Buy F&SF • Read F&SF • Contact F&SF • Advertise In F&SF • Blog • Forum • RSS

Interview: Beth Cato on “My Ghost Will Know the Way”

What was the inspiration for “My Ghost Will Know the Way,” or what prompted you to write it?

I was reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s poetry. She had such a gift for bringing together memory and emotion and the natural world. I couldn’t help but be inspired, and I looked back on my own life for elements to draw upon. The words flowed from there.

 

Was this poem personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

The end result was quite personal, yes! I regard the poem as a fictionalized autobiography. It describes the very sort of thing I did as a child, and the facts align with my own life, down to the cats and my current distance to my hometown. The matter of magic and ghosts is the fictional element–presumably.

 

Beth CatoDo you find that writing poetry influences your work in prose?  How is writing a poem different or similar to writing a short story?

Poetry has taught me a great deal about storytelling in concise form. In theory, writers know that every word counts, but it’s easy to be lazy about those extra words when writing in long form. In a poem that’s maybe some thirty lines long, you can’t get away with superfluous words.

I tend to write the majority of my poems during April and November (I usually choose one month each year) when Writer’s Digest’s Poetic Asides Blog does its Poem-A-Day prompts. I also have a few bonus times a year when moods strike and I churn out several poems in the course of a day. That’s how “My Ghost Will Know the Way” came about. I read Le Guin, and then had three poems pour out of me in the next few hours. It’s marvelous when the Muse cooperates. That’s not often the case. Usually I need to bait a trap for it so I can make my monthly short story goal.

 

What are you working on now?

I’ve been working on two big projects and I continue to develop short stories and poems. I need to keep busy! I also bake a lot and share recipes on my Bready or Not food blog. If people are ever in need of a good cookie or bar recipe, I can hook them up at BethCato.com.

 

“My Ghost Will Know the Way” appears in the July/August 2019 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1907.htm

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/subscribe.htm

You can subscribe to the electronic edition of F&SF at the following links:

Weightless Books (non-Kindle): https://weightlessbooks.com/category/publisher/spilogale-inc/

Amazon US (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O

Interview: Molly Gloss on “The Everlasting Humming of the Earth”

Molly GlossTell us a bit about “The Everlasting Humming of the Earth.”

Joyce is a woman who has an unusual *gift*:  She can feel a tremor in her body when a major earthquake is about to happen somewhere in the world—but she cannot know where in the world the quake will strike.  This means, even if she could persuade everyone that she’s not a crackpot or a nut, she’s helpless to give any sort of useful warning—what good is it to have advance warning of a quake if you can’t say where it will strike?  It’s a story about dealing with the burden of helpless knowledge; and also a story about a middle-aged woman dealing with loss and grief, and finding community.

 

What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

I live in Oregon, close to the Pacific Subduction Zone, where it’s generally thought that The Big One is already overdue. So earthquakes were on my mind even before I began reading about the continuous sound the Earth makes, a kind of humming, below the level humans can hear but picked up on scientific listening devices; and reading theories that this might be the sound of the globe turning, or the continuous swish and sway of the world’s oceans. And that the sound changes during and after an earthquake, as if the whole Earth is reverberating like a struck bell.  I began to wonder, what if a human could hear the humming of the earth, and the reverberations of an earthquake? Then what? And how would that person deal with the knowledge?

 

Was “The Everlasting Humming of the Earth” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

The horse who appears late in the story represents my own experience of horses acting as empathetic listeners to one’s troubles…does that count as “personal”? And there’s the Pacific Subduction thing—I travel with a fully-stocked preparedness kit in my car and another in my house, enough to survive without outside help for up to three weeks. Oh, I’m ready!

 

Was there any aspect of this story that you found difficult to write?

From a writerly standpoint, do you mean?  I struggled, a bit, figuring out where the pieces of Joyce’s backstory ought to go. I tried scattering them throughout the story at first, and then decided to front-load most of it. But I held back one piece—the scene in which her husband learns the source of her tremors—until very late, when the memory is triggered by something Raylene says.  Finding just the right place for it was like turning a particular piece of a jigsaw puzzle, trying and trying until your eye lights on a subtle variation of color and shape, and suddenly you can see where it needs to go.

 

Why do you write?

Ha ha! I imagine almost everyone has the same answer to this question. I write because I can’t NOT write. Oh, and of course I write to be read.  There is a kind of magic in storytelling, no? Immaterial words creating worlds that do not exist in our ordinary reality, people and sometimes places that are alive only in story. And we write to share those worlds, the worlds of our imagination, beaming them, in a way, from the mind of the writer to the mind of the reader. Magic. That’s why I write.

 

Who do you consider to be your influences?

Perhaps you won’t be surprised to hear me say Ursula K. Le Guin has always been a model for me, especially in science fiction, and especially for showing me that the science in science fiction need not always be physics or chemistry but could be centered in biology, or in the human sciences—sociology, psychology, anthropology.  But of course there are many other writers who’ve influenced my writing—too many to name; I’ll just call out Willa Cather and A.B. Guthrie, Jr., for showing me what Western writing could aspire to be.

 

You’ve been a published writer for more than thirty years: how have you noticed the industry change, and how has it had an impact on your work? 

The publishing world has changed dramatically since I began writing seriously in the 1980s. In those days (and when did I get old enough to use the phrase “in those days…”?)  much more of the marketing and publicity effort for a book was done by the publisher;  now the burden is largely on the writer. I’d never heard “platform,” or “brand” mentioned in connection with writing until a few years ago;  and now a writer’s social media presence is the primary focus of marketing.  And of course there are many fewer newspapers reviewing books now, reviews having become primarily the province of GoodReads and book bloggers and readers commenting on Amazon.  But there have been some very good changes as well—lots of thriving magazines, both print and on-line, especially in the science fiction and fantasy realm—and many of them are still reviewing books (F&SF!).  And with social media there’s more direct communication (if you wish it) between writers and readers, and which I do love. None of this has had an impact on what I write, I have always just written the stories that I wanted to read. But I do feel a bit at sea when it comes to the marketing piece of the puzzle. I’m comfortable tweeting good news, announcing an upcoming publication, and so forth, but beyond that I’m not very savvy about strategies that might draw in more readers. One thing that hasn’t changed:  the joy of seeing my work in print!  Magic!

 

“The Everlasting Humming of the Earth” appears in the July/August 2019 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1907.htm

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/subscribe.htm

You can subscribe to the electronic edition of F&SF at the following links:

Weightless Books (non-Kindle): https://weightlessbooks.com/category/publisher/spilogale-inc/

Amazon US (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O

Molly Gloss has three reprint novels out from Saga Press in 2019: OUTSIDE THE GATES, WILD LIFE, and THE DAZZLE OF DAY, as well as a new collection of short stories, UNFORESEEN.

Visit the author’s website at https://www.mollygloss.com/

Editor’s Note for July-August 2019

Summer is here (or Winter, for our readers in the southern hemisphere) and so is the July/August issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction!

Many of our electronic and paper subscribers have already received their issues, but if you’re looking for a copy you can find us in most Barnes & Noble stores, as well as many local independent booksellers. You can also order a single copy from our website or buy an electronic edition from Amazon, AmazonUK, and — now, available worldwide and in every electronic format — through Weightless Books.

Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August, cover by Mondolithic StudiosMondolithic Studio‘s cover illustrates the inevitable robot apocalypse.

ROBOTS INVADE!

This month, humanity’s doom comes on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Cassandra Khaw, who first appeared as the co-author of “Shooting Iron” in our Sept/Oct issue last year, returns with a story set in London in the aftermath of the great robot war to remind us that “Mighty Are the Meek and the Myriad.”

And across the Atlantic, in the ruins of robot-ravaged New York, F&SF regular Alex Irvine relates “The Legend of Wolfgang Robotkiller.”

FANTASY, SCIENCE FICTION,
AND THE DIFFICULT TO CATEGORIZE

Our other science fiction for this issue includes the F&SF debut of Theodore McCombs, who takes us to a near future where computer-aided memory enhancement leads us to “Lacuna Heights.” Dominica Phetteplace returns with another story of the near future at the intersection of social media and private healthcare with “Nice for What.” And another debut author, Eliza Rose, takes us on a colony ship to deep space for a visit to “Planet Doykeit.”

What robot-filled summer issue would be complete without some dragons for balance? On the fantasy side, Deborah Coates gives us an intimate look at the dragon invasion of South Dakota and introduces us to some “Girls Who Never Stood a Chance.” G. V. Anderson takes us to Yorkshire for a gothic tale of haunting and asylums seen in “A Strange Uncertain Light.” And Albert E. Cowdrey returns with another story of William Warlock, a New Orleans lawyer with supernatural abilities and a client who receives “The Legacy.”

And some stories are just too hard to categorize but that’s part of what makes them so interesting. In this issue, we have “The Slave” by Andrej Kokoulin, translated from the Russian by Alex Shvartsman. In 2017, “The Slave” won the FantLab Award and immediately prompted a lengthy debate about whether or not the story is speculative. We’ll let you decide what you think. We also have “The Everlasting Humming of the Earth” by Molly Gloss, whose fiction constantly invites you to forget about categories and consider the human experience instead. 


You’ll also find two new poems slipped into pages between the stories. Mary Soon Lee has a message directed “To Skeptics” and Beth Cato makes her first appearance in F&SF with the assurance that “My Ghost Will Know the Way.”

OUR OTHER COLUMNS AND FEATURES

Looking for summer reading? Charles de Lint recommends some Books to Look For, by Sarah Pinsker, Kim Beall, John R. Little, Melissa F. Olson, and Philip K. Dick: A Comics Biography by Laurent Queyssi and Mauro Marchesi. Meanwhile, Michelle West is Musing on Books by Tim Maughan, Max Gladstone, K Chess, and Cate Glass. And for our monthly Curiosities column, rediscovering lost writers and books, David Langford reviews Charles Eric Maine’s The Mind of Mr Soames, a 1961 novel about science and the social contract.

In our latest film column, David J. Skal shares his delight in the new Mary Poppins movie. Jerry Oltion’s science column explains “How Vaccines Work.” And Paul Di Filippo has plucked another feather of the Plumage from Pegasus to tickle your fancy. The print version of the magazine also offers up new cartoons by Nick Downes and Arthur Masear.

LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK

We hope you’ll share your thoughts about the issue with us. We can be found on:

Happy reading!

C.C. Finlay, Editor
Fantasy & Science Fiction
fandsf.com | @fandsf

Interview: Pip Coen on “Second Skin”

Tell us a bit about “Second Skin.”

Second Skin is a story about Saskia, a mute daughter of a wealthy family, and her evolving relationship with a local farmer. We follow Saskia via the patchworked memories of our narrator, the farmer, as she tries to cling onto her world, even though it doesn’t seem to want her.

 

What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

Over one of our typically eclectic lab coffee hours, a colleague told me about the trick to encourage a ewe to bond with a different lamb after her own lamb died. It was a gorgeous little factoid and went straight into my steadily expanding list of story ideas. I don’t know how my colleague feels about being the inspiration for Saskia’s final act…

 

Pip CoenWas “Second Skin” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

Thankfully, most aspects of this story came from my imagination rather than personal experience. I’m lucky enough to come from a family where arguments never escalated to the point of skin removal (although they came close once or twice). However, this is the second story I have published in F&SF that centres on a character who doesn’t fit into the world that was built around them. Although the resolutions are very different, it’s a theme that’s close to my heart and one I revisit often in my fiction.

 

Can you tell us about any of the research you may have done for this story?

Shamefully little! I probably should have researched more about farms and farming, but I tend not to worry about that those details too much. Or to put it another way, if a reader is worried about those details, then maybe I didn’t make the core story interesting enough. On the other hand, I did research the tanning of leather for probably too long, trying to make sure the relative timings worked out. It led me onto some rather strange websites…

 

What was the most difficult aspect of writing this story, and what was the most fun?

The most difficult aspect was trying to develop the central characters and their relationship using the narrative lens of an introverted farmer interacting with a girl who can’t speak to him. Thanks to some great feedback from my writing group, I’m happy with the way it works in the final version. The most fun aspect was definitely the ending. I knew how the story would end before I started it—I usually do—and the imagery in this piece was particularly fun to play with.

 

What are you working on now?

I have several short stories in the works that I’m passionate about, so I’ll be trying to finish those and send them out later this year. The ideas piled up while I was writing a novella last year, and I’m enjoying returning to a shorter medium for now.

 

“Second Skin” appears in the May/June 2019 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1905.htm

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/subscribe.htm

You can subscribe to the electronic edition of F&SF at the following links:

Weightless Books (non-Kindle): https://weightlessbooks.com/category/publisher/spilogale-inc/

Amazon US (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O

Click on Pip Coen’s photo to visit his website.

Interview: Bruce McAllister on “Breath”

Tell us a bit about “Breath.”

Thanks to a family that lived by one ocean or another my entire childhood, I grew up in the biological sciences and marine sciences, have always loved animals and the sea (our father was a career Navy officer and oceanographer, to use the civilian term), and for fifty years now have been writing and publishing about animals and the sea.  My first published short story, as a teenager, was about a telepathic merboy whom invading aliens couldn’t defeat; my first published novel (the “Ace Special” HUMANITY PRIME—which wouldn’t have seen print without the editorial midwifery of Terry Carr), which came from that story, was a far-future stream-of-consciousness ode to the merpeople human beings would become on a distant planet; and in the late 80’s and early 90’s I published a series of stories about endangered species and how we might try to save them, resurrect them or modify them as they began to die in our world.  More recently (with two stories in F&SF—“Dreampet” and “Breath”), I find myself writing about the near-future genetic engineering of pets and other creatures and the dark side of corporate profits and fickle human nature even if love, like life itself, somehow manages to find a way.

 

What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?

I fished a lot as a kid when our father was stationed in San Diego.  These were my late elementary and middle school years (my brother Jack is four years younger), and they were wonderful years on a great bay and peninsula, Point Loma, with its tide pools, bat rays, bait barges, schools of mackerel and thirty-pound halibut, and sharks often much bigger than they should be where swimmers swim.   A couple of years ago, not having fished in decades, I bought a rod and reel and tackle and went out on a half day charter fishing boat from Newport Harbor to try to capture those old feelings.  It wasn’t the best season for fishing, and the handful of people on the boat were catching only “rock fish,” no yellowtail, nothing very big or glorious. That was fine with me; but, when I pulled up what was on my line, I saw the most beautiful creature I’d seen in my life from California waters, felt feelings I hadn’t felt as a kid, and knew I wouldn’t be fishing anymore.  I don’t say this with any judgment of others; it’s simply that the conflicts were too much for me personally at that point in my life, one where the joys of hunting and capturing (of owning what filled me with wonder) were suddenly messy–compromised by compassion, beauty and a desire to see beauty live on.  Those feelings of course gave rise too “Breath.”

 

Was there any aspect of “Breath” you found difficult to write?

No.  It’s a very short story; and as many writers will tell you, one kind of love or other—even if it takes the form of righteous indignation or rage or sadness and loss and longing or conflicting mixes of all of these—is how we get into a story; and I had the feelings I needed to launch and finish a very short story.

 

Why do you write?

Like many writers, I can’t really answer that question except to say that I go a little (or a lot) crazy if I don’t.  Sometimes I think I order the universe for myself by writing, and by ordering it I give it meaning for myself.  Sometimes I think I write in order to memorialize the events and feelings that have been most important to me, that they not be lost (as the replicant Roy in BLADERUNNER would put it) to time.  (Much of my SFF is autobiographical, especially in these later years.)  Often I just don’t know the answer, but I do have to write—even if there are periods when I don’t write enough.  (Yes, even writers who’ve been doing it for five decades can have their blocks.)

 

Who do you consider to be your influences?

A long list of SFF writers, other “genre” writers and “literary fiction” writers.  We find in the published work of others—friends, colleagues, mentors, strangers living and dead—what we must to teach us the craft we need to make our own fictive magic and to affirm the spirit of what we feel compelled to write as a bridge between us and the world.  But a partial list would include Par Lagerkvist, William Styron, Ursula Le Guin, William Golding, Robert Ludlum, James Lee Burke, Lee Child, Harry Harrison, Fred Pohl, Barry Malzberg, A. E. van Vogt, William Gibson, and Cordwainer Smith.

 

What are you working on now?

Other stories in the “Dreampet” world, a novel expansion of my 2006 Hugo-nominee short story “Kin,” a novel based on the “Emilio” stories set in a dreamy Italian Renaissance, and other stories set in that northern Italian fishing village where, thanks to our father I spent a magical two years as a young teenager becoming addicted to SFF for the first time—a village I’ve written about a lot over the past fifteen years.  One always returns-or at least a writer like myself does—to what one loves.

  

“Breath” appears in the May/June 2019 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1905.htm

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/subscribe.htm

You can subscribe to the electronic edition of F&SF at the following links:

Weightless Books (non-Kindle): https://weightlessbooks.com/category/publisher/spilogale-inc/

Amazon US (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O

Next Page »

Copyright © 2006–2019 The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction • All Rights Reserved Worldwide
Powered by WordPress • Theme based on Whitespace theme by Brian Gardner
If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to sitemaster@fandsf.com.

Designed by Rodger Turner and Hosted by:
SF Site spot art