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Acquisitions: June 2015

The contracts have all been accepted, so here’s a list of the new stories we bought in June that will be coming soon to an issue near you:

  • “Nanabojou and the Race Question” by Justin Barbeau
  • “An Open Letter To the Person Who Took My Smoothie From the Break Room Fridge” by Oliver Buckram
  • “Touch Me All Over and Dark Beyond Stars” by Betsy James
  • “The Stone War” by Ted Kosmatka
  • “Belief” by Nancy Kress
  • “One Way” by Rick Norwood

The Kostmatka and Norwood stories are novelets. The rest are short stories. The Barbeau story is a sequel to “Nanabojou at the World’s Fair” from the Nov/Dec 2014 issue.

Interview: Van Aaron Hughes on “The Body Pirate”

– Tell us a bit about “The Body Pirate.”

“The Body Pirate” is set on a world where humanoids and birdlike creatures form (seemingly) symbiotic pairings. The birds dominate the pairings, considering themselves the “souls” while the humanoids are merely “bodies.”  Our protagonist Adela has co-pioneered technology to allow a single soul to divide its time between two or more bodies.  This has unintended consequences, both to the society and in Adela’s personal life.

 

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

I got the initial concept of a bird/human pairing from a Counting Crows song lyric.  (“There’s a bird that nests inside you, sleeping underneath your skin. / When you open your wings to speak, I wish you’d let me in.”)  What made me want to write a story about these pairings was the notion that a human and bird might sometimes be a unit, but other times operate independently.  So bird, person, and bird+person would be in one sense a single character, but in another sense three different characters.  I loved that, both because I thought it would be interesting to represent visually on the page, and because I hardly know anyone who always behaves consistently and predictably.  Creating these different variations on a given character’s personality struck me as a nice metaphor for how human beings really work.

 

– Was “The Body Pirate” personal for you in any way?  If so, how?

Everything I write is personal on some level, and every protagonist of mine will suffer difficulties that parallel, at least metaphorically, things I’ve experienced.  But also, this story partly grew out of a desire to understand myself better.  The version of me that goes to a law office and writes briefs and takes depositions is, in a very real sense, not the same person who shows up at SF conventions and writes weird stories like “The Body Pirate.”

 

– How did the challenges of POV and formatting influence the writing of this story?

I fell in love with the idea of splitting the narrative into two columns when Adela splits into her bird and human halves.  But it was a bit tricky.  It meant coming up with a whole new set of pronouns (e.g., a single bird or human is “I”; a bird/human pairing is “we”; and group of pairings is “weall”).  And it meant that when Adela split, the narratives about her two halves had to be the same length.  At first I wasn’t sure that would work, since one half was doing hugely important research and getting embroiled in life-or-death conflicts while the other half was babysitting the kids.  But the more I worked on this piece, the more I realized how much Adela’s home life was at the core of the story I wanted to tell.

 

– What might you want a reader to take away from “The Body Pirate?”

I’m just hoping the people who enjoy the story outnumber the ones who say, “Whaaaat?”

 

– What are you working on now?

I’m just finishing up a short story set on a haunted asteroid.  (I don’t know if it works, because I can’t scare myself.)  And I’ve written the ending of a novel set on the world of “The Body Pirate,” in which the humanoid creatures start a war of independence.  Nearly everything I write, I do the ending first, so we’ll see if I have the nerve to complete an entire novel in this strange setting.

 

– Anything else you’d like to add?

Just to express my gratitude to Gordon, Charlie, everyone at F&SF, and all the magazine’s readers.  I have been a reader, fan, and collector much longer than I’ve been a writer.  To appear (for the second time!) in F&SF, which I’ve been reading since I was a boy, is a tremendous thrill and honor.

“The Body Pirate” appears in the July/August 2015 issue of F&SF, which can be purchased here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1507.htm

Interview: Betsy James on “Paradise and Trout”

– What was the inspiration for “Paradise and Trout,” or what prompted you to write it?

We were hiking off-trail in New Mexico’s Jemez Mountains—nine thousand feet altitude, aspen blazing yellow against a cobalt sky—and came upon a slender, glass-clear stream full of native Rio Grande Cutthroat trout. Two red slashes under the jawline give the fish its name. My friend lay down, rolled up his sleeve, and slipped his hand into an overhang in the grassy bank. In a flash he held a little flapping Cuttthroat. Just as quickly he let it go, and it dashed off. I lay on my belly and slid my arm into the water.

Fish world is quiet.

Slipping water, dappled sunlight, quietly waving fins, mouths and gills opening and closing, sometimes a leisurely swim or a quick dash across a pool. That’s it. Daylight, dark. Thunder. Rain.

The remote, pristine stream—my nose was almost in it—even smelled faintly of fish. They didn’t seem afraid. I could curl my hand around a slender body, slowly tighten my fingers, and then…flick, squirm, gone. The trout would shoot into the current, circle, then slip again under the bank to nudge along my palm.

I lay for a long time in the autumn sun, watching their nice fish faces, feeling their fish bodies with my hand as fish neighbor, sinking into fish world quiet.

 

 

– Was “Paradise and Trout” personal to you in any way, and if so, how?

I wonder if it’s possible to write a story that isn’t personal?

I’ve walked miles off-trail in New Mexico’s empty places, and taught for years among its unknowable deep cultures. For me, speculative fiction is the only medium that can embody this strange meeting of worlds.

This story brings together a canyon with a Spanish name; a Presbyterian great- grandfather; the burial of a Hopi friend; a trapped coyote that chewed its leg off—but on the wrong side of the trap. And trout. How the subconscious melds experience is both a mystery and the greatest hope for our planet’s blending cultures.

 

 

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

Um, hands-on.

The little trout had brown spotted skins, flat, neat eyes, and a rosy blush where their cheeks would be. They weren’t worried. They didn’t like being fondled the way a cat does, but fondling didn’t seem to bother them unless they were squeezed. They were archetypally slippery, but not slimy: I came to understand “slippery as a fish.”

 

 

– What would you want a reader to take away from “Paradise and Trout”?

In spec fic we talk about “other worlds.” Most of us can find some bit of stoniness, greenness, wildness or wateryness that’s close, and chances are there’s an alien culture in it. It might even be nicer there than paradise, and hey, no waiting.

 

 

– Anything else you’d like to add?

 I never did catch a fish.

 

“Paradise and Trout” appears in the July/August 2015 issue of F&SF, which can be bought here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1507.htm

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