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Interview: Betsy James on “Touch Me All Over”

Tell us a bit about “Touch Me All Over.”

Don’t we all, somewhere between the ages of sixteen and twenty, pick up the glass knife?

Whether we find it innocently or it’s forced on us, it severs us from the cultural certainties we grew up with. For some, like Hilil, the separation is so complete that they must live peripherally in any society, and glimpse the universe at its making and unmaking.


What prompted you to write it?

I grew up with the concept of geologic time, and now live and work among very old cultures. It’s been a lesson in how arbitrary the human systems are from which we troll and kill. I love the names and shine of cultural knots—maybe because they’re so ephemeral? “Touch Me All Over” offered itself from a broken obsidian blade picked up on a windy New Mexico mesa, and a bleeding thumb.


Is the story personal in any way?

SF has served me as a bearskin of sorts. Though have you ever tried to keep the wind out with a bearskin? And yes, I have kept my grandmother’s name.


What are you working on now?

Roadsouls, which may be about stumbling around in the dark banging your head on things, will be available in April from Aqueduct Press. It’s set in the same universe as “Touch Me All Over.” Elsewhere I have two contemporary teens stuck on a fairly recent—like, 3,000-year-old—lava flow, and the stars are in the wrong place. God knows what will happen now.


“Touch Me All Over” appears in the January/February 2016 issue of F&SF.

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