Category Archives: Issue 18

Shimmer 18 – Rachel Marston

rachelRachel Marston blows things up in Shimmer #18 with “The Birth of the Atomic Age.”

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Tell us how “The Birth of the Atomic Age” came about.

I was in a folklore narratives class and we were discussing urban legends and folktales.  I was living in Salt Lake City, where the conversations about Downwinders, those affected by fallout from nuclear testing in Nevada, is pretty prevalent. I realized that, though I was from Las Vegas, Nevada, I knew very little about the Test Site and the history of testing. I was also intrigued by the way comic books, particularly superhero stories, and B-movies had taken up the questions of radiation exposure. I began researching more about nuclear testing and reading eyewitness accounts. There were stories of people, particularly in Southern Utah, who had gone out to watch the tests.

My maternal grandfather had a winter wheat farm in Alton, Utah. He’d drive down every summer from Reno, Nevada to harvest the wheat. I decided to ask him if he’d ever seen any of the tests. When he told me he had, I pressed him for a little more information and he described the watching of the tests in such a nonchalant way, almost as if describing going on a picnic with your family. The story was born in many ways from that moment.

Tell us something about Minnesota. If we came to visit, where might you take us?

That is a hard question to answer in some ways since Minnesota is still so new to me. You would fly into Minneapolis, so I would definitely take you to the Mill Ruins Park on the Mississippi. Parts of former mills on the Mississippi have been excavated and revealed and another former mill has been turned into a museum discussing the history of milling in Minnesota.

Then we’d go to a deli, Rye, for delicious poutine (fries with cheese curds and gravy – trust me, it is delicious!). We would then drive about an hour and half northwest to St. Cloud, where I currently live, and then over to Collegeville to explore the arboretum and lakes on the campus where I teach. There are lakes everywhere in Minnesota (really!) and to be surrounded by so much water, especially living in the high desert my whole life, is pretty remarkable.

What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

Kathryn Davis’s Duplex, a novel out from Graywolf Press. Davis deftly balances formal experimentation and story in an intriguing way. The book is also full of magic and other strangenesses, but constructed so that these things, while remarked upon in the book, are also accepted by the reader as very much part of the world.

What is currently in your cd player/iTunes/Spotify/8 Track?

I’ve been listening to a lot of Nick Drake lately, as well as The Organ.

Check out Rachel’s story in Shimmer #18, now available!

Shimmer 18 – Ben Godby

Ben Godby’s Shimmer #18  story isbengodby “Anuta Fragment’s Private Eyes,” and try typing that three times fast! Here, Ben makes  a shameful display of being a speculative fiction writer — his own words, dear reader.

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Tell us how ” Anuta Fragment’s Private Eyes” came about.

I thought of the name first. I imagined this awesome female wrestler totally crushing people — “fragmenting” them, if you will. Then I pulled in an evil corporation, a few references to a medieval philosopher, lost the wrestling arc, and the rest is history.


If you could take us one place in Ottawa, where would you take us?

The Rideau Falls. They’re totally majestic, and lend themselves to a dreamscape of aquatic ogres living in their shadow, ready to snatch up tour boat leftovers.


What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

Everything by Joe Abercrombie. I find most medieval fantasy to be very cheesy (even when I enjoy it), but Abercrombie defuses the absurdity that mars a lot of epic and heroic fantasy by making a lot of extremely hilarious jokes. I literally read Joe Abercrombie for the LOLs.


What’s in your iTunes/Spotify/8-track lately?

The “Opus Eponymous” and “Infestissumam” albums by the Swedish band Ghost. Imagine if the Pope worshiped Satan and joined a rock band; that’s Ghost!


What’s your favorite Ray Bradbury book/story?

To be honest, I’ve only read “The Martian Chronicles.” And it was really good. But, yes, I fully realize I am making a shameful display of being a speculative fiction writer.

Shimmer 18 – Christine Schirr

 

christineshirrChristine Schirr’s delightful story proved a formatting challenge, with layers of story unfolding in footnotes and letters.

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Tell us how “The Story of Anna Walden” came about.

I was toying with a story about a child bargaining with fate for months before I left on an extended trip to China, but the tale just would not “flow.” Then the night before I departed, unable to sleep with excitement, I turned my attention back to the story. Yes, the story was about Anna, but what if she had a psychologist? Then, what if the story was told by a third narrator? What if the narrator was bombastic and overly dramatic? I kept playing with it until dawn and then abandoned it for ten months until I returned to America. When I got back, I was really startled by what I’d written!

You are an artist and a writer; does one pursuit feed the other?

I would love to say there’s synergy between my writing and art, however it’s exactly the opposite — they’re like two bickering boyfriends vying for my attention in obnoxious ways. Sometimes I just have to ignore them both.

What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

I read a lot of non-fiction these days and lately my attention has turned to the crazy workings of the brain. If you ever are in need of a good scary story when a copy of Shimmer isn’t handy, check the psychology aisle.  I’ve loved all of V.S. Ramachandran’s books, but his latest, The Tell-Tale Brain is a masterpiece.

What’s in your iTunes/Spotify/8-track lately?

I’ve put together a Spotify playlist about working hard, making money, and achieving goals. There are some joke songs thrown in, but man, what a great way to self-motivate. “Work” by Iggy Azalea, “F–k Sleep” by Kid Ink, and “T.H.E. (The Hardest Ever)” by Will.i.am — complete with Mick Jagger cameo — are my favorites.

What’s your favorite Ray Bradbury book/story?

As a child, it was rare for our family to go into a real bookstore (for fear of going broke). So when I was 13, it was a real treat to go to Borders and pick out a brand-new book that I didn’t have to return within two weeks. I think I must have taken more than a half-hour to select one, going through every aisle of the fiction section. I chose I Sing the Body Electric & Other Stories by Ray Bradbury, largely for the alluring golden sarcophagus on the cover.  Eventually that book fell apart from hard use.  I loved every story, but the titular work left the most enduring impression.

Shimmer 18 – Ramsey Shehadeh

Shimmer 18 author ramseyRamsey Shehadeh tells me this is his first interview. How is that possible?!

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Tell us how “Psychopomp” came about.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had it in my head to write a story about a guy whose job it is to ferry people between life and the afterlife. This isn’t quite that story, but it’s close.

I’m not entirely sure why this stuff interests me so much, except that I grew up sort of half-immersed in faith, and the notion of an afterlife plays to a lot of my obsessions: the troubling contradictions of a benign god who allows hell to exist, the magical things that happen at the borders between places, the enduring danger of absolutes.

But I didn’t really start “Psychopomp” with an agenda in mind. I’ve tried that before, writing to plan, and it always leads to sickly stories that eventually just sort of keel over. This one started with the first image, a demon in an alleyway holding a soul under a flickering fluorescent light, and went from there.

Apple Maps vs. Google Maps? Dungeons vs. Dragons?

Google Maps, because I enjoy arriving at my destination. Apple Maps does get you very prettily lost, though.

Dungeons and Dragons, of course. You can take the dragon out of the dungeon, but you can’t etc.

What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

Lately it’s The Circle, by Dave Eggers. I distrust how much I love this book, because it plays perfectly to all my paranoid fantasies about ubiquitous internet companies inching their way into every aspect of our lives, and then quietly taking over the world. But I think it really is just a fantastic novel.

The best I’ve read in the last couple of years is Wolf Hall, by Hilary Mantel. My profound ignorance of history really paid dividends with this one, because almost everything that happens in it was a complete surprise to me. Mantel is a ridiculously talented writer, and her Thomas Cromwell is the most fully-realized character I’ve met in a while.

Another book I absolutely adore is Jeff VanderMeer’s Shriek: An Afterword. It’s a kind of a dual narrative, two people telling the same story at the same time, each piggybacking on and extending the other’s view of their shared history. It’s so absorbing and scary and well-written that you barely notice what an amazing technical feat it is.

But my favorite of all is probably Never Let Me Go, by Kazuo Ishiguro. I’ve never read anything that’s drawn so much beauty out of so much tragedy. The novel’s final image still haunts me.

What is currently in your cd player/iTunes/Spotify/8 Track?

Frightened Rabbit, Jonathan Coulton, and Vampire Weekend are my mainstays lately. The Pixies, They Might Be Giants and Springsteen always have a spot on my playlist.

I’m also listening to a lot of terrible 80s music. There was good music floating around in the 80s, but I grew up listening to the crappy stuff, so that’s what I listen to still, helplessly.

What’s your favorite Ray Bradbury book/story?

“The Veldt.” It really holds up. The notion of our technology eating us is even more relevant now than it was in the 50s.

Shimmer 18 – Ben Peek

benpeekAustralian author Ben Peek tells us about “In the Broken City,” his Shimmer 18 story. He’s also going to feed us really well before he abandons us…

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Tell us how “In the Broken City” came about.

“In the Broken City” is set in a world I made a few years ago now. ‘Cause I never name anything, someone online, I’m not sure who now, called it the Red Sun world, and it sorta stuck. I think it’s the fifth, maybe sixth of them — a handful of them are being reprinted in my collection, Dead Americans, in March.

The basic idea of the Red Sun world is that everyone in it is living in a end of world time in a vague, steampunk, weird science scenario. There’s environmental decline, social and moral decline, and a remapping of professions. In an odd way, the doctors of the Broken City are still faithful to the original idea of their profession, but of course, they work in a giant underground hospital that may or may not also be functioning as an ark that will provide them with survival when everything above goes real bad.

I’d had the idea of the doctors for a while, but hadn’t really had a story to fit into it until I was reading about xenomelia, or body integrity identity disorder, which is an mental illness wherein a person feels that a limb on their body is not their own, and go to extraordinary lengths to remove it. One of the controversial ways of dealing with it is to organize an amputation through the person’s limb, and there are recorded cases of men and women who are healthy after that. Naturally, I thought I should use that as a starting point for my story – and so “In the Broken City” begins with a man who, after his leg has been removed, is in the happiest place he’s ever been.

Honestly, now, how could you not write a story about that?

You write both short stories and novel-length works; do you prefer one over the other? Does one come easier?

Truthfully, these days, novels seem to be easier to write.

I don’t honestly have a preference: both require different attention to different details, and both require different strengths, but whereas a decade ago I could write a short story in a week, lately it takes around a month, and has become harder. I wouldn’t be surprised if one day I just stop writing them, really.

It puzzles me a bit, y’know. I remember coming across the short fiction of Peter Carey years ago, and thinking it was superb, at its best equal to the best of his novels, but by then, he’d stopped writing them. In a Paris Review interview, he said that he had become addicted to the dangers and pleasures of the novel, but he said that in the early 2000s. Maybe twenty five years ago before that he wrote a letter in which he said, “And who the fuck wants to read short stories anyway? Who does? Who reads them- two thousand academics and people who work in publishing houses? What’s the point?” Both probably exist as reasons in the great strand of life – it is hard to imagine that a short story Carey wrote now would struggle for an audience, but it is easy to see a younger author struggling to find an audience and a life looking to the form he was writing and blaming it for its failure to be commercially viable.

I think for a lot of authors that experience rings true, but I found it a bit unsatisfactory to explain myself. There are different dangers and different pleasures for both, and I’ve had no one read both a short piece and a novel of mine, because I’m lucky like that, I guess. Instead, what I have started to think that the skillset for writing a novel is a bit like a costume, much like the skillset for writing a short story is another, somewhat similar costume. But because it takes me roughly a year to write a novel, I wear that costume a lot longer, and I’m a lot more comfortable in it, and when it comes to a short piece, I suddenly find myself confused on how to strip down and change.

Tell us something about Sydney. If we came to visit, where might you take us?

There’s this cool vegetarian place in Sydney called Mother Chu’s. Mother Chu — if she is indeed Mother Chu — is this tiny little old Asian lady who sits in the back corner of it, wrapped in blankets, and who smiles and waves as you come in and go, and they make some sweet food there. I’m not vegetarian or anything, but good food is good food, and its pretty cheap, and still has that worn out feel I like in Asian places, so I’d take you there, before I abandoned you in the main hub of Sydney with its one way streets, confusing back alleys, and abandoned monorail.

It’s a cool place, though. Lot of variety, lot of different people, cultures, etc. It’s a real shame that the new government wants to get behind that argument that the Multiculturalism Experiment has failed. I mean, seriously? It was an experiment? The world is multicultural, and you live in the world. But no, they want to push that it’s some kind of social failure, that the grand old man of Western culture is struggling to draw breath, that people aren’t learning good, christian values – so you ought to probably come visit before that sort of ideology sinks its claws in over here, and see a large, multicultural city and country with nice, clean empty skies and sun that feels different to a lot of visitors.

Tell us about the best book you’ve read lately.

The best book I read last year was Coetzee’s DISGRACE. I thought that was a superbly done book, excellently structured. I recommend it entirely. I’m currently reading Forster’s A PASSAGE TO INDIA, which has some amazing writing in it, really. I also totally loved the latest issue of SHAOLIN COWBOY. Few people give you four issues of one man, two chainsaws, and a pole against an endless horde of zombies, but if the few people who do are going to number Geof Darrow, then fuck it, man, just hook the tube to my arm and leave me be in my high.

What’s your favorite Ray Bradbury book/story?

I don’t really like Bradbury at all, I’m afraid.

There’s something in the writing — just the way he does it, that turns me off. It’s just taste, for the largest part, but I also think Bradbury has to get you before you’re too cynical and disillusioned, when you’re young, and for me, it just didn’t happen. But such is life.

Shimmer 18 – Dustin Monk

Dustindustin monk bio pic Monk has graced Shimmer‘s pages before with “What, Fireworks” in Issue #15. We welcome him back with a tale that is slightly more down to earth this time. Maybe…

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Tell us how “The Street of the Green Elephant” came about.

“The Street of the Green Elephant” actually came about from another story I was working on in which a brother and sister flee from a city under siege. The story was told from the point of view of the brother, but I kept running into narrative walls writing it. One of the reasons for this, I think, is because Auw-da — the sister — kept stealing every scene. It became clear that she wanted to tell this story. So she did. Of course, the story became something different in Auw-da’s telling, but such is the nature of stories.

You traveled to Thailand last year; has this had an impact on your writing yet? If so, in what way?

You know, it’s probably a cliche to say I fell in love with Thailand, but I don’t care: I fell in love with Thailand. I don’t know that I consciously notice its impact in my writing – instead, I notice it in my daily life because I’m learning to read, write, and speak Thai – but going over some of the stories I’ve written in 2013, I can see its influence pretty clearly. A lot of my earlier stories were set in pseudo-European, American Midwest, or desert-like locales, but now many of them have changed to more tropical climes or are set specifically in Bangkok; I may or may not be working on a novel that shares similarities to current Thai politics; and I think reading Thai folktales is allowing me, bit by bit, to abandon any dependence I still have on traditional Western storytelling. I don’t know if it’s made a better writer, but it’s made a different one. That’s something, at least.

What’s the best book you’ve read lately?

There are four. And one more. From 2013, I really loved A Natural History of Dragons: A Memoir by Lady Trent by Mari Brennan, A Stranger in Olondria by Sofia Samatar, Americanah by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and, if it isn’t kissing too much editorial butt here, I’ve been having a blast with Rings of Anubis: Gold & Glass by E. Catherine Tobler. I will also always recommend everyone read The Golden Age by Michal Ajvaz, translated by Andrew Oakland.

What’s in your iTunes/Spotify/8-track lately?

This year I fell in love with Lorde, Beyonce, Savages, and listened the hell out of the new My Bloody Valentine.

What’s your favorite Ray Bradbury book/story?

It is impossible to answer this question! Instead, I will tell you my favorite opening sentence of any book ever and, as it so happens, it belongs to Mr. Bradbury: “It was a pleasure to burn.”

 

 

Shimmer 18 – Annalee Newitz

The awesome Annalee Newitzannalee joins the Shimmer family with “Unclaimed,” a story that…well, I’ll let her tell you!

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Tell us how “Unclaimed” came about.

It was during the Google Books hearing, when the company had digitized hundreds of thousands of books without any author permissions, and proposed to set up a “book rights registry” to hold any licensing fees obtained for digitized books that didn’t get claimed by their authors. I was writing a nonfiction article about it and started wondering, what the hell would happen if one of these unclaimed books actually started making a ton of money?

Anyway, Google was sued by the Author’s Guild, and it looks like their plans to make all these digitized books available online have been foiled. But I think this future is still very plausible. Well, except for the giant squid scorpion, who has the post-structuralist feminist power to destroy binaries with her mind.

You write both fiction and non-fiction; does one feed the other, or are they separate crafts?

Probably my previous answer makes it obvious that they definitely feed into each other. I love science, and both my nonfiction and fiction writing are ways that I try to think through how scientific discoveries will change the world, even in tiny, personal ways.

Talk to us some about i09; it’s such an awesome site, a delicious mashup of fiction and science and well, science fiction! How did it come into being?

I founded the site back in 2008, when Gawker Media invited me to cook up a site about the future. One of the first things I did was hire Charlie Jane Anders, and she and I worked together with our amazing team of writers to make io9 into the suicide soft drink of futuristic topics. I think the key ingredient is probably the bright purple soda.

What’s in your iTunes/Spotify/8-track lately?

The Kills and La Roux and — just for pure guilty pleasure value — Weezer.

What’s your favorite Ray Bradbury book/story?

The Martian Chronicles. It was one of the first science fiction books I ever read, and there are scenes in it that I still think about 25 years later.

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Check Annalee out at io9, or the wikipedias! And grab your copy of Shimmer 18 here, with our special print/digital bundle!

Shimmer 18, Pre-Orders

Issue 18 Cover by Kurt Huggins
Issue 18 Cover by Kurt Huggins

Shimmer #18 is available for pre-orders!

Shimmer #18 has been great fun to assemble, because working with the talented Ann VanderMeer as our guest editor is not something a person gets to do every day.

Ann has chosen eight stories that span a wide range of speculative fiction and a diverse collection of authors. Included in the issue are Ben Peek, Rachel Marston, Ramsey Shehadah, Christine Schirr, Ben Godby, Annalee Newitz, and Dustin Monk. You also get a brand new short story from Jeff VanderMeer!

We are terribly excited to share this issue with you, and because of that we’re offering you a new deal: when you buy the print copy, you can add the digital copy for only $1 more. This is our Valentine to you, our dearest readers.

Ann VanderMeer Guest Edits Shimmer Issue

Just over a year ago, Shimmer turned pro. Why? Because the new owners of Weird Tales made a series of missteps, and we felt that the best way to respond was to become even better ourselves. We believed that Shimmer had always been excellent; and now it was time to raise the bar for ourselves. With the generous support of Mary Robinette Kowal, we were able to do that, and now provide a strong professional home for the kind of intelligent, innovative speculative fiction that we loved at Weird Tales.

Amazing things happened after that. The speculative fiction community was incredibly supportive. Our sales soared, as did submissions.

And a guy named Patrick Rothfuss offered to contribute some more money. We knew exactly what we wanted to do with the money: hire Ann VanderMeer to guest edit our 18th issue. What better way for us to honor Ann for her excellent work?

Check out the table of contents:

In the Broken City, by Ben Peek
Atomic Age by Rachel Marsten
Psychopomp, by Ramsey Shehadeh
The Story of Anna Walden, by Christine Schirr
Anuta Fragment’s Private Eyes, by Ben Godby
Unclaimed, by Annalee Newitz
Fragments from the Notes of a Dead Mycologist, by Jeff VanderMeer
The Street of the Green Elephant, by Dustin Monk

This issue will be available in early 2014.