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Interview: Ted Kosmatka on “The Stone War”

Tell us a bit about “The Stone War.”

A lot of stories feel like machines when you’re writing them.  All the pieces planned out and carefully balanced.  Every now and then a story will feel like water, and that’s what this one felt like as I was writing it–like the whole thing was just moving down hill with each new part flowing naturally from what had come before, without any real plan written out ahead of time.  I had a basic idea of the territory I wanted to cover, some general concepts that I wanted to explore, and I just kind of let it seek level.


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

There were actually a bunch of different things that all jumbled together in my head at the time I started writing. I’ve always been interested in the concept of holotypes– the idea that there exists a single specimen of every living thing that’s supposed to represent the perfect example of that species.  I was also thinking about linguistics, and the idea of dead languages in particular, which gain a particular scientific utility precisely because they are no longer being spoken, and are thus immutable to change, in much the same way stone can be thought of as immutable to change; and in addition to all that, I was thinking about war, and the thousands of warheads buried in silos across the northern hemisphere, and I was thinking about the end of the world.


Is “The Stone War” your meditation on power and government?  Do you think that a President in a democracy could ask a citizen to strike the Stone Man?

I consider the story to be a kind of loose allegory (I won’t say of what exactly), but I’d definitely include the power of the government to be among the list of things I was trying to dig into and explore.  As for whether the President in a democracy could ask a citizen to strike the Stone Man… that’s a great question.  He could ask, of course, but what would happen afterward?  I think it would depend on the nature of the power being wielded by the President.  Or maybe it would depend on how the citizen felt about that power.  Is all governmental power coercive?  Would the Stone man take an objective or subjective view of it, I wonder?  That’d be a fun idea to explore.


Given the way that “The Stone War” is written, it seems possible that the Daciae’s stone man might not actually exist; that it’s a lie the Daciae spread to avert a war they could not otherwise win.  Do you think this is a valid interpretation of your story, and if so, was it deliberate on your part?

I think that’s a fascinating interpretation of the story, and one could certainly argue that it’s possible.  A deterrent doesn’t have to be real for it to work, after all. The other side just has to think it’s real.  Maybe the best case scenario is that neither side ever finds out for sure.


What are you working on now?

I’m a full-time writer in the video game industry, so that’s been taking up most of my brain cycles lately, working on various game-related things.  I’m also a dad of five and spend way too much of my life trapped in Seattle traffic.  My most recent novel THE FLICKER MEN came out last year, and it can be found here if folks are interested:


“The Stone War” appears in the May/June 2016 issue of F&SF.

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