Category Archives: Issue 16

Shimmer #16, author interviews: Cate Gardner

Cate Gardner completely wooed me with cake and trauma in the most excellent “The Binding of Memories,” now in Shimmer#16!

Issue 16

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Tell us how the story came to be.

Opens skull, digs deep… As I am on a diet, I am constantly craving cake thus we have a cake aspect to the story, and balloons go so well with cake. In my opinion. Then I added some evil aunts, some almost as evil memory stealing men, an ill-treated niece and allowed them to take me on a journey.

How did you celebrate your first fiction sale?

I walked around the streets of Liverpool grinning madly and wanted to tell everyone I met. This was a very long time ago. I possibly also did a happy dance. I also grinned like an idiot when I finally made a sale to Shimmer. Some of you guys are aware of how much I wanted to have a story in your magazine.

What scares you?

Losing someone I love. Also, spiders. Everyone should fear spiders.

If you could invite one author, past or present, to tea, who would it be and what would you talk about? Would there be cake?

First off, of course there would be cake. What sort of question is that? I expect more from the editor of Shimmer. There would also be pie. In answer to your question, I’m torn. I’d like to invite Oscar Wilde so we could trade wit and fashion advice. But, I also want to invite my boyfriend, Simon Bestwick because I will steal any opportunity to have tea with him. We’d talk about airships. Can I have both boys?

What is your favorite Bradbury story/novel?

Fahrenheit 451. No contest. Although, I’m also fond of The Martian Chronicles.

What’s next for you?

I have a few short stories due to be published in various places and I’m working on a novel. I also want to gather all my notes for a middle-grade novel and begin writing that.

You can discover more about Cake Cate on her website!

Shimmer #16, author interviews: William Jablonsky

William contributes an amazing zombie story to Shimmer #16, “The Death and Life of Bob,” a zombie story like none you have read before. Poor, awesome Bob.

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Tell us how the story came to be.
This will sound crueler than it is. It’s in part based on someone I met at my first and only SF convention about ten years ago, this vendor of arcane action figures and trading cards—a very dumpy man, very boring, spent half an hour telling me about the origin of his last name. He was clearly lonely and just wanted to talk to someone, and I should be kinder in invoking him now. For some reason he crept back into my thoughts recently, and I quite morbidly wondered if anybody would miss him or even be saddened if he were to suddenly die. In that morbid moment I decided nobody really would, which seemed a far greater tragedy, so in my head I brought him back to try again and hopefully get it right.

So, zombies. What’s the appeal?
Truthfully, I’m not such a big fan of zombie stories except for those that go beyond the usual “eat-brains” premise, which is rather sad, because zombie-ism is a fantastic, versatile metaphor that can be applied to so many aspects of the human condition (disconnectedness, loss of self, etc.). Never had I seen a story where a zombified person’s life was actually better for it, and therein the story began.

Do you have favorite zombie books or movies? Do you watch The Walking Dead?
I always thought the film Fido (starring Dennis Hopper as a zombie made into a pet) was remarkably original. I’ve seen The Walking Dead and always felt they were missing out on some great thematic opportunities—I wish the writers and producers would aspire to more.

Tell us something most people wouldn’t know about Iowa. What, if anything, draws you to it?
What drew me to it originally was a job offer with a regular paycheck. But having grown up just across the river in Northwest Illinois I’m from a very similar culture. Iowans are, by and large, friendly and willing to help one another out, which is something everyone expects, but they’re also intelligent and curious, and open to art and culture, and they understand the value of a good education. Also, Iowa is home to a couple of really good wineries, which I never would have expected, and some quite stunning pizza.

What is your favorite Bradbury story/novel?
Far and away, my favorite Bradbury story is “The Kilimanjaro Device.” It’s a beautiful intersection between fantasy and reality. Novel-wise, I’d have to say Fahrenheit 451, for the same reason.

What’s next for you?
At the moment I’m slowly piecing together another story collection, trying to maximize the pool of stories I have to choose from so I can include only the very best. On the whole, they seem to be about transformative experiences gone terribly awry.

Let’s Get Physical

Steven Long at Foes of Reality takes a look at Shimmer 16, and has some kind things to say:

On Shimmer’s home page it states that the magazine publishes “contemporary fantasy short stories, with a few ventures into science fiction or horror, and the stories tend to be tinged with sorrow (though we’re not averse to the occasional funny tale)” and I found this to be accurate. Shimmer has a distinct feeling to it: rawer than Apex and more surreal and fantasy-oriented than the classic science fiction that you might find in Clarkesworld. There was something very physical about some of the stories in issue #16 of Shimmer: an awareness of the body, the blood, and of mortality. Though the stories taken as a whole don’t turn away from the classic narrative shape they don’t embrace it, either, tending at times towards provocative, moody meditations on life, love, and death.

Mr. Long serves up some thoughts on each story–thank you Mr. Long!

Shimmer #16, author interview: A.C. Wise

A.C. pens “Tasting of the Sea” in Shimmer #16, a story that oozes with Shimmerability! Go on, get some on you.

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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. 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.

Shimmer #16, author interview: Christie Yant

Christie Yant penned the romantic post-apocalyptic “The Revelation of Morgan Stern,” which appears in Shimmer #16.

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How did the story come to be?

Ah! I was hoping you would ask. This story was originally intended for only one set of eyes: it was a present for my then-boyfriend, now-husband, John. We met at a convention in 2009 and started dating long-distance a few months later. He lived in New Jersey, and I lived in California. We still spent more time together than we did apart, since we could both work from anywhere, but there were stretches of time when we had to stay on our own coasts, missing each other.

Anyway, at some point we were discussing the inevitable Zombie Apocalypse*, as one does, and it dawned on us that we needed a plan in case it happened while we were apart. So we looked at Google maps and established that Wichita, Kansas was almost exactly equidistant. We picked the landmark where we would meet, and I went so far as to plot my route. Because we are complete dorks.

John’s birthday was coming up–it was the first since we’d started seeing each other–and I had an idea. I got a cigar box from a local tobacconist, and started assembling a survival kit: waterproof matches, a compass, a space blanket, a multi-tool, a MagLite, etc. At AAA I picked up a road map, highlighted my route, and then left it outside for a few nights to weather it a little. I edited a picture of the landmark to look like a postcard, taped that to the inside of the lid of the box, and wrote “In Case of Apocalypse” on the top in red Sharpie.

I also left a small spiral notebook outside, which acquired that wonderful crispy, wavy texture that wet paper gets. I spent the weeks leading up to his birthday writing this story in it by hand, in different pens on different days.

I never intended to submit it anywhere–it was for him–but John encouraged me to. It’s actually really cool that it’s appearing specifically in Shimmer–my husband is an editor (it was intimidating writing a story as a gift for an editor!) and the Shimmer pirate issue was his first lead editorial gig.

*There are no zombies in this story.

You have attended Taos Toolbox, Launchpad, and possibly other writer workshops. What’s the most valuable thing you’ve learned from them?

I’ve learned different things at each. I got my new-writer mistakes mostly taken care of at the Santa Barbara Writers Conference; at Taos Toolbox I learned a lot about plotting and writing at novel lengths; Launch Pad is entirely about the science. I think a writer can’t go too far wrong with any workshop or conference because there is always more to learn. At Taos Toolbox, while much of what was taught was information I had come across before in other workshops or books, there was something about getting it all fed back to me at the same time that really made it all come together. I think Taos in particular really pushed me off the plateau I’d been on for a while.

Your website name and your Twitter handle, until quite recently, were “inkhaven.” Tell us what that word means to you.

“Inkhaven” was a hold-over from when I had more of a purpose to my blog. As a new writer, publishing seemed like a really cold and scary place where no one was ever allowed to make mistakes. Editors were terrifying, professional writers intimidating, agents practically a different species–I had a hard time getting answers to some of my own questions at first, and I wanted to talk about what I found out in a place where it was safe to just be new and not know everything, and I wanted other people to feel safe there too.

Unfortunately I’m a terrible blogger and my grand plans kind of went off the rails, but I maintain that I would like to be a safe person for people to just be new with and know that’s okay. I only recently changed my Twitter handle to my actual name because it was starting to get confusing–people I met at conventions couldn’t easily find me on Twitter, and I like to keep in touch!

If you could talk to any author from the past, who would it be and why?

I think you already know the answer to that because I know what your next question is.  The sad thing is that author actually is part of the past now, when it seemed like Ray Bradbury had surely earned the right to be immortal and share the present with us forever. Bradbury’s work was transcendent, accessible to everyone–he fit everywhere and nowhere. He painted pictures and evoked emotions like no other author I’ve read. And he was so encouraging to new writers! I got to meet him twice, and they are treasured memories.

What is your favorite Bradbury story or novel?

That’s so hard to answer! I think that probably the first two stories of his I encountered made the biggest impression on me, so I’ll call those my “favorite.” They were read to my fourth grade class by our teacher: “The Fog Horn,” and “All Summer in a Day.” I remember getting teary in class over that poor dinosaur, and just livid at those cruel children. I didn’t really know what science fiction was then, I only knew that these were the kind of stories I liked best–stories that had impossible things in them, and that made me feel something deeply.

What’s next for you?

I’m working on a novel now, a portal fantasy with other worlds and creepy monks and a small-time con artist who gets pulled into a tangle of magic and intrigue. And of course I’m writing short stories. I have a couple more coming out in the next few months, in Daily Science Fiction and Kaleidotrope.

Shimmer #16, author interview: Helena Bell

Helena Bell crafts long titles and stunning stories to accompany them. We talk some about “In Light of Recent Events I Have Reconsidered the Wisdom of Your Space Elevator” in Shimmer #16. For more about the story, please visit Helena’s site!

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Tell us how the story came to be.

The story began as a flash piece for a competition in which you have only a weekend to write 750 words or less.  I went back to look for the prompts to figure out which one I used but I have absolutely  no idea.  None of them seem to fit which I guess indicates I tend to be belligerent regarding rules in general (an excellent trait for a lawyer to have!).

What I do know is I came up with the title first.  I have a particular fetish for long titles and often strive to come up with something which will have a different meaning at the beginning and the end of the piece.  I also have a particular fascination with second person direct address and started writing the story as soon as I had the narrator’s voice in hand.  The rest was fleshed out over time as I borrowed from various hurricane and other childhood experiences.

You write both prose and poetry. Do you see a difference between the two, or do you feel they’re related?

One is more often than not longer than the other?

I get frustrated when people call a story a ‘prose poem’ since they usually do so when they feel that the language used within the prose is poetic.  A prose poem on the other hand is a distinct form of poetry in which, to borrow the words of one of my professors, ‘the poet resists the rhythm of the line’.  The best example I can give is ‘A Story About the Body’ by Robert Hass in which the author is sparing and sharp in his word choices.  The effect is a frictionless sentence and you find yourself constantly running into periods.  Yes, there is a rhythm to it but it’s not the same as the rhythm of line breaks. Then again a lot of people disagree on definitions in general, but my feeling is that you need to keep the two separate otherwise there’s no point in calling one one thing and the other another thing.

I like words and poetry and image and rhythm–I would be lying if I said the one discipline did not inform the other but they are very different disciplines.  A poem can travel from the body to the room to the other side of India to the migratory pattern of bees with less effort because a poem does not have the same expectations of form and structure attached.  At the same time, you are allowed fewer reversals.  The poem must have a thesis which builds and builds and each image and leap must support this thesis.  It’s very difficult for characters to change in poetry unless it’s very linear.

Then again, there are many different types of poems: the confessional, the narrative, the language, the imagist… I divide poetry and prose in ways that make sense to me, but these divisions are hardly universal.  In fact one thing I think genre fiction could borrow is the concept of the School.  How interesting could it be to create competing and overlapping manifestos–perhaps even full scale battles could be waged at conventions.  I should probably come up with a name first… Or a particularly long title.

On your blog, you talk about going to Lafayette Cemetery #1 in New Orleans, and you point out that fantastic lime green tomb. When I visited, I never for one minute felt alone; that place feels occupied. What feeling did you come away with? Did the location inspire anything in your writing?

Mostly feeling like I wanted a Plum St snowball because it gets dreadfully hot in New Orleans in July…

On a more serious note, I think the dead are a presence in New Orleans and the South in a way they are not in other cities.  Since I’m originally from there it never seemed strange to me that we use above-ground tombs, but more than that, in my family we frequently talk about the dead as if they’re still here.  The other night at dinner my Aunt told a story of my great-grandmother’s funeral: because she was too cheap to buy new underwear, but she’d shrunk considerably in her old age, my grandmother and aunts had to stuff her bra.  Apparently she’d been a very busty woman since later, sitting in the front row of the funeral parlor, you could see two round peaks just over the lid of the casket.

As the story is being told, others jump in with how appalled my grandmother (who is dead) would be that we’re telling this story at dinner and how my other great-grandmother (also dead, but also not the great-grandmother with the stuffed bra) would find it hilarious.  I’m sure lots of families, particularly writers’ families, have similar tendencies, but since it’s my entire frame of reference, I have no idea how ubiquitous it is.

As for inspiration, I had to give myself a rule a while back that I’m not allowed to write about dead people, dead babies, or kill anyone at the end of the story anymore (what’s strange is I don’t actually write horror or what I consider dark fantasy–it just happens that I have a lot of dead stuff in my work).  But the lime green tomb will have to make an appearance somewhere, someday eventually.

What is your favorite Bradbury story/novel?

Something Wicked This Way Comes which is strange because I’m pretty sure I never actually finished reading it–I just always loved the title (it’s so long!).

Do you have a favorite story among your own?

I love all my stories equally!  Which course, like children, is a big lie.  Space Elevator has always been a favorite because of the last line (which I will not share in case people have not read it).  Like titles, last images are often the first thing I come up with.  However finding the correct last line is always more work than I think it should be and I always find it in different ways: writing past the last line, then cutting, or rewriting the ending completely and it comes in a passing fit of inspiration, or sending the story out to multiple markets before I realize the ending is incorrect and try out various things until they work.  Space Elevator had an incorrect last line for a long time, but fortunately I found it in time for submission to Shimmer.  Another favorite currently making the rounds is another pseudo alien invasion story featuring a nun.  Like Space Elevator it deals heavily in the construction and perpetuation of myth in order to navigate situations of upheaval.  Perhaps ‘myth’ will have to be added to the list of ‘do not include’ for my fiction along with dead things.

What’s next for you?

Cake please.

Shimmer #16, author interview: Charlie Bookout

Charlie Bookout writes from Arkansas, and penned the haunting “Goodbye Mildred” in Shimmer #16.

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Tell us how the story came to be.
Like most people my age, I used to have grandparents who lived through the Great Depression. I remember it feeling like time travel when Granny would tell stories about her boot-legging father and her bank-robbing uncle. I had wanted to do a story that flashed back to that period for a while. I guess it started to form in my head one night while I was in bed with my wife. Our feet still get tangled up…

How did you get involved with Mortuary Studios?
Gentry’s ‘state of the art’ mortuary and funeral parlor was completed in October of 1929. It closed its doors in the 60s and sat for decades, unused and full of junk, waiting for us to find it. In the fall of 1990, our band needed a place to practice, and the man who owns the building agreed to rent it to us. I guess we keep forgetting to grow up, because we’re still renting it. The place just has this way of amplifying creativity. We’ve never figured it out.

Did you enjoy haunted houses as a kid? What’s the appeal now?
Yes I did. The real ones and the fake ones.  Now, the appeal is the creative process of making one. When your recording studio is inside an old Mortuary, the law requires that every Halloween, you put on a free haunted house, and that you build it with the following supplies: duct tape, spray paint, black plastic sheeting, and faulty electric wiring.

I think photography is another way to tell a story. What draws you to photography?
I think our constant exposure to photographed images has caused us to overlook their ability to tell complex stories all at once.

The power of words alone is astonishing enough. I’ve heard that our capacity for abstract thought is what most sets us apart from other animals. For a cow, a tree is a tree. But when we humans remember a tree, the thought represents the tree. When we say, “tree,” the word represents the thought which represents the tree. When we write ‘tree’, the written word represents the spoken word which represents the thought which represents the tree.

Now imagine a man in a clown suit chopping down the tree. You just did, didn’t you? While it’s amazing that a series of tiny black characters on a screen can—will—quickly evoke a mental image, you would likely have an even more instant and visceral reaction to a photograph of the axe-wielding clown. Sometimes, photographs are just better at cutting to the heart of the matter.

(Oh, he’s chopping at the tree because it reminds him of his grandpa.)

What is your favorite Bradbury story/novel?
“The One Who Waits” knocked me over. I love stories written from an unexpected perspective. It would have been simple enough to have said, “Some guys land on Mars and get possessed by an ancient soul that lives in a well.” Instead, Bradbury writes it from the entity’s point of view. I also love how the short story form—particularly Science Fiction—begs to blur the lines between poetry and prose: “I live in a well. I live like smoke in the well. Like vapor in a stone throat… I am mist and moonlight and memory…  Sometimes I fall like rain into the well. Spider webs are startled into forming where my rain falls fast, on the water surface.”

What’s next for you?
Finish building my barn. Help Elliott with his spelling words. Fold the laundry. Check my email twenty times a day for rejection letters.

Shimmer #16, author interview: K.M. Szpara

K.M. Szpara talks with us about Shimmer#16’s cover story, “Ordinary Souls.” Beth and I fell in love with the dread this story contains–it grabs hold of you and will not let go. And yet, it’s an impossibly romantic story, too.

Issue 16

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1. Tell us how the story came to be.

“Ordinary Souls” is a combination of three things, the first being sex. I remember being down on my writing at the time. So, I decided to get back to my roots and write an erotica. And not just the kind you write alone in your room and revisit it whenever you want a good jerk. I wanted to show people tasteful (hot, gay) sex, with an engaging plot and characters worth caring about.

The second part of “Ordinary Souls” is loss. Not long before this story, a good friend of mine had passed away. Her name was Judith Christopher, but we all knew her as “Pod.” She was in her 60s, a feminist, a lawyer. She said things like, “Every mother should have a gay son,” and always asked to read my stories. When I wrote the ending of “Ordinary Souls,” I thought of her. I cried the last pages of that rough draft out. Endings are the worst. They hurt. Especially when it’s the end of a person’s life. So, I wrote a story about endings.

The last part is probably the most notable: experimental form. I had read The Lies of Locke Lamora recently, and loved how Scott Lynch had played with time. I wanted a weird timeline. It took lots of rearranging and strategy, but was fun to craft.

2. On your blog, you talk about how you blindfolded yourself to better write a blind person in a story. How did that experiment work out? What did it teach you about writing?

I don’t know why I’d never tried it before. I try everything! This experiment re-enforced that notion. It was scary, though. Every step really did feel like my last. My very rude imagination placed monsters around corners and black holes under my feet.

I did try to boil water, but discovered when I’d “finished” that I’d lit the wrong burner–whoops! I got bored before I lit my apartment on fire, though. Luckily, the character in question has more pressing issues than making pasta.

3. If you could talk to any author, living or dead, who would it be? Would you talk about writing or something entirely different?

I’m such a Harry Potter nerd, I should say J.K. Rowling, I would love to get inside her head with regards to plotting out series and world building. I think, after a couple rounds of Firewhiskey, I’d yell at her a little for not putting more queer teens in Hogwarts.

4. Red wine or white?

I used to swing exclusively towards white wine, but lately my poison has been sweet red. Never has less writing been done than after a few glasses of red wine.

5. What is your favorite Bradbury story/novel?

Is it too cliche to pick Fahrenheit  451? I remember reading it in high school alongside Kurt Vonnegut’s Harrison Bergeron and Lois Lowry’s The Giver. The trio had quite an influence on my sense of individuality.

6. What’s next for you?

I’m an advocate of dreaming big. So, in my dream world, I finally finish and sell my novel. It reaches people around the globe. They love its characters and want to live in its world, just like I wanted with my favorite books. But, more than that, my protagonist makes a difference–and not just in his own story.

I am tired of walking into bookstores in search of queer protagonists and baffling the sales clerks. I know that if I expect change, I need to make it. I write queer characters because queer people exist and should be able to see themselves in fiction, too. I’ve been frustrated my whole life reading heterosexual pairings and not identifying with them. So, hopefully, “next” is a novel with a gay protagonist, by yours truly.

Shimmer #16, in the wild!

Today? Today is Shimmer #16 Day! The issue is officially out, out, and out!

Issue 16

If you haven’t pre-ordered, don’t despair. You can still get a copy of the newest Shimmer, easy as you please, right here. Hard copy and a variety of electronic formats await you. Shimmer #16 will also be appearing on Amazon and B&N soon!

I hope you will come back in the days to come because we have some goodies for you. I got to talk with the Shimmer #16 authors, and we’ll be starting with a conversation with K.M. Szpara, the author of our cover story, “Ordinary Souls.”