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Interview: David Gerrold on “Monsieur”

– Tell us a bit about “Monsieur.”

I started thinking about vampirism as a disease instead of a supernatural condition. And the more I thought about vampires in that context, the more I realized that the way vampires have been portrayed in a lot of movies and books and TV shows doesn’t deal much with the daily minutiae of a vampire’s life, what’s really necessary for survival.

I wrote that first section, the part in italics — realized I was heading in the wrong direction, and took a giant step back — the meta thing — and began to look at vampire fiction the way a vampire might. The rest of the piece just flowed from there.


– “Monsieur” reads like the beginning of a novel. Is there more to Jacob’s story?

After I finished “Monsieur,” I knew I wanted to know more. There was a lot more to tell. So I kept writing. “Jacob in Boston,” “Jacob in Seattle,” “Jacob in San Francisco,” and finally “Jacob in New Orleans.” When I was done, I had 75,000 words. So, yes, that first story is the first chapter in a novel — and we printed up a special collector’s edition in time for the World Science Fiction Convention. I think there will be copies available on Amazon by the end of this month as well.


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

I have to point to a story in the July/August 2014 issue of F&SF. A Guide to the Fruits of Hawai’i. by Alaya Dawn Johnson. (Which went on to win the Nebula award.) It struck me as a brilliant piece in so many ways, I couldn’t get it out of my head. I wanted to know more about the world suggested beyond that story — so much so that I almost wanted to write it myself.

But what happened was something else. As I said above, I started thinking about how a vampire would have to survive in our world. I’m not through with that thinking. I might have more to say in the future.


– Do you think any aspects of your writing have changed as you’ve gotten older?

I’ve always been interested in the conflict of ideas — and the moral and emotional dilemmas those conflicts create in human beings. It’s what James Blish always said, “Who does it hurt? That’s who your story is about.”

But more and more, I think I’m writing a lot deeper than I used to. I’m doing more of what I call “transfusion stories.”

There’s that thing that writers say. “Writing is easy. Sit down at the keyboard and open a vein.” If I finish a story and I need a transfusion, I know I’ve gone someplace important. I can tell by the depth of emotion I’ve invested in the story.

I can point to “The Martian Child” and “thirteen o’clock” and “Entanglements” (May/June 2015 issue of F&SF) as transfusion stories. That’s my goal, to write more stories that come from that vein…

“Monsieur” appears in the September/October 2015 issue of F&SF, which can be purchased here:

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Interview: Marissa Lingen on “Ten Stamps Viewed Under Water”

– Tell us a bit about “Ten Stamps Viewed Under Water.”

I wrote it while I was in a lake house alone with my in-laws for a long weekend. There were nine of us, not two, and everyone was quite cheerful and having a good time, but I think the “it’s just us and the snow outside” experience probably had a subconscious effect on me!

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

I had the title first. I honestly don’t even remember how I got the title. And then I thought about the sorts of stamps you see, how they would translate to a fantasy setting, and it became a very stressed out fantasy setting very quickly, because what would be interesting about the stamps of a fantasy setting that is utterly peaceful and running smoothly? And really, the head of a queen: that’s a little alarming when you take it out of context. I think honestly it was Queen Elizabeth II’s head that really had me off and running. (Obviously it is not QE2 in the story.)

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

My grandfather was a stamp collector, and my grandfather-in-law still is one. So my associations with the hinges and the tweezers and the little dishes of water soaking stamps off envelopes and all the paraphernalia of stamp collecting are all very positive–much more positive than this story would indicate!

– What are you working on now?

Oh gosh. Lots of stuff. Right at the moment, I am obsessed with fungus, so that’s going in a lot of different directions. Some of them apocalyptic, some of them therapeutic…lots of mycological science fiction, is I guess what I’m saying here.

“Ten Stamps Viewed Under Water” appears in the September/October 2015 issue of F&SF, which can be purchased here:

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Editor’s Note for Sept/Oct 2015

One of the things that I love about The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction is that it’s a beautiful physical object. The September/October issue — available today! — is a perfect example, with its cover featuring an epic dragon illustrated by the team of Cory and Catska Ench. If you don’t have a copy yet, you can subscribe here or order a single copy here.

Fantasy & Science Fiction, Sept/Oct 2015, cover by Cory and Catska EnchThe Enches have done many covers for F&SF over the past decade. (The very first cover they ever did for the magazine was the illustration for my story “A Democracy of Trolls” back in Oct/Nov of 2002 — something I didn’t know until just now!) You can see more of their work, together and individually, at their website:

The cover illustrates this month’s novella, “The Lord of Ragnarök” by Albert E. Cowdrey. Regular readers of F&SF will be familiar with Cowdrey’s work and his range as a writer. But few may know that before he turned his attention to fiction he served as Chief of the Special History Branch in the U.S. Army, and published several non-fiction books on the history of medical service in the army as well as the environmental history of the U.S. south. Cowdrey won the World Fantasy Award in 2003 for his short story “Queen for a Day” and was a finalist again in 2009 for his novella “The Overseer.” We think this new novella is among his best work.

The story in this month’s free electronic digest for Kindle is “The Bone War” by Elizabeth Bear. This story marks the first fiction appearance by the multiple Hugo Award winning author in the pages of F&SF. (Bear’s first professional SF sale was the poem “ee ‘doc’ cummings” in the March 2003 issue of F&SF.) “The Bone War” takes place in the world of Bear’s Eternal Sky series. Fans who’ve read Bone and Jewel Creatures and Book of Iron will immediately recognize Bijou the Artificier. Everyone else is in for a new treat. Even if you don’t subscribe to the magazine, you can click on this link and read Bear’s story and all the columns in the issue for free.

The rest of the issue contains a mixture of new and familiar names.

Nick Wolven has published a half dozen stories in Asimov’s Science Fiction but his contemporary science fiction satire “We’re So Very Sorry For Your Recent Tragic Loss” marks his first appearance in this magazine. “Ten Stamps Viewed Under Water,” a fantasy inspired by her grandfather’s stamp collection, also marks the F&SF debut of the prolific Marissa Lingen. And we are excited to introduce you to Bo Balder, a multilingual writer from the Netherlands who is a two-time winner of the Paul Harland Prize for best original Dutch science fiction, fantasy, or horror. “A House of Her Own” is her first professional English short fiction publication. It’s a thought-provoking story about a far future where humans and aliens are connected in unexpected and revealing ways.

We’re happy to see other writers return to these pages with new stories. Paolo Bacigalupi’s “A Hot Day’s Night” originally appeared in a special issue of High Country News (where Bacigalupi once worked) devoted to the future of environmental ideas. We don’t think many genre readers will have seen it there, so we’re excited to share it and give a glimpse into the drought-plagued world of his new novel The Water Knife. “Don’t Move” by Dennis Etchison is a chilling tale from the three-time winner of both the British Fantasy and World Fantasy Awards. And David Gerrold, recent World Science Fiction Convention guest of honor and Hugo Awards ceremony co-emcee, along with Tananarive Due, returns to these pages with a horror story, “Monsieur.”

We also have two new tales from recent series. “The Adventure of the Clockwork Men” by Ron Goulart marks the return of the Victorian supernatural sleuth Harry Challenge, who previously appeared in F&SF to uncover “The Secret of the City of Gold” (Jan/Feb, 2012) and solve “The Problem of the Elusive Cracksman” (Nov/Dec 2012). And “Rascal Saturday” is the latest story in Richard Bowes’s The Big Arena cycle, centered around a future, climate-changed eastern United States. The first tale in the series, “Sleep Walking, Now and Then,” was a finalist for this year’s Nebula Award. But you don’t need to be familiar with the earlier stories in either series to appreciate these.

The magazine also has some great columns this month.

Charles de Lint tells you why you should read new books by Laura Bickle, Seanan McGuire, Eva Darrow, F.R. Mahler, and Andrew Klavan. David J. Skal offers his analysis of the film Ex Machina. In our regular “Curiosities” column, Phoenix Alexander discusses a forgotten classic of early 20th century African-American science fiction. And Chris Moriarty uses four recent anthologies — Mothership: Tales from Afro-Futurism and Beyond, Carbide Tipped Pens: Seventeen Tales of Hard Science Fiction, Twelve Tomorrows, and Hieroglyph: Stories and Visions for a Better Future — as a jumping off point for an essay on women currently writing hard SF.

If that doesn’t make you want to read the issue, I don’t know what else to add. F&SF has never been a better bargain. You can order print or digital copies of the issue here: Enjoy!

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