual horror has a lot of advantages, like jump scares and musical scores, and I think it has the luxury of building on a visual language that has saturated our culture. I mean, even if you haven’t seen the movies, you’ve usually picked up some of the tropes and standard images coming out of popular horror movies. That can make a new horror film/show more accessible to new viewers.

I know a lot of people who say they don’t find themselves as frightened when they read horror as when they watch horror. But I also think that horror is about a lot more than just being scary, and that’s where writers get a chance to shine. Horror is the genre where we get to explore everything dark in the world. Fear is one part of that, but I think it’s just one corner of the playroom.

If you could invite one horror author (dead or alive, naturally) to tea and spider scones, who would it be?

Shirley Jackson! I just read Let Me Tell You, a new collection of shorts and essays by her, and I’m pretty sure we have a lot in common. Plus, I love her work. She’s the writer I most want to be when I grow up. I mean, if I have to grow up. 🙂

What’re you destroying next? What does the future hold?

I am currently revising a novel that is destroying science fiction with werewolves and philosophy. I am very excited about it. I also have a new novel coming out in August, which is a dark adventure set in the world of the Pathfinder role-playing game. It features the same main character as my first novel, Skinwalkers, although it’s not a sequel per se, and I think it’s going to be a really fun book.

Thanks, Wendy! Readers, you can get your mitts on QDH here. The issue is available online, in trade paper, and a variety of ebook formats!

 

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She Walks in Shadows

shewalksinshadows2-846x1269She Walks in Shadows is the newest anthology from Innsmouth Free Press. Best dressed editor Silvia Moreno-Garcia was kind enough to sit down with me in this virtual space and talk about the project, which I and another badger have stories in.

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How did She Walks in Shadows come about?

There was a discussion; it started on Facebook and trickled into some other spaces, which made it obvious most Lovecraft fans couldn’t name more than one woman Lovecraft writer (Kiernan), and some couldn’t even recall her. There was even a gross comment that women are biologically incapable of writing Lovecraftian fiction. As often happens in these discussions someone will pipe in and say “if you don’t like it why don’t you do something about it rather than whining,” so, since I actually tend to do things, we got together this anthology project to help showcase the work of women .

The cover art is striking and beautiful. Who did the art and what was the idea behind the image? Was it just “women and Lovecraft, go”?

That’s Sara K. Diesel‘s work. She did the cover for This Strange Way of Dying, my debut collection, and I contacted her for this. I asked her to do something inspired by a rather lousy movie with Barbara Steele called The Crimson Cult. Despite being kind of dull it features Steele in a distinctive headdress. I asked Sara to create a cultist or priestess inspired, but not identical, to the one in that movie. Her sketches were very good and I picked one with a profile pose because it seemed different than some of the other covers we’d done before.

With the anthology, what was it you most hoped to accomplish and what did you want to avoid?

We wanted to feature a wide variety of voices and characters. Not just women as heroes, but as villains, mothers and daughters, young and old. We didn’t want it to be too Mythos heavy. It’s always a delicate dance because some buyers love and only love the “monsters” and deities, but others want stuff that uses less places and people utilized by Lovecraft and is more about mood or ideas. So there’s that back and forth. We didn’t want to just have the Who’s Who of 1920s Lovecraft Mythos and I believe we avoided that. Cthulhu appears, but probably not the way you expect him, we get a kind of funky Asenath thanks to Molly Tanzer, and some people go ahead and spin stories like the opening one, about Lovecraft’s mother, which don’t namedrop any famous entity but are still preoccupied and responding to Lovecraft in some way. The anthology also features a good number of POC contributors, seven as I recall, and other writers who are not POC but are from outside the United States, which is obviously a dominant force in the Mythos market. So you get to meet people like Inkeri Kontro who is from Finland and I think it helps to show how widespread Lovecraft is nowadays.

After all these years, and all these beautiful anthologies from Innsmouth Free Press, why Lovecraft? What is it about him and his stories that continue to fascinate?.

To be honest I don’t know how much longer I’ll be dealing with Lovecraft. I am working on my thesis, and it involves Lovecraft and eugenic thought in the early 20th century, so I’m very much exhausted of reading about him by now. Next year, after that’s done, I think I’m going to take a long stretch of time without him, maybe I’ll even be done with him forever. I’ve had a long time to build a dialogue with him and I’ve worked hard to get more POCs and women noticed in this niche, but at some point I guess we all grow out of certain things and I’m at the point where this might be true for me and Lovecraft. On the other hand, my husband thinks I’ll never stop. I’ve been reading Lovecraft since he’s known me, which is a long time, and he can’t picture me without something vaguely related to him in my hands. We’ll see.

Do you have a favorite Lovecraft monster?

The Deep Ones. It’s not Lovecraft per se, but I liked Derleth’s Ithaqua. I live in Canada so part of the appeal is the snowy landscape.

How did you first discover Lovecraft?

Like most people, as a teenager. I read Poe and then moved onto Lovecraft, and from then on read quite a bit of pulp fiction and Gothic fiction for a while.

After reading, editing, and writing so much Lovecraftian fiction, what’s your advice for writers jumping into the genre?

Know your Lovecraft. There’s a lot out there and you want to know the original sources but also some of the newer stuff that’s been done. But knowing doesn’t meaning imitating. Trying to slavishly replicate Lovecraft’s style is not going to get you very far.

What’s next for you?

My second novel, Certain Dark Things, sold recently and will be out in 2016. It’s about a garbage collector in Mexico City who ends up involved with a narco vampire and they find themselves trying to outrun rival narcos, cops, and almost everybody.

Thanks, Silvia! Readers, you can grab She Walks in Shadows here, in a variety of formats, including a beautiful trade paperback! You should also grab Silvia’s debut novel, Signal to Noise. The badgers give it two paws up.

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Ultra Fab

glittersquadA.C. Wise first hit Shimmer’s pages in issue #14, with her story “Trashman.” We’ve been lucky to have her four more times, including one of her Glitter Squadron stories, “How Bunny Came to Be.”

She hails from the land of poutine (Montreal) and currently resides in the land of cheesesteaks (Philadelphia), and today we’re helping her welcome THE ULTRA FABULOUS GLITTER SQUADRON SAVES THE WORLD AGAIN. This collection debuts tomorrow, and if you didn’t pre-order like we did, you can grab your copy from Lethe Press or Amazon!

A.C. was awesome enough to sit down and chat with us about this collection. Be sure to stick around, because at the end, you’ll find a Glitter Squadron Drink Generator and an opportunity to win some glittery swag!

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What was the process for putting this glittery collection together and does it collect every Glitter Squadron story to date?

As far as collections go, The Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron Saves the World Again is a bit of an oddity. It all started with “Doctor Blood and the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron,” the first story I wrote featuring the wonderful ladies of the Glitter Squadron, which was published at Ideomancer. I thought it was a fun one-and-done kind of thing, but then along came “How Bunny Came to Be,” a prequel story, which appeared in a wonderful publication you may have heard of called Shimmer. I briefly thought I might be done after those two stories, but as it turned out, the Glitter Squadron had strong opinions to the contrary. Aside from “Doctor Blood,” and “How Bunny Came to Be,” all the stories in the collection are original. The ladies (and M) had plenty more to say, and about the same time I started writing the rest of their stories, Steve Berman at Lethe Press approached me about doing a collection. The rest is history!

What can readers expect to find in this collection? 

Sequins! Drink recipes! High heels! Ass-kicking! Friendship! Exclamation points! Okay, that last one might just apply to my answer to this question. What readers can expect is a series of inter-connected short stories about a group of queer, trans, agender, and gender fluid characters saving the world from various supernatural threats, all while looking terribly fabulous in glitter, lame, velvet, feathers, and so on. It’s a bit campy, a bit serious, a bit about gender, and hopefully a lot of fun. It is also about different ways of being strong, and about how glitter is the best thing ever and severely unappreciated when it comes to world-saving materials.

“Dr. Blood and the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron” (Ideomancer, 2013) appears to be the first story in this universe; what sparked the initial idea for you?

The original story was sparked by a call for submissions for an anthology themed around B movies. I happened to see this call for submissions just over 24 hours before the deadline. Oops. My Unlikely Story co-editor and I dared each other to see what sort of story we could write within such a short time frame. And thus, the Ultra Fabulous Glitter Squadron was born.

We had the good fortune to publish “How Bunny Came to Be” (Shimmer #17); it is a story that speaks to being true to oneself, whatever that self may be. This feels, in some ways, to be the heart of the Glitter Squadron, but what other themes are in play?

Friendship, in particular, female friendship, to me is the heart of the Glitter Squadron. Too often we get dude-centric narratives where one, lone exceptional woman is allowed into the club. Said woman then has to stand for all women everywhere, because anyone outside the cis-het-white-able-bodied-male is not part of what is ‘normal’ and therefore has to answer for their entire gender/race/sexuality etc. They are not individuals. The one lone exceptional female ends up being criticized no matter what she does. If she’s too girly, she’s a stereotype. If she’s too tough, she’s just a guy with boobs. If she’s too needy, then she’s saying all women are needy. If she falls in love, well of course she does because all any woman cares about is getting married and having babies. Often times, said lone exceptional woman never even gets to speak to another woman the entire time she’s on the page or screen.

However, with more than one women, or even a whole group of women, you start to see that women are indeed human beings. They want different things. Some of may be interested in babies and relationships. Some may be worried about a bad hair day. Some may have PTSD from their time in the military. Some may know exactly who they are and carry themselves with confidence; others are insecure, and still trying to figure it out. But none of them are carrying the entire weight of their gender alone. Together, they’re stronger than they are apart. They support each other, and complement each other’s strengths and weaknesses. They don’t always get along, but ultimately they are family, and they love each other.

Aside from CeCe and M, the members of the Glitter Squadron are also very ‘girly’, which was another important theme I wanted to explore. They wear glittery dresses and high heels and makeup. They are fabulous and badass and they aren’t asked to shed the traditional trappings of femininity in order to be battle ready. Femininity isn’t demonized. In the end, the Glitter Squadron members are far from perfect. They have their insecurities and flaws, but together, when they aren’t asked to carry they entire weight of femininity on their shoulders alone they are fucking strong.

Do you have a favorite story in the collection?

Nope. I love them all for different reasons. The collection is anchored by two stories featuring the team as a whole, but most of the stories in-between take the time to explore some aspect of one of the individual characters. They were all fun to write in that they allowed me to get to know the Glitter Squadron as individuals and as a team along the way.

Picture it: Netflix wants to make a Glitter Squadron series. Any casting dreams?

Eeep. This is a hard question. Part of me thinks that largely unknown actors might be the way to go. I do have certain specific casting ‘rules’ I would insist on, presuming this is a magical world where the lowly author gets a say. Sapphire, Starlight, and Bunny would be played by trans actresses. No one would be white-washed, thin-washed, or straight-washed. Looking up various trans actresses make me think that appearance-wise, some combination of Estelle Asmodelle, Candis Cayne, Nina Arsenault, and the late Coccinelle would be perfect for Bunny. However, even though I saw Bunny as Caucasian while writing her, there’s no reason why she has to be, and I think Laverne Cox would be a brilliant Bunny. For Sapphire, someone like Ines Rau, but a bit older would be excellent. CeCe was actually directly inspired by photos of Marlene Dietrich in a tuxedo, and Renate Muller as the original star of Victor Victoria. In a modern show, I think Scarlett Johansson could totally rock that 1930s suave-butch look. Someone like Aidy Bryant would be good for Ruby. As for Penny, Starlight, and Esmeralada…I’m still thinking about those ones. And M? Well, maybe whoever wore the gimp suit in the first season of American Horror story?

Which would you rather have a squadron of: poutine or corgis?

Corgis. I love poutine, but I don’t think it would make a very good squadron. Corgis, on the other hand, can be pretty fierce (I say as my own corgi is passed out snoring beside me). People tend to think of them as small dogs, but secretly, they’re big dogs with no legs. And if you get between them and food…well you can forget about it.

Is there a soundtrack/playlist for the Glitter Squadron?

Funny you should ask! I was just thinking about what song each member of the squadron might listen to in order to get pumped up before a fight. So I went ahead and put one together, and you can find it here.

What does the future hold for the Glitter Squadron?

The Glitter Squadron fans out there (if there are any) may be pleased to know that there are at least three more stories rattling around in my head. I haven’t done anything with them yet, other than make tons of notes, so I’m not entirely sure whether they’re short story length things, longer pieces, or if any of them will ever see the light of day. I am quite enamored of my beautiful, glittering ladies however, and thrilled to keep chronicling their stories as long as they keep telling them to me.

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Now that you’ve had a taste of what the Glitter Squadron is all about, don’t you want a customized cocktail recipe of your very own? All you have to do is use the Glitter Squadron name generator to create your drag name/cocktail name, and drop your results in the comments.

A winner will be chosen at random, and the Glitter Squadron’s bartender supreme, Sapphire, will create a drink recipe for you based on the name. But wait, there’s more! You’ll receive the recipe on a Glitter Squadron coaster along with a glittery flask so you can take the party with you wherever you go. Contest closes on Monday, October 26!

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Damien Angelica Walters, Sing Me Your Scars

Damien Angelica Walters - Author PhotoDamien appeared in Shimmer #17 with “Girl, With Coin,” a story that isn’t necessarily speculative fiction at all (gasp!). Her short story “The Floating Girls: A Documentary” has been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction. Here, she drops by to talk about all manner of things, including her short fiction collection, Sing Me Your Scars. Buckle up!

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Tell us about your first fiction sale; what was that like? Did you spend the money on anything special?

I think my first sale was in late 2009 or early 2010 to Bards & Sages Quarterly. I know my first professional sale was in 2011 to Daily Science Fiction, and in both cases, I’m certain I spent the money on books.

You started publishing in 2011, but how long have you actually been writing?

Here is where I say ever since I was very young and everyone can roll their eyes, but I think most writers answer that question the same way because it’s true. I remember writing books in third grade and trying to sell them to my friends. Of course my friends had no money, but still.

I wrote tons of poetry and vignettes over the years and tried writing novels (including a mystery and an epic fantasy), but never finished the latter. In 2009, I started writing flash fiction, something which I find almost next to impossible to write now, and completed my first novel, a novel that will never see the light of day because it’s the most dreadful thing ever.

Do you consider your writing dark fantasy, horror, or does it exist in that place that simply is “speculative fiction”? 

I tend to think of my work as speculative fiction. It’s quite a bit like cake — sometimes I cover it in science fiction frosting, other times I reach for the contemporary fantasy flour, and still other times, I spice it with the dark and horrific or weird.

You write and you also edit; you write short stories and also novels. Does one balance the other? Are they ever in conflict? Is it all just one beautiful, chaotic ball of creativity?

Editing occupies a very different headspace than writing, and on the plus side, editing work by other authors has strengthened my ability to edit my own work. Most of the time, juggling both editing and writing isn’t a problem, unless I’m working against simultaneous deadlines. Then it becomes a bit tricky because it’s hard for me to quickly flip from creative brain to analytical pick apart the sentences until they bleed brain.

Talk to us about process a little. Do you outline? Do you just write forward from a general idea of how a piece will go?

I used to get an idea, sit in front of the computer, and start writing. Now, though, I spend time thinking about my stories first. I jot ideas in a notebook, make notes on themes and sketch loose outlines, and start writing in longhand. I’ve written quite a few stories against deadlines recently and have found that more time spent thinking often results in a cleaner first draft.

SMYS_largeHow did you go about choosing the stories that would become your debut collection, Sing Me Your Scars?

Here is where I confess my love for spreadsheets. I made one with columns for everything from theme to grammatical tense to genre to word count, then I added in those details for each story I was considering. Once I came up with a likely table of contents, I put all the stories in a word document.

That first draft had several more reprints, but as I read it through, some didn’t seem to fit as well as others, so I cut here and there, making adjustments to my spreadsheet as well to keep track of everything. I hope that the end result is cohesive and enjoyable, but my work is done and it belongs to the readers now.

Do you have a favorite story in the collection?

That’s a hard one to answer because many of them mean different things. “Like Origami in Water” was my first professional sale so it holds a special place in my heart, and both “Melancholia in Bloom” and “Glass Boxes and Clockwork Gods” were influenced by my grandmother’s battle with Alzheimer’s disease.  But I’m also very fond of the title story as it’s an homage to Mary Shelley.

What can you tell us about your novel, Paper Tigers, coming later this year from Dark House Press?

Paper Tigers is about a disfigured young woman and an old photo album she finds at a thrift store. It’s partly a haunted house story and partly a ghost story, but the ghosts are both external and internal. It’s very different from my first novel, Ink, and closer, I think, in flavor to my short fiction.

Favorite authors — both in and out of field in which you write? Do you think any one has overly influenced your work?

As far as novelists, off the top of my head I’ll say Joyce Carol Oates, Stephen King, Shirley Jackson, Margaret Atwood, Peter Straub, Jacqueline Carey, Ray Bradbury, Gillian Flynn, Laura Lippman, Alice Hoffman, and Cormac McCarthy. When it comes to short fiction, my favorites are Kij Johnson, Catherynne M. Valente, E. Catherine Tobler, Sunny Moraine, Ken Liu, Kelly Link, and Maria Dahvana Headley.

I’m certain they’ve all influenced my work in one form or another, but probably (hopefully) in more subtle than overt ways. And I know I’m missing names on both lists, names that I’ll remember as soon as I send these answers!

Picture it: you’re alone on the Nostromo…or are you? What weapon would you want if you were going up against an Alien? Flame thrower? Harpoon gun? Power loader?

I’m going to go with the flame thrower. It would keep me from having to get up close and personal with the Alien. Then again, the Alien is pretty tricksy. Look at what happened to poor Dallas in the air duct. Maybe I should pick the power loader instead.

Tell us about a great book you read recently.

The Wilds by Julia Elliott. It’s a short fiction collection that’s hard to classify. It’s literary, it’s genre, it’s dark and fantastical and the imagery is amazing. Like this:

“On a rancid summer dog day, when you’re dirty and scrawny and ugly and poor, when your fingernails sting from too much biting, when the kitchen stinks of unclean plates, when there’s nowhere to go, when punishment awaits you, when swarms of gnats flicker beyond bright windows, when heat sinks your mind into the syrupy filth of boredom…”

I want to marry that passage. It’s incredibly evocative. Regardless of what genre you’d shelve this collection under, I highly recommend it.

How do you take your coffee? 

Preferably with soymilk and two packets of Truvia, but if milk and sugar are the only things available, I’ll make do. If the zombie apocalypse ever happens, I’m pretty sure it will be the lack of coffee that does me in. Then again, I’d make sure to add instant coffee and a spoon to one of my supply runs. Desperate times, desperate measures…

Grab Damien’s collection: @Apex + @Amazon
Visit Damien’s website

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Ferrett Steinmetz, Flex

Ferrett appeared in Shimmer #13 with a story involving, of all things, a unicorn. And a magical mirror. He’s always been turning tropes on their head, and does so again in his debut novel from Angry Robot, Flex.

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Flex-400Tell us how and where Flex began for you.

True fact: When I sent this to Seanan McGuire to see if she’d blurb it, she called me up and asked, “So how much Mage: the Ascension did you play before you came up with this?”  And I said, “Ya got me.”

But yes, my group was roleplaying, and someone joked about the idea of brewing magical drugs.  I was hugely into Breaking Bad at the time, and I thought, “Wow, how much weirder would that be if it wasn’t just drug dealers, but magical drug dealers?” So the wheels started turning.

But the problem was that I generally don’t like magic.  It’s got what I call “Doctor Strange syndrome” – what can’t Doctor Strange do?  What are his limitations?  All the guy has to do is wave his hands and chant about Agamotto and he can turn back time, he can erase the world’s memories, he teleport to other dimensions.  And that’s fun for a while, but eventually you start struggling to find challenges that the audience can understand – it’s more fun if the audience knows when the hero’s about to crack.

So I thought a lot about what I thought magical drugs could do that no other drug could, and decided to explore the ramifications of Harry Potter’s luck potion.  Seriously, why is anyone learning any other kind of magic?  I know it’s difficult, but if you devote your life to brewing up batches of Felix Felicis, what else do you need to do?  So I thought, “Well, if you get good luck for a while… you must get bad luck.”  And then I started tying that into Unknown Armies’ obsession-based magic system, and the next thing you know I had a guy who was so devoted to getting his insurance paperwork right that he’s become this magical champion of the insurance company.

“That guy seems the least qualified person to make drugs,” said I, and a story was born.

Does Flex have a soundtrack? (If not, why not! Get cracking!)

It does!  Sorta.  I listen to one song over and over again when I write – it’s how I keep centered on the heart of the novel.  When I’m stuck for what to do next, I just listen to The Song and everything unravels.

In this case? The Talking Heads’ “Burning Down The House.”  (The live version off of Stop Making Sense.)

Interestingly, Stephen King lied to me.  If you read Christine or any of his other early novels, you’d think it’d be super-easy to quote lyrics in your book.  But these days you have to fill out forms and go through ASCAP, and it costs a fortune.  I’m told by the publishers that Fleetwood Mac once wanted $4,000 to quote lyrics.  That’s more than many advances, man.  So you won’t find the lyrics quoted in the book, though I may scribble them in there at a signing if you ask me nicely.

Flex plays with a lot of tropes, but is notable for its use of video games, and their environments–literally plunging characters into the midst of games most SFF readers should be familiar with. If you could be thrust into any game, which would you choose?

I’d actually go with Mass Effect.  I love Bioware games, but Dragon Age is such a crapsack world. Between mages and demon infestations, I would not want to go there.  Mass Effect has the Reapers, natch, but large segments of it look pretty nice.  And given that I’d rather chat than fight, there’s a lot of talking to be done.

(Fun fact: In any RPG, I’m the guy maxing out his speaking skills.  If I can talk my way out of the final battle – *cough cough* Fallout *cough* – then I automatically love the game.

Paul’s magic stems from paperwork; where does your magic come from?

I think the reason I had a magic system based on obsession is because really, obsession is my writing superpower.  I wasn’t the most talented writer in my Clarion class; I wasn’t the most charming.  But I think I was the most dedicated, and so when Neil Gaiman told me that I wasn’t good enough yet and “You just have to write,” well, dammit, I wrote.  Every day.  Sick or well.  Psychologically healthy, or in the throes of seasonal depression.  I honed my knife as best I could, and now if Flex isn’t good enough, I’ll keep writing more.

The theme keeps turning up in my stories, though.  “The Sturdy Bookshelves of Pawel Oliszewski” is about obsession-based magic.  And my story for Shimmer, “A Window, Clear As A Mirror” is entirely about a man who can’t let go.  So I kind of deal with that a lot.

ferretsSpeaking of Magic, you work for Star City Games — what is your favorite Magic the Gathering card (or set) and why?

Magic has repeatedly disappointed me by failing to produce a viable ferret. Joven’s Ferrets and Repopulate?  NOT GOOD ENOUGH, WIZARDS OF THE COAST.

That said, my favorite card is still probably Pernicious Deed.  It’s in my favorite colors (black and green), it is a distinct Rattlesnake card in multiplayer to warn people off elsewhere, and it’s super-fun.  For me.  Not you.  But hey, who wanted you to have a good time?

You attended both Viable Paradise and Clarion; did one workshop teach you something the other didn’t? How do you think both have changed your writing?

Clarion was what got my eyes pried open.  My six weeks at that writer-intensive broke me down and reforged me, but the number-one lesson is that I Was Not Shooting High Enough.  I thought my stories were pretty good, going into Clarion, and I came out thinking my stories were pretty good; the difference was that I had realized that pretty good wasn’t enough.

I had to knock the reader so far on her ass that she’d have to crawl back to the page.

So Clarion was where I really went, “Wow, you’ve got a lot of lazy habits that you thought you could get away with,” but man, I could not.  If there’s anything you’re aware of in your story that’s not polished to a diamond-like shine, fix that.  Because your story’s going to fall short in a hundred other areas that you’re not good enough to even see yet, so the smartest thing you can do is to amplify the stuff you know is good.

And if Clarion got me thinking about the guts of a story, Viable Paradise got me working on my prose.

Here’s a hint if you ever go to Viable Paradise: Ask Teresa Nielsen-Hayden to do her trick.  She’ll say she doesn’t know what that trick is.  “Edit me,” you tell her.

And she will sit down with your story, and begin to edit it.  She will cross out whole sentences.  She will eviscerate your words.  She will show you just how flabby and redundant and awful your prose is, and eventually what’s left will be the barest minimum of words – so few you won’t be able to believe what’s left standing.  And you’ll see how much quicker and bolder your story reads, and you’ll be enlightened.

Tell us about a fabulous book you recently finished reading.

I am currently reading Jo Walton’s The Just City, which is a fantastic hook: the Greek Gods, who are still alive today, have recreated Plato’s Republic, using everyone who ever prayed to Athene that it existed.  It’s an amazing thought experiment, and considering that I’ve loved everything Jo’s written, I’m positive I’ll love it in all of its weirdness.  She’s amazing.  I’m so stoked every day to sit in my bathtub and read it.

What’s next for you? When can we expect FLUX?

I’m finishing up a new draft of Flux as we speak (literally, I’m switching back to answer a question between each chapter), and while I have no absolute date, I expect it’ll be out sometime in 2016.  I’m also working on an as-yet-untitled science-fiction manuscript about a boy coming of age in the greatest restaurant in the universe – yes, yes, make your Douglas Adams joke now – and I have my sci-fi dystopia The Upterlife out on submission from my agent.  So I’ve got lots coming up.

But seriously.  Buy my book now, or I might not get to publish all these others!

Want to have Ferrett sign YOUR copy of Flex? Get thee to a bookstore:

 

Flex @Angry Robot | Flex @Goodreads | Flex @Amazon

 

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Shimmer #23: Angela Ambroz

Tell us a little about how “Monsters in Space” came to be.

Angela Ambroz
Angela Ambroz

I’m an economist — specifically, I work in international development. So I try to incorporate the issues I see at work into spec fic. Things like poverty, crazy inequality, behavioral manipulation/the power of marketing, consumerism, social structures, power dynamics.

With “Monsters in Space,” I wanted to write something about the financial crisis of 2008, something sort of satirical, dystopian, and capitalist. And in space! Watching Neil Tyson’s “Cosmos” earlier this year really inspired me on the setting – there’s a bit when the Ship of Imagination flies around Titan, and he talks about it being mysterious and full of mine-able gas/oil/stuff. That was great: it was dark and beautiful and very promising.

The rest just tumbled out: I’m a big fan of teen angst protagonists, especially girls whose names could be “Sparky”; Baruch is Mandy Patinkin in a giant beard; “Doctor Who Bombshell” is just 2048 Doctor Who edition (beware: addictive); I grew up in Pittsburgh; I love labor rights history, blah blah. It was one of those stories that just wrote itself!

My favorite part of this story is the voice. How did you develop it?

It’s a pretty big rip-off of George Saunders, who is a genius (a GENIUS, I tell you! it’s even been made official). In fact, it’s such a big rip-off that I feel like I should be sending him money or something? Maybe this advertisement can count: BUY HIS BOOKS, PEOPLE. Anyway, he’s the master at this: the post-1980s/post-Reagan upbeat American voice of late capitalism, especially via a first-person unreliable narrator. The only thing I did was put it in space and make it a girl.

If you had to fight monsters in space, which weapon would you choose? Which weapon would you absolutely not choose, even if it would be effective?

My chosen weapon would be some sort of programming/hacking thing from a trashy 1990s cyberpunk movie. “I’ve got to hack into the system!” and so forth. Bashing at the keyboard while staring intently at scrolling 0s and 1s, sucking down neon soda and wearing smudged bottlecap glasses. I’d also want an opportunity to say, “You’re going to get us both killed!”, since I love that line.

Weapon I wouldn’t choose: the Death Star.

Have you read anything great recently? 

Spam: A Shadow History of the Internet was soooo good.

It’s almost a new year! Do you have any resolutions?

No! I am actively not resolving! In fact, this whole resolution business is just part of that mentality that I’m taking a bit of a satirical shot at (a mentality that I am very, very much a slave to, to be fair): the constant quest to improve yourself, to be better, to do more, etc. To take all the online courses, learn all the things, read all the books, run all the miles, and so on. I’ll consider it an achievement if I *don’t* fetishize accomplishment or productivity in 2015.

 

 Read “Monsters in Space” | Shimmer #23 | Subscribe to Shimmer!

Silvia Moreno-Garcia, Signal to Noise

signalSilvia Moreno-Garcia has appeared in Shimmer three times and this winter, her debut novel, Signal to Noise arrives. Silvia was awesome enough to sit down with us to talk about books, Easy Bake Ovens, and the wonder that is “Take on Me” by a-ha.

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Tell us how and when Signal to Noise began for you.

Not sure when. I’m terrible with dates. Probably three years ago. It started only with one scene, which is how I start everything. Adult Meche and Sebastian see each other across the street and it is raining. I know it sounds rather prosaic but I thought it was a very weighty moment and it lingered in my head. The rest of the book was an attempt to answer what they were doing there.

Let’s get the most obvious question out of the way first: does Signal to Noise have a mix tape? soundtrack? Do we have to wear our Vans to listen to it?

There’s an ‘official’ playlist that I made with about a dozen songs but a reviewer compiled all of the songs that appear in the novel. There’s a surprising amount of jazz in there. Also, that reviewer deserves major thanks for putting it together.

How did the structure of the novel develop? Was it always two interlaced timeframes?

Yeah, it always jumped back and forth in time. I think originally I was attempting to write a Young Adult novel but that didn’t work out. I don’t think I know what YA means. Or I’m not good with categories.

Why Mexico City?

Write what you know, I say.

You write both short stories and novels; does one appeal to you more than the other?

I would rather write shorter than longer. I have a hard time focusing on a single project. I hate the fact that the 50,000 word novel is not so popular these days. I have a lot of old books which clock at around that point. I’m also not a series person. I cannot imagine reading book 9 of the 15 volume series A Very European Medieval Imaginary Land, much less writing it. With that said I write whatever length works best.

If we were to come visit you in British Colombia, what’s the most 80s place you could take us to?

The Movieland Arcade on Granville. It has only machines from the 80s and it feels like a dingy time capsule that was left behind, forgotten, between the shiny new glass buildings of Vancouver. This is also the home of the last of the 8mm peep shows. Pretty much the last place in North America where you can throw a quarter and see a few minutes of vintage, celluloid pornography. It’s one of my favourite places in Vancouver, though I’m sure they’ll bulldoze it and build a giant condo tower on top one day or the other. That’s what happens here.

1980sIf Meche had to choose between the hair of anyone from the Thompson Twins, Whitney “How Will I Know” Houston, or Mike Score of Flock of Seagulls, who would she style herself after?

She’s probably too cool to imitate any popular hairstyles of the time period.


What would a Signal to Noise music video look like? Would it be styled like “Take On Me,” or maybe “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” or maybe even “How Will I Know.”

Good God. Maybe “Take On Me,” just because it’s the most awesome music video ever? But my memo to the artist when they asked about inspiration for the cover said to sit back and listen to “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and Duncan Dhu’s “En Algun Lugar,” so I guess I had “Total” on my head.

Favorite movies from the 80s, go.

Too many to name. Many did not age well though I was watching the 1980s version of Flash Gordon with my children the other night and they had a lot of fun. More super hero movies need a Queen-like soundtrack. I guarantee you the shitty Transformers franchise would benefit greatly if you played it with no dialogue, only Queen songs playing. It might become avant garde, even.

StrangeWayDyingYou have published and written a good many Lovecraft-themed stories and anthologies. What is it about Lovecraft that interests you, and does that influence your own work?

It varies. Right now his biological determinism but it’s not a constant state of affairs.

Tell us about a fabulous book you’ve read recently.

I’m not a good person to make recommendations. I liked Kraken Bake by Karen Dudley, which is the second book in a funny series set in Ancient Greece where gods and magical creatures are real. I call it Princess Bride meets Greek Mythology.

What do you have against Easy Bake Ovens? Will this hostility be resolved in a Signal to Noise sequel? If not, what’s next for you?

I can guarantee there will never be a Signal to Noise sequel. I hope we can sell Young Blood, my novel with Mexican vampire drug dealers. But that’s for my agent to figure out. I was working on a 1920s novel set in the Mexican northern border but I got to the point where I hate it and kicked it away to start work on something new that is called, for now, The Beautiful Ones, and takes place in a sort of alternate Belle Epoque.

As a postscript, I owned an Easy Bake Oven. It was the best toy a child can have. Now they make them with some kind of special lightbulb that takes forever to cook the cake, for safety reasons. But I say live a little.

Signal to Noise @Goodreads | Signal to Noise @Amazon

 

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Shimmer #23: Alexis A. Hunter

Tell us a little about how “Be Not Unequally Yoked” came to be.

Alexis A. Hunter
Alexis A. Hunter

“Be Not Unequally Yoked” was born from a healthy dose of fear, a heap of nostalgia, and from my ever-present sense of wonder. I feared writing a character from a culture that was not my own — despite some of the similarities between Amish faith and rural Christianity. I was afraid to write a character in conflict with their own gender and sexuality, when I’m so certain of my own. Yet through the process, I found a lot of myself in Joash and really connected with him in a way I found quite illuminating. Steeping the story in my hometown allowed me to slip more comfortably into unfamiliar shoes. And as for the wonder–it motivates so many of my sci-fi/fantasy stories.  I love pushing my mind, wondering what could happen and what the boundaries of my imagination are. I haven’t found those limits yet — I hope they’re as vast and limitless as space.

Did growing up around animals influence your work at all? Do you have any favorite short stories or novels about farms and their associated work that seem particularly accurate/compelling?

Growing up on a farm in rural Michigan, surrounded by goats and cows and horses (oh my!), certainly had a profound effect on this story in particular — and on a lot of my stories in some ways. I have a particular love of horses and I hope that familiarity gives my stories some sense of authenticity.

As far as stories or novels about farms, I read the works of James Herriot when I was a kid and, while those stories take place in England, I found their depictions of the grime and the blood and the beauty of working with animals particularly accurate. You see a lot of death in that world, but you really get to see some wonderful moments of life as well.  On that note — in the story, Katie tells Joash about the time she helped a cow give birth by tying twine to the calf’s legs and pulling with the contractions. That’s actually a true story — when I was around ten years old, one of our cows was having trouble delivering, so my dad enlisted the aid of our Amish neighbor to help deliver the calf just like it happened in the story.

You have SEVEN SIBLINGS. Do any of you have magical powers?

Unfortunately, none of us shapeshift into draft horses — but I’d like to think we have our fair share of magical powers: natural-born storytellers, artists, and I swear my little sister is a dog-whisperer.

Have you read anything great recently?

I recently devoured Who Fears Death by Nnedi Okorafor — it has to be one of my all-time favorite books. In the short story world, I’m particularly excited any time I find a new story by Natalia Theodoridou or Vajra Chandrasekera. Natalia’s “The Eleven Holy Numbers of the Mechanical Soul” is a particular favorite of mine.

It’s almost a new year! Are you going to make any resolutions?

I can’t believe the new year is almost upon us!  If I make any resolutions this year, I’m certain they’ll be writing related. In 2014, I actually achieved a few of my goals — including having a story published with Shimmer! — so next on my list is to write better and better stories and hopefully work on a novella.

 

Read “Be Not Unequally Yoked” | Shimmer #23 | Subscribe to Shimmer

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