Tell us how “Tasting of the Sea” came to be. “Tasting of the Sea” is one of those odd stories where I thought I was sitting down to write one thing, and I ended up writing something else all together. The story changed again during the revision process, and once again became a completely different beast. So, I guess the answer is: the story made its way up from some deep, dark corner of my brain, despite my best efforts to write a different story entirely!
You co-edit the Journal of Unlikely Entomology (now Unlikely Story). Why bugs? Oh, there are so many ways to answer to this question! The short version is that is started as a joke, and morphed into something serious. For the longer version, you’ll have to find me at a con and ask in person. I do have to say I’ve gained a new appreciation for bugs since working on the Journal. I’d still prefer they stay out of my house and off my immediate personage, however.
What’s your favorite thing about Philadelphia? Probably the people I’ve met here. I also have to say Philly is an incredible town for food. I think it gets over-looked a lot, being so close to New York City, but there are some really incredible restaurants here.
I know we both loved The Drowning Girl (Kiernan), but what other books have you read lately that you think should gain a wider audience? The first book that comes to mind is Livia Llewellyn’s collection Engines of Desire: Tales of Love and Other Horrors. It’s absolutely brilliant! It’s not an easy read by any means, and it’s downright brutal at times, but it’s also gorgeous, and well worth it if you enjoy fiction that’s dark in the truest sense of the word. I also have to give a shout-out to Benjamin Parzybok’s Couch. I’d never heard of it until a friend gave me a copy, but it’s a wonderful, surreal, epic quest novel about…a couch.
What’s not to love? What is your favorite Bradbury story/novel?
I’m going to cheat a bit and say the related novels Death is a Lonely Business, A Graveyard for Lunatics, and Let’s All Kill Constance, taken together make up my favorite Bradbury story. But really, I love pretty much all his stuff.
What’s next for you?
I’m sort of, kind of working on a novel, but shhh, don’t tell me, or I might freak out! I’ve also got a handful of short stories in various states of completion simmering away. On the editing side of things, Issue #5 of the Journal of Unlikely Entomology, and our special one-off architecture themed issue are next on the horizon.
If you are nominating for Hugos, Nebulas, or Best in Badgers, Shimmer appreciates your consideration! Shimmer is eligible in the Semiprozine category and its editors in the Short Form category.
In 2013, we published #16 and #17, including the following short story works:
Ordinary Souls, K.M. Szpara
Goodbye Mildred, Charlie Bookout
Opposable Thumbs, Greg Leunig
Word and Flesh, Dennis Y. Ginoza
The Revelation of Morgan Stern, Christie Yant
The Binding of Memories, Cate Gardner
The Death and Life of Bob, William Jablonsky
The Sky Whale, Rebecca Emanuelsen
Tasting of the Sea, A.C. Wise
Lighting the Candles, Laura Hinkle
Gemini in the House of Mars, Nicole M. Taylor
The Haunted Jalopy Races, M. Bennardo
In Light of Recent Events I Have Reconsidered the Wisdom of Your Space Elevator, Helena Bell
The Mostly True Story of Assman & Foxy, by Katherine Sparrow
How Bunny Came to Be, by A.C. Wise
The Moon Bears, by Sarah Brooks
Sincerely, Your Psychic, by Helena Bell
Out They Come, by Alex Dally MacFarlane
Love in the Time of Vivisection, by Sunny Moraine
Fishing, by Lavie Tidhar
98 Ianthe, by Robert N. Lee
The Desire of All Things, by Jordan Taylor
The Metaphor of the Lakes, by Yarrow Paisley
Romeo and Meatbox, by Alex Wilson
Like Feather, Like Bone, by Kristi DeMeester
Girl, With Coin, by Damien Angelica Walters
River, Dreaming, by Silvia Moreno-Garcia
The Fairy Godmother, by Kim Neville
We Were Never Alone in Space, by Carmen Maria Machado
The Herdsman of the Dead, by Ada Hoffman
I’m pretty sure my summer anecdotes aren’t going to beat this one that came in from “Goodbye Mildred” author Charlie Bookout (Shimmer #16):
I’ve attached a photo of me standing in front of Stephen King’s house holding a copy of Shimmer #16. I chucked it in his yard just after the picture was taken. I hope his groundskeeper reads it and has nightmares.
Sam Tomaino, who has been there since issue one, has some kind words about Shimmer #16:
I was in there at issue #1 in January of 2006. My review began with “This is a nicely produced new small press publication. The editor states that she wants a ‘particular kind of short story — the combination of a strange and original idea, a well-developed plot and characters, delivered with exquisite writing.’ Does it succeed at this? Let’s see.” After reviewing individual stories, I concluded with “So yes, this is well worth the $5. Buy it!” So what about this issue?
Shimmer has a strange relationship with stories involving unicorns. They’re so stereotypical fantasy–but Laura Hinkle’s unicorn story “Lighting the Candles”…is not.
Tell us how the story came to be.
I think it’s a biological fact that little girls love unicorns. I’ve always wanted to do a unicorn story, but without the traditional princess-in-the-woods approach.
What authors, if any, have influenced your own writing?
Stephen King’s On Writing has been an essential manual for me to improve my style of writing. I am also a huge fan of Caitlin R. Kiernan and Poppy Z Brite.
Are you satisfied with traditional labels for genre fiction? Do words like “speculative,” “slipstream,” and, for that matter, “genre” cover it?
I don’t pay much, if any, attention to the labels for fiction. If an author’s story is convincing and can hold my attention, regardless of the topic, I will devote my time to it.
If you could invite three authors, past or present, to dinner, who would it be, and what would you talk about?
I would absolutely love to sit down with Stephen King, John Green, and Charles Bukowski. Each of them brings something unique and starkly honest to their work. I’d like to think that we’d skip discussing business and get to laughing over drinks instead, though.
What is your favorite Bradbury story/novel?
“There Will Come Soft Rains” is absolutely my favorite. It’s such an ominous ghost story that immerses you immediately.
What’s next for you?
I’m currently working on a story based around the condition folie a deux. So far it’s a surreal kind of horror story, the kind of monsters that you see from the corner of your eye rather than being attacked directly. I can also sometimes be found lurking around WordPress at girlcontraband.wordpress.com.
Dennis conjures a disturbing tale for Shimmer #16, “Word and Flesh,” and shares a fabulous memory of reading Bradbury.
Tell us how “Word and Flesh” came to be.
I wrote the story during my second week at the 2011 Clarion Writers’ Workshop. I’ve always been fascinated by anthropodermic bibliopegy (binding books in human skin) and knew I wanted to write a story about it. The idea was vague, however, and I was struggling to assemble a coherent plot. As I wandered the UCSD campus mulling over the story, I came to realize how disconcerted I was by the architecture around me. The notion of a city-state dedicated to esoteric pursuits got stuck in my head, eventually becoming the Universidad portrayed in “Word and Flesh.” Once I had that physical setting, the rest of the story came more easily.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Since I was very young, maybe eight or nine. I’d always thought I’d be a playwright, however.
If you had a working time machine what advice would you give a younger self?
Stop waiting for inspiration and write everyday. Actually, I’d just shorten that to, Stop waiting.
Print or ebook, what is your preference for reading books these days, and why?
Definitely ebooks. My iPad and iPhone give me instant access to a ton of books, I can adjust the font size and brightness at will, and ebooks and ezines are often cheaper than their paper equivalents.
What is your favorite Bradbury story or novel?
One of my most vivid childhood memories is of sitting under a banyan tree in Kailua, Hawaii, reading The Illustrated Man. I remember that my cheek was stuffed with black licorice and I had a can of RC Cola in one hand, the paperback in the other. A light breeze made the tree’s aerial roots sway and creak, the pages were dappled in sunlight.
What’s next for you?
I’m sending out more short stories and working on a novel. Also avoiding World of Warcraft and Reddit. And reading. Lots of reading.
“Opposable Thumbs” was another story in Shimmer #16 that made the staff say “whoa!” You know that means it’s remarkable and belongs in Shimmer.
Tell us how “Opposable Thumbs” came to be.
Well, oddly enough it actually began as a writing exercise for a class in my MFA program. We’d just read Kamby Balongo Mean River by Robert Lopez, and the idea was to write a short story making use of some element of Lopez’s novel. The whole time I was reading the book (which is fantastic and quite strange), I was becoming more and more obsessed with the idea that this particular voice would lend itself really well to a wealth of potential sci-fi ideas. So when it came time to write the story, I co-opted his voice and started there. I like to think that EV91’s voice evolved away from Lopez’s narrator, but that’s where it started, anyway.
We both enjoyed Zone One (Colson Whitehead); what other books have you read recently that you think deserve a wider audience?
David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, for one. It’s an absolutely brilliant book. And with a Tom Hanks movie coming out based on it, I’m sure it will GET that wider audience shortly. Another book that I think deserves a wider audience is Jess Walter’s The Zero. He’s an incredible writer, and it’s an amazing book that almost made me cry. Really, all of his stuff (at least that I’ve read) is fantastic.
What’s up with autocorrect, anyhow? What’s the oddest correction you’ve seen?
It’s probably just the first ripples of an eventual global takeover by Siri and friends. The weirdest I’ve had isn’t that weird, I tend to be sort of meticulous about my text messages. I did get “her” autocorrected to “errr” though. Siri must’ve been having some doubts about that girl. The weirdest one I’ve heard about is from my friend Matt, who was autocorrected from “Vidal” to “Visakhapatnam.” That one gets all kinds of points for oddness.
Do you stalk Duotrope?
I spend a goodly amount of time there. Though at this point, my list of which magazines have rejected which stories contains almost every semi-pro and pro zine on the duotrope sci fi list, so I often just use that word doc instead of duotrope. Still, it’s a great resource and I spend way too much time on it.
What is your favorite Bradbury story/novel?
I remember really enjoying Something Wicked This Way Comes, but to be honest it hasn’t stuck with me. I couldn’t tell you a thing about it. So my answer is going to be sadly typical: Fahrenheit 451. Something about it just sticks in the mind, which to me is the hallmark of a great story or novel.
What’s next for you?
Well, I’m going to be serializing a novel on a website called Jukepop Serials starting very soon. The novel’s called Multipocalypse, and I’m excited to begin that journey. There will be zombies and some other stuff, in a certain way it harks back to my childhood… but I can’t really say how without giving some important bits away. Aside from that, I’m just going to keep flooding editor’s in-boxes with short stories.
Rebecca contributes the beautiful and haunting “The Sky Whale” in Shimmer #16. Sweet Hitomi charmed us all.
Tell us how the story came to be.
Three months after I returned home from a semester-long study abroad program in Japan, the earthquake and tsunami disaster of 2011 occurred. It took me almost a year to digest the events well enough to begin writing “The Sky Whale.” I put together the first draft of the story while enrolled in a fiction workshop – just before the one year anniversary of the tsunami. I sent an early draft to Shimmer and received a rewrite request; the next draft was written after the anniversary of the tsunami had passed, so I researched how the Japanese had mourned their loss, weaving those events into the story.
The whale itself was partially inspired by images of flying whales that I’ve seen here and there over the years. Although, of course, Hitomi’s whale has special significance.
What drew you to Japan and Asian studies?
A childhood fascination with Japanese cartoons stoked my interest in Japan early on. But as I matured, I discovered that Japan had a lot more to offer than magical moon princesses and Pokémon. My current interests in Japanese culture and history have a lot more to do with my degree than the childhood events that first sparked the flame. Did spending a semester in Japan teach you anything when it comes to writing?
Staying in Japan taught me a lot – about myself, life, another culture. It also taught me that writing is not, for me personally, a process of simply putting pen to paper. A huge part of my process is going out and experiencing new things. To be honest, I wrote hardly a word of fiction during my entire time in Japan because I was focused on making the most of my time there and overwhelmed by all of the new concepts with which I came into contact. I needed a lot of time to sift through my own thoughts.
While I didn’t produce much in the way of fiction while abroad, I actually kept a blog during my trip. It’s a few years old and I’m not sure whether it’s of much interest, but you can find it here. If you could invite an author, past or present, to an evening of karaoke, who would it be and what would you make them sing?
This one’s a toss-up between Diana Wynne Jones, David Sedaris, and Oscar Wilde. But I’d be much more interested in engaging them in conversation than in listening to them sing.
What is your favorite Bradbury story/novel?
I know it’s strange, but outside of a few journals and the books I read as a young adult, I don’t read very much speculative fiction. I often find myself in the middle of conversations concerning authors I am sadly clueless about. I’m sure most of my peers would shudder to know that I have never read a thing by Bradbury, although it’s something I intend to soon amend.
What’s next for you?
I’m hoping to pursue an MFA in Creative Writing in the near future. I’ve also got my eye on the Clarion West program, although I know the chances of my being accepted are outrageously slim. That’s okay though – I live in a make-believe world, so even if none of this pans out, I’ll go back to skipping through fields of singing flowers and fantastical happenstances in my daydreams.
M. Bennardo, whom I always think of Monsieur with that letter M. hanging out there, takes us back in time in the astounding “The Haunted Jalopy Races” in Shimmer #16.
How did “The Haunted Jalopy Races” come to be?
All I remember is that the title popped into my head one day. Haunted conveyances have a long history in folklore and literature — there are ghost ships, ghost trains, and even phantom rickshaws if Rudyard Kipling is to be believed. But I wasn’t aware of any ghostly jalopies. I loved the image, and so I decided to figure out a story to go along with it
Of course, I didn’t know anything about jalopies, so I spent a long time on the Internet trying to learn as much as I could about the history of hot rodding. One of my favorite things about historical fiction is that much of the story writes itself during research. I try not to fudge dates or facts to jam in something that doesn’t belong. Instead, I use whatever is naturally at hand, even if it substantially changes the story I thought I was going to write. For instance, I didn’t know that World War II would figure in this story before I started my research.
My co-editors and I are very excited that the sequel (called This Is How You Die) will be published by Grand Central Publishing in July 2013. The book is terrific — even more diverse in terms of genre, settings, and characters than the first one. If we hadn’t found a publisher, we’d have done it all ourselves again, but having a partner means broader distribution. The only downside is how long it takes to put all that distribution machinery in place. It’s hard being patient!
There are also a few foreign editions of the first book still trickling out. In particular, we’re waiting on the Korean, Hebrew, and Croatian editions… Each new edition has been amazing and beautiful. And weird in the sense that we’re totally disconnected from the publishing and the marketing, and even from the criticism and commentary surrounding the books. Sometimes our fans in other countries will send us a review of Machine of Death in Italian or German. It’s neat that the book has a life of its own like that — but after being so involved in the English edition, it’s a completely different experience to be that removed.
Tell us what your favorite Ray Bradbury story/novel is.
I love all of Ray Bradbury’s “fix-up” novels — the ones that he cobbled together out of previously published and mostly unconnected short stories. He even famously called The Martian Chronicles “a book of short stories pretending to be a novel”. But as wonderful as The Martian Chronicles and Dandelion Wine are, my favorite of the bunch is Green Shadows, White Whale — a loose (and not always factually accurate) account of the time he spent in Ireland in the 1950s, writing the screenplay for Moby-Dick with director John Huston.
Bradbury’s great strengths are his amazing ideas and his use of language. He’s not, however, well-known for creating memorable characters. But the fictionalized John Huston in Green Shadows, White Whale is utterly memorable — a sort of cross between a dictatorial taskmaster and the Cat in the Hat. It makes me wish that Ray Bradbury had immortalized more of his friends and colleagues in books before he passed on. I wonder if he wrote any stories about Ray Harryhausen…
Do you have a favorite story among your own? Why does it stand out?
My favorite story is usually the one I’m in the middle of writing, since I’m excited and learning and I haven’t had to agonize over the ending yet. But I was very pleased that I was able to sell a story called “The Famous Fabre Fly Caper” to The Journal of Unlikely Entomology recently. It’s the story of two good tree frogs pushed too far who plot to steal a box of flies from the great French naturalist Jean-Henri Fabre.
I wrote the story with no expectation that it would ever be published (the main characters are frogs, after all), but simply because it combined my loves of history, nature, and literature with a long-standing desire to write a heist story. Fabre’s books about bugs are wonderful reading and many of them are freely available, so I also hope readers of my story will be inspired to check them out as well. (I especially recommend The Life of the Fly.)
Best book you’ve read this year (2012)?
One of the most exciting books I read this year was Vera Caspary’s Bedelia. It’s a pulp thriller from 1945 (but a very good one) about a man who marries a woman with a murky past who may or may not have murdered a string of prior husbands. Most of the well-known crime writers are men (like Dashiell Hammett and James M. Cain, to name my two favorites), and I loved getting a different perspective on the genre.
I later discovered that the Feminist Press at City University of New York is reprinting a whole series of pulp and crime novels by women. Some of the classic noir movies of the 1940s and 1950s were based on books by women — including Laura (also by Vera Caspary), Bunny Lake Is Missing, and In a Lonely Place. I always get excited when I discover publishers doing this kind of archival work with genre fiction, and I can’t wait to read more of the books in the series.
What’s coming up next for you?
Hmm. More short stories, I hope! Novels get all the glory, but I suspect that short story writers have more fun.
I have the best job when it comes time to talk with Shimmer authors. Nicole M. Taylor pens Shimmer 16’s “Gemini In the House of Mars.” If this story doesn’t blow you out of your chair, you need to read it again!
How did the story come to be?
This one actually had a kind of circuitous path into existence. I’m a big proponent of NaNoWriMo and, in my mind, the best thing about it is the community that surrounds it. The one year I actually completed a novel in a month, I think it had a lot to do with that community.
One thing I especially liked was the challenge threads, where people “dare” you to include various elements in your finished novels and there’s one that I really loved, which challenged you to write a story to a prompt every day of October. “Gemini in the House of Mars,” came from one of those threads with a really crazy list of elements I had to include. That list dictated almost all the content of the first iteration of the story, which was, perhaps not shockingly, a mess. I put it away and kind of forgot about it for a few years and then, a couple of summers ago, I was in Belgium for a few months. As I was on a visitor visa, I wasn’t legally permitted to work, so I decided to focus on my writing, specifically refurbishing old stories. One morning I came across Gemini and decided to clean it up and streamline it a little. Mainly because I think it’s the only legitimately good title for a story that I’ve ever developed, normally I’m terrible at that part of the process.
The prompt really focused on the adultery and murder in this very kind of noir way, but the twins were there as an element. As an only child, I’ve long been really fascinated with sibling and especially twin relationships. Those stories you hear about twin language or twins who are effectively living in their own private universe. That’s a very Narnia-like conceit for me and I think it fits really naturally into speculative fiction. So that’s what I really focused on when I revised it.
How did you celebrate your first fiction sale?
I am almost certain that I ate a really nice grilled cheese sandwich. That’s actually still how I celebrate. I’m a big proponent of all the dairy-based methods of celebrating accomplishments.
Do you have a favorite first line from your published stories?
That’s a great question! I’ve made a study of first lines. When I’m deciding whether to buy a book, I check the first line and the last line. If they aren’t both arresting and interesting, I don’t get the book. Sometimes I think my writing life is an on-going journey to perfect my own first and last lines. There’s a story I published recently in Northwind Magazine called “The Last Day of the Armistice” and it starts with the line “The war was coming in the windows.” I’ve always been proud of that one.
What is up with Are You Afraid of the Dark? If you were on that show, what would your role be?
I relocated to Los Angeles last year to be with my partner, who was committed to a PhD program here and, for the first few months, I was kind of flailing around. I was just out of undergrad and I was having a hard time getting work and I was sort of anxious and unsettled. A wise friend of mine advised me to use that time to develop my career as a writer, rather than just wringing my hands about my lack of job. He gave me a list of practical things to try and one of them was to update my blog regularly (something I still struggle with, obviously) and to create some sort of “hook” for the blog. Around that same time, I discovered that the entire run of the early nineties Canadian/American kids horror anthology show Are You Afraid of the Dark was on YouTube. I was immediately obsessed because I was all about that show when I was a kid. It was a kind of Night Gallery or Tales from the Dark Side, but for kids. I love anthologies in all their forms, honestly, short stories are by far my preferred form to work in and to read and I’ve always been really into anthology shows, especially anthology horror. AYAotD was probably my earliest exposure to that and I decided to do a mini-series on it, looking at a couple of episodes from each season that I remembered from my childhood. My goal was to see how it stood up to my adult sensibilities and to kind of examine what watching this and loving this might have done, in terms of forming me creatively. I was pleased to discover that, for a 30 minute horror anthology show aimed at tweens and younger, the show is surprisingly good. Inconsistent, as those kinds of shows always are, but usually fairly strong and often actually scary, especially in shockingly existential ways.
I’ve also noticed some amusing trends as I watch the show. For example, the stories almost always feature some sort of odd couple reluctant team up with the popular but troubled kid was a chip on his shoulder and the nerdy, goody two-shoes (almost always wearing age-inappropriate brown slacks) who have to work together to deal with the sinister supernatural threat. I know myself well enough to say that I would almost certainly be donning the Beige Slacks of Nerdom.
What’s your favorite Bradbury story/novel?
Oh man, that’s like picking a favorite baby (it’s this one. Definite best baby.)
There’s a section in From the Dust Returned where the family’s “daughter” of sorts (an insubstantial ghost/presence) decides she wants to explore life amongst the living for one night and she inhabits the body of a young girl preparing to go to a town dance. I read that for the first time when I was about twelve and the aching bitter-sweetness of that scene and the fully realized sensory story, has stuck with me ever since. But I really do find it hard to pick a favorite, so many different stories meant different things to me at different times.
What’s next for you?
I’m at the time in my life where I’m kind of building lots of things in different directions. I’m going to grad school right now and getting into professional ghostwriting, which has been awesome. Writing-wise, I’m working on completing a penultimate draft of the novel “The Undertaker’s Son” comes from, called “The Witches Knot.” It’s a dynastic fantasy story about five generations of a family of, for lack of a better word, witches. It’s partially a response reading a lot of fantasy about people who discover that they magical abilities and it changes the entire tenor of their life and thrusts them into a magical world, Harry Potter-style. I wanted to write a story about how magical ability might be shaped by the constraints of real life and personality. A person who never discovers they have magical powers has a wholly different experience of them than one who runs away from home and apprentices herself to a magical mentor who has a further different experience from someone who knows about their powers and has information available, but struggles with it because of contradictory religious beliefs. It’s also a bit of a love letter to the kinds of bizarre and baroque family stories that I would hear if I was quiet and patient after Christmas or Thanksgiving dinner about my paster great-great grandfather who founded a church in frontier Michigan in the midst of a diphtheria epidemic or my own freewheeling teenage grandmother. I’m hoping to have it finished before the end of the year. Beyond that, I have a big list of partially finished short stories to complete and a YA series of novellas that I’m really excited about. Essentially, I’m trying to work as much as I can, consume as many stories as I can and be ready to take the opportunities that fetch up on my doorstep.