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Interview: Tom Underberg on “Sir Pagan’s Gift”

– Tell us a bit about “Sir Pagan’s Gift.”

“Sir Pagan’s Gift” is the story of a naive missionary who comes to a poor fishing village, learns the village secrets, and lands in grave trouble because of those secrets.

 

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

I started with the opening image of Sir Pagan and a New York Times article about how a few banks were using aluminum market regulations to their benefit. That, bolstered by a lively evening with my writer’s group, somehow cohered into “Sir Pagan’s Gift.” As always, it didn’t end up quite the way I imagined when I began.

 

– Was “Sir Pagan’s Gift” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

I spent many summers in small coastal towns growing up. The village where Sir Pagan lands recalls some of those experiences.

 

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

Research is one of my favorite things. It’s better than outright procrastination and I learn something at the same time. For this story, though, my research was limited to some quick searching of entomological terminology and Atlantic fishing stock.

 

– What would you want a reader to take away from “Sir Pagan’s Gift?”

Be careful when signing contracts with institutions. Their agenda is their own.

 

– What are you working on now?

I’m putting the finishing touches on a short story based on the worst job I ever had. I’ve got a novel in the works too.

 

– Anything else you’d like to add?

Just that it’s a great pleasure to appear in F&SF.

“Sir Pagan’s Gift” appears in the September/October 2014 issue of F&SF.

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