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Interview: Marissa Lingen on “An Unearned Death”

Marissa LingenTell us a bit about “An Unearned Death.”

Valhalla is the really famous feasting hall for warriors in Norse myth, but if you keep reading sagas, you’ll find all sorts of different halls of the gods in them, some with odd details and some just mentioned in passing, oh, this is where so-and-so lives. Then in my Christian upbringing you hear the verse about, “In my Father’s house there are many mansions,” so I got to thinking about the housing arrangements of the afterlife, different destinations.


Is there anything you want to say about the background of this story or any inspirations for it?

I think I have spent more time with my older relatives than most people of my generation. Some of them are my inspiration in a very positive way. My grandfather died eight years ago, and I still miss him every day. I’m still lucky enough to be quite close with my grandmother and also with the great-aunt and -uncle who are my substitute grandparents on the other side of the family. They’re very involved in my life–I talk to them at least twice a week and see them often. And my husband’s grandfather is a science fiction fan from way back, so we can share that bond in addition to a more ordinary loving relationship. But there’s a flip side to that, too. There are other relatives who have not been the rosy distant vision of elder inspiration. Knowing them well has meant seeing all their warts.

I think sometimes we look at people past 100 and think, “They’ve had the time to gain so much wisdom and experience!” But having the time to do something and actually doing it are not the same thing. Sometimes someone who has been around that long has used their time to be just plain mean for longer. And then the question becomes: how can we be the people we want to be, with regards to them? How can we keep them from warping our own behavior?


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

There’s no automatic card stamp on passion, compassion, or joy. You have to go find them right away and hang onto them as best you can.


What are you working on now?

Too many things! I have revisions going on a middle-grade novel, I’m working on an essay that should be out very soon, and once the revisions are done, it’s back to a novel for grown-ups, full of kelp dryads and were-sharks, sunken countries and political turmoil.


“An Unearned Death” appears in the July/August 2017 issue of F&SF.

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Clicking on Ms. Lingen’s photo will take you to her website at


One Response to “Interview: Marissa Lingen on “An Unearned Death””

  1. F&SF story interview | Novel Gazing Redux on July 21st, 2017

    […] and you can read them! Such as this interview about my story in the July/August issue of F&SF. Interview with me! Things you might want to know! or maybe not, but there it is […]

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