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Interview: Leo Vladimirsky on “Collar”

– Tell us a bit about “Collar.”

Collar is the story of two men whose need for each other will end up destroying one, or possibly both, of them.


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

Actually there were two main inspirations: one was a comment my father made a few summers ago. He was musing on how people complain about how expensive oil is, and yet energy is still so cheap it’s more economically viable to ship cast iron furniture across the globe than to make it at home.

The other came from an article I read (which actually pops up every now again) about the libertarian utopia of the island-city (as popularized in Silicon Valley just last night.) I think this particular article was by Peter Thiel.

So I just connected the dots and threw in a bit of a surfing beach here in NYC and my obsession with street markets.


– Was “Collar” personal for you in any way, and if so, how?

I can’t say I’ve ever been in such an extreme position as any of the characters, but I can see myself in any of their positions. But, like a lot of people, I’ve been out of work before and I know the claustrophobia and panic that set in over time.


– What kind of research, if any, did you do for this story?

So the whole synthfat thing was something that I researched. I remember reading about how the folks who swim the English Channel used to cover themselves in goose fat to keep warm. I thought that was a pretty visceral symbol and decided to write it into the story.

But… when I actually looked it up, it turns out that the fat was used to keep their skin from chafing in the salt water, not to insulate themselves. Apparently it would require some insane amount of fat to actually insulate them.

Luckily this is still fiction, so I’m allowed to take a few liberties…


– Is there anything you’d want a reader to take away from “Collar?”

That is entirely up to the reader. People have very different interpretations of this story and its world, which I love to hear. But I do think there is something optimistic in there, that we find a way to survive no matter what absurd conditions are placed on us.


– What are you working on now?

A director friend of mine and I are exploring whether Collar can live as a film, which is pretty exciting. I’m also working on a few more stories set in this version of NYC (there’s a reference to the Manhattan Bypass Bridge that I’ve been exploring.) And I keep trying to figure out how to turn Das Orbit (a blog fiction project I’ve been writing for years) into a novel.

“Collar” appears in the March/April 2014 issue of F&SF.

Interview: Jon DeCles on “Apprentice”

– Tell us a bit about “Apprentice.”

Well, of course it’s a Mickey Mouse story: but it’s worth remembering that the Dukas tone poem is based on a poem by Goethe.  There’s a lot more there than a cartoon, or an orchestra tune, and a lot of room to examine character and consequence.


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

My foster son Jonathon.  He is a brilliant craftsman, photographer, builder, you name it: but he has a tendency to get right to the end of a project and change directions, leaving the final thing undone. He came into my life when he was eighteen, and before that things were not so hot for him.


– Was “Apprentice” personal for you in any way, and if so, how?

Very personal, for obvious reasons.  Sometimes all a writer can do about his or her life is write about it.  I find that all the fantasy I have written over the last thirty years or so is autobiography.


– What would you want a reader to take away from this story?

Compassion.  I’m a disciple of Theodore Sturgeon, so everything I write is about love.  Love is never easy, which is why it makes for good story telling.  I’d like the reader, with me, to hope the Wizard will find a way around the problem.


– What are you working on now?

I’ve got a bunch of stuff on my desk.  An Ancient Greek werewolf story (I was running the Nemean Games, along with my wife, Diana L. Paxson, and I got interested is some legends), a modern vampire story involving Vodou, and the next book in the Piswyck Papers, “The Revenge of the Countess.”  There’s also a novel about theater set in a fantasy world.  I spend a lot of time on stage, so that, at least, is a world I know pretty well.


– Anything else you’d like to add?

Just that I am really happy to have a story in F&SF again.

“Apprentice” appears in the March/April 2014 issue of F&SF.

Interview: M.K. Hobson on “Baba Makosh”

Tell us a bit about “Baba Makosh”

The story is set during the Russian Civil War, which began in 1917 and lasted until 1922. It follows a small Red Army squadron who have been sent to search for Hell. Like all good stories, it contains politics, buffoonery, magic, and cruelty.

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

I love to write historical fantasy, I’ve always been fascinated by this period of Russian history, and I haven’t read many stories set in this particular milieu, so it seemed like an interesting challenge.

Was “Baba Makosh” personal to you in any way, and if so, how?

Sometime around 1920, my father’s father—Grandpa Koroloff—was gang-pressed into the White Army. There was a lot of gang-pressing going on in those days; one basically joined whichever side swept into one’s village and put a gun to one’s head first. By 1922, Grandpa was a machinist on the Imperial Russian Navy’s Minesweeper “Petrokl,” part of the Siberian flotilla in Vladivostok. In October of that year, with the Red Army closing in on the city, the entire White Russian Fleet—23 ships, bearing about 8,000 refugees—evacuated the port. Many trials and tribulations followed. With the government of Imperial Russia now defunct, the ships of the flotilla represented several million tons of heavy armament without a legitimate political flag to sail under. Whenever they tried to land, apparatchiks from the infant Communist government were there with writs and petitions and such, demanding the return of the ships and the refugees—an idea which was not especially popular with the flotilla’s commander, Admiral Uri Karlovich Stark, nor (as one might imagine) with said refugees. There was an extended stay in the Philippines, a terrible storm in which many lives were lost … but my own personal bottom line to this sweeping saga was that my Grandpa Koroloff eventually arrived at Angel Island in San Francisco, met my grandmother, and things just kept leading to other things until I showed up.

Some cheeky readers might suggest that this is the story I should actually have told. Unfortunately, it’s somewhat short on magic and rather long on plot; it would have taken me much more than a novelette to cram all that drama in. Maybe someday.
What sort of research did you do for this story?

I had to research the Russian Civil War and brush up on my Slavic folklore. Luckily I very much enjoy both researching and brushing up on things. I also created a Pinterest board of images to go with the story. Pinterest boards are a recent addition to my writing process which I find as immensely satisfying as they are distracting.
What would you want a reader to take away from “Baba Makosh?”

Someone who wears a long leather trench coat is making a very definite fashion statement, and that statement is “I am not to be trusted.”

What are you working on now?

I have several long stories in my novel cycle to complete, as well as the sequel to The Warlock’s Curse, the book I kickstarted in 2012. I’m very much hoping I can release some or all of these this year, as I’ve been singularly unproductive lately. It is leading me to question the very nature of my existence.
Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m serious about the long leather trench coats. If you see someone wearing one—especially belted—go the other way.

“Baba Makosh” appears in the Nov./Dec/ 2013 issue of F&SF.

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