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Interview: Cat Hellisen on “A Green Silk Dress and a Wedding-Death”

Cat HellisenTell us a bit about “A Green Silk Dress and a Wedding-Death.”

A Green Silk Dress and a Wedding-Death is a story about expectations – those which society pins on us because of the circumstances of our birth, our poverty level, our gender, and our families, and how we live within those expectations and can both subvert and pervert them. It’s about taking unexpected paths and leaping off cliffs just for the chance to escape.

 

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

My inspiration for the story was Water and Rivers, and the image of a monster prince and girl who is not a princess but runs away and makes bargains to save herself from a lifetime of nothingness. She might drown or she might be a queen of the sea, but either way she’ll have become something bigger than herself – part of a story rather than a girl who grows old with ghosts.

 

Was “A Green Silk Dress and a Wedding-Death” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

I’ve been half-blind for most of my life and there’s a certain rootlessness that comes from that, from literally seeing the world differently and having to cope with day-to-day life in ways that are normal to you, but that others take for granted. Being neither completely in one world nor the other fuels a lot of what I write. My family history and growing up South African also add to this feeling of being in a liminal place and it’s a motif that I return to over and over. You can see it in Heloise’s culture-clash of history, in how she occupies a space in the margins of her community.

 

What would you want a reader to take away from this story?

It’s a story about stories, and if anything, I want readers to fall in love with the idea of stories, how powerful they are – the magic that breeds in words. There’s a reason so much of what we look at as magic relies not just on herbal lore and ritual, but language; the power of spellwork and of voicing our desires.

 

What are you working on now?

I am writing a fantasy novel for my agent about wicked stepmothers and evil stepdaughters and how neither are as simple as the words make them seem. It’s all witchcraft and stitchcraft and bears and wolfhounds and gods and forests.

 

“A Green Silk Dress and a Wedding-Death” appears in the March/April 2017 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1703.htm

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/subscribe.htm

You can subscribe to the electronic edition of F&SF at the following links:

Weightless Books (non-Kindle): https://weightlessbooks.com/category/publisher/spilogale-inc/

Amazon US (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

You can click on Ms. Hellisen’s author photo to visit her website.  She also is on Twitter: https://twitter.com/CatHellisen

Interview: Matthew Hughes on “Ten Half-Pennies”

Tell us a bit about “Ten Half-Pennies.”

It’s the beginning of a series of stories about Baldemar, a poor boy who grows up to have a career as a wizard’s henchman, after a spending his teenage years as an assistant to a man who collects debts.

 

A Wizard's Henchman by Matthew Hughes“Ten Half-Pennies” introduces us to a new character, Baldemar, in the Archonate Universe.  What inspired his creation?

In the fall of 2015, Gardner Dozois invited me to submit a story to his forthcoming anthology, THE BOOK OF SWORDS.  I had recently sold a novel to PS Publishing about a hardboiled PI who becomes a wizard’s henchman (that’s the title) after the technological civilization of the Ten Thousand Worlds collapses when the universe arbitrarily switches its fundamental operating principle from rationalism to magic, opening the age of the Dying Earth.

I thought it would be interesting to write about a wizard’s henchman in a Dying Earth setting after Old Earth has settled down into a faux-medieval world where wizards are part of the landscape.  So I created Baldemar, who is sent by the wizard he henches for on an impossible mission to steal the Sword of Destiny from a rival thaumaturge.  Your basic Jack Vance-influenced adventure tale about a tough guy who gets dropped into trouble by those who have more power than he does.

When that story was accepted, I thought I’d do the same thing I had done with Raffalon the thief.  I’d originally created him at the end of his career as an unlucky burglar for the anthology ROGUES.  Then I wrote a series of prequel stories and sold them to F&SF.  So now I’m writing Baldemar prequels, showing his start in life, followed by some of the things that happen to him once he goes to work for Thelerion the Exemplary, a not very competent thaumaturge who nonetheless (like all wizards) has grand ambitions.  So far I’ve placed this issue’s story, as well as a novelette that will appear in the May/June issue and a novella that’s not yet scheduled.  And I have another Baldemar novelette sitting in Charlie’s submissions queue.

 

In your Archonate stories, you have written protagonists who must contend with magic, and even a few who use magic in some ways, but you’ve never written a main character who was an actual member of the Wizards’ Guild.  Why is that, and do you think you ever will write a wizard protagonist?

I’m thinking of doing it with Erm Kaslo, the protagonist of A WIZARD’S HENCHMAN, the hardboiled Sam Spade who ends up henching for a proto-wizard after the change from rationalism to magic.  But there’s a common theme running through a lot of my sf and fantasy: my protagonists are outsiders who have to use their talents and street-smarts to navigate among personages and institutions that have more power than they do.  It’s a reflection of my own life, where I started out as a child of the working poor who fluked his way into a career as a speechwriter and confidant of political leaders and chief executives of billion-dollar corporations.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m now producing a monthly newsletter and emailing it to those who sign up.  Besides news, they get free reads of my backlist stories and episodes from my autobiography-in-progress, which I’m calling ONE DAMN THING AFTER ANOTHER.  To encourage people to get on the list, I’m giving away a free ebook copy of my standalone space-opera novel, TEMPLATE.  Here’s a link for anyone who’s interested: https://www.instafreebie.com/free/q6AJb

 

“Ten Half-Pennies” appears in the March/April 2017 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1703.htm

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/subscribe.htm

You can subscribe to the electronic edition of F&SF at the following links:

Weightless Books (non-Kindle): https://weightlessbooks.com/category/publisher/spilogale-inc/

Amazon US (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

You can click on the picture of Mr. Hughes’s latest book, A Wizard’s Henchman, to purchase an ebook copy of it from Amazon.

Interview: James Sallis on “Miss Cruz”

James SallisTell us a bit about “Miss Cruz.”

The story’s about a man who discovers that he has exceptional power over others, and his struggle to subdue that power: the struggle within each of us between what we are led by impulse to do, and what we know we should do.

 

 

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

It’s a story I had in mind and partial draft for some time.  Quite frankly, what is happening at this time in our country — the spills of hatred and disregard, the utter devolution of our political system — is what brought me back to the story and guided my finishing it.

 

What role has music played in your life, and how do music and speculative fiction (reading or writing) interact for you?

The music to which I am most securely drawn is that of the American outsider: blues, old mountain music, early country, the stories of which seem quite close to the bardic, to folk tales that resound through culture after culture, to narrative and emotional archetypes that may well be hardwired into us — as they are, I believe, in fantasy and other arealist fiction.

 

What are you working on now?

After a long bout of mostly doing novels, I recently completed a dozen or more short stories that are popping up here and there, including a 14,000-word novella that’s out like the boll weevil looking for a home.  Currently I’m well into the next novel, the second I’ve done from a female point of view.

 

“Miss Cruz” appears in the March/April 2017 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1703.htm

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/subscribe.htm

You can subscribe to the electronic edition of F&SF at the following links:

Weightless Books (non-Kindle): https://weightlessbooks.com/category/publisher/spilogale-inc/

Amazon US (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Click on the photo above to visit http://jamessallis.com/ Mr. Sallis’s website, to learn more about his writing and music.

A Galley of Covers for Richard Chwedyk’s Saur Stories

Over the past couple years, we’ve been doing an irregular series of #TBT (Throw Back Thursday) features here on the F&SF blog, where they can easily be found under the “F&SF History” tag. We also share them on the F&SF Twitter account and Facebook page.

For #TBT this week, here are the covers for all of Richard Chwedyk’s saur stories. You can order copies of back issues for most of these direct from the F&SF website here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/backish.htm

Fantasy & Science Fiction, Jan. 2001, cover by Bryn Barnard

“The Measure of All Things” (F&SF, Jan. 2001)
cover by Bryn Barnard

Fantasy & Science Fiction, Aug. 2002, cover by Thomas Canty

“Bronte’s Egg” (F&SF, Aug. 2002)
winner of the 2003 Nebula Award for Best Novella
cover by Thomas Canty for “Leda” by M. Rickert

Fantasy & Science Fiction, Oct. 2004, cover by Bryn Barnard

“In Tibor’s Cardboard Castle” (F&SF, Oct. 2004)
cover by Bryn Barnard

Fantasy & Science Fiction, Sept./Oct. 2010, cover by Bryn Barnard

“Orfy” (F&SF, Sept./Oct. 2010)
cover by Bryn Barnard

Fantasy & Science Fiction, March/April 2017, cover by Bryn Barnard

“The Man Who Put the Bomp” (F&SF, March/April 2017)
cover by Bryn Barnard

Interview: Richard Chwedyk on “The Man Who Put the Bomp”

Richard ChwedykWhat was the inspiration for “The Man Who Put the Bomp,” or what prompted you to write it?

A lot of things went into the inspiration for the novella, but the primary one was my interest in doing a story about the person most responsible for the saurs’ existence. I decided it wasn’t going to be a designer. It was going to be an underling, one of the people who execute the designer’s concepts. In many fields, those folks know ten times more about what they’re doing than the people in charge.

I also knew that, somehow, I had to stretch our view of the world where the saurs lived – beyond the boundaries of the old neo-Victorian on the edge of the great megalopolis. Axel is getting restless. There’s a world out there and he wants to see it. So do many of my readers.

So I had those two characters, Axel and Nick, and I wanted to bring them together. How?

Well – Geraldine.

You put those elements together and follow the story. I usually know how a story ends, but how we get there is often a mystery until I face the blank screen – or in this case, very often it was a spiral notebook. Much of it was written on my morning commute, or in the café of the building where I worked (briefly), in the hour before starting time.

And VOOM!

Don’t ask me where VOOM! came from. I awoke one morning and it was there.

Ask Geraldine.

 

Could you talk about the Saur stories as a whole? How has their focus changed over the years, and what do you envision that they’re building toward?

When I wrote “The Measure of All Things,” (F&SF January 2001) I had no intention of ever writing another saur story. A number of folks insisted I do just that, though, so I wrote “Bronte’s Egg” (F&SF August 2002).  Initially, I wrote it to prove they were wrong – you couldn’t write a sequel to “Measure.” It would never work.

Instead, I proved I was wrong. Soooo wrong!

The next two stories I wrote very cautiously, as if I were afraid of disturbing the universe. But I was slowly working out a larger framework for all the pieces. It was in my head from some point I can’t remember, and it involved either a very long solo car trip, or a series of short ones. Or it may have involved washing and drying a whole lot of dishes.

In the end, though, I had an idea – another crazy idea – of where this series of stories might end. It was so crazy I didn’t believe I could pull it off. I still don’t know if I can, but now I do believe I have to try.

So, there will be further stories. The loose ends – and you know all these stories have more loose ends than a flying spaghetti monster – will be tied up. The totality may be an utter disaster, or I may, briefly, justify my existence in this wayward, oddball, inconsistent universe we live in. We’ll see.

 

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

All my work is personal. That’s not a value judgment of art over commerce or the personal over the popular or anything like that. It’s a simple fact. That’s how it works for me, even when I try to write otherwise. I admire many writers who can divorce themselves from their work – or think they can. But even the most “professional” popular writers reveal more of themselves than they would ever care to admit, even to themselves.

I wrote a blog post recently about “Bomp,” where I insisted these stories are science fiction, not fantasy. The science is there – not in the places where you expect to find it, but it’s there. Science isn’t always about the things we know; it’s more often about what we don’t know. It’s about the mystery. All good fiction is about mystery, popular or personal, about wanting to know what happens next.

The older I get, the more mysteries I find. In this novella, I catalog a few of them.

Does that answer the question? I don’t know. All I can add is that, for a while, when I worked in the newspaper business, I did have a postcard pinned on my cubicle wall of the train wreck at Montparnasse in 1895, but the “original” of Nick Danner is more Bob Carlson than me.

My agent says that when I talk I sound like Axel, or what he thinks Axel would sound like. My wife thinks I sound like Agnes.

What can I say? We are multitudes. But every writer, deep in her heart of hearts, is Geraldine.

 

What are you working on now?

I have a collection of saur stories that’s making the rounds to publishers. So far, no takers. Wonder why that is.

I’m still at work on the saur prequel, now titled “Who Reggie Sends” (which will probably be the first of several related novellas), and the novel I’ve been describing as “Ulysses with tentacles.” It’s grown into a monster, as anyone but me might have expected. But when those are through I have another saur story to tell, where Preston is visited by a grad student and Axel encounters the “Space Lady” from the Mount Herrmann Observatory Radio Telescope. I know where it ends, but beyond that all I can do is follow the story, hang on tight, and see where it takes me.

 

“The Man Who Put the Bomp” appears in the March/April 2017 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1703.htm

You can subscribe to the print edition of F&SF here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/subscribe.htm

You can subscribe to the electronic edition of F&SF at the following links:

Weightless Books (non-Kindle): https://weightlessbooks.com/category/publisher/spilogale-inc/

Amazon US (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition): http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Clicking the following link or on the author’s photo will take you to Richard Chwedyk’s blog: http://critinomicon.blogspot.com

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