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Interview: Cassandra Khaw and Jonathan L. Howard on “Shooting Iron”

Tell us a bit about “Shooting Iron.”

JLH: It’s a modern day Weird West story that has oodles of violence, some creative swearing, an awesome protagonist, a solid backstory, and some lighthearted giggles amidst the eviscerations. We may also have inadvertently included some salient and serious subtexts along the way, for which we are terribly sorry, I expect.

CK: Shooting Iron is weird and unrealistic and has little interest in the motivations of the exotic antagonists, focusing instead on the internalities of the protagonist and even then, she’s drawn in broad strokes (except where one is smart enough to peek through the cracks and go), how dare we indeed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

JLH: The Netflix IRON FIST series. There was some dismay that they’d decided to stick with Danny Rand being a white chap. Somebody online said, “Can you imagine if it was an Asian character going to America to learn and be best at some sort of mystical occidental martial art?” Saying things like that within earshot of writers is a fatal mistake.

CK: *points up*

 

“Shooting Iron” displays a very detailed sense of human anatomy; can you tell us about any of the research you may have done for “Shooting Iron,” on this subject or any other?

JLH: I actually bought a copy of Gray’s Anatomy to get my “bits” bits right. I suspect Cass went out and killed some people for research, but for heaven’s sake don’t tell her I said that.

CK: EXCUSE ME? WHAT DID YOU — for once, someone else actually went into deeper detail about the gore than I did. I actually did a pass on this going, ‘Are you sure we need THAT much gore?’

 

What was the most difficult aspect of writing this story, and what was the most fun?

JLH: From my perspective, it was all fun. I honestly don’t recall any difficult bits. It flowed very easily. All those Wild West memes melting into folklore and a little body horror, it all melded very organically.

CK: Time constraints, honestly. The rest was lovely, but Jesus, I end up working on far too many things sometimes.

 

Do either of you write with other authors often, and could you talk about your collaborative process for “Shooting Iron?”

JLH: I’ve collaborated on the writing for game projects in the past, but that’s not unusual for the games industry. This is the first time I’ve collaborated on an original piece of prose, though. It went very smoothly, I think. We hashed out the plot, then I did a first pass as I had less on my plate at the time. When it was done, I passed it over and we bounced it back and forth for a few iterations until we were both happy. I remember sort of semi-pastiching Cass’ style in places to make our work fit together better. Very wisely, she tore much of the faux-Khawness out on her passes and replaced it with the real deal. It worked as a practice, though, as it went a long way to erasing the seams between our styles.

CK: This isn’t my first collaboration. I did a piece with Matt Dovey before this, which is unfortunately back in the submissions circuit because the damned magazine folded. But this is my first prose-based collaboration of this scale, and it was interesting. Going through Jonathan’s first pass was almost disorienting; it’s like reading your own edits, except not, and you’re not editing to fit someone else’s voice, you’re working to make it match your own.

 

Who do you consider to be your influences?

JLH: Oh, that is a long list. I’ll endeavour to keep it brief by skipping lots of names. Conan Doyle, Vernon Lee, Wharton, James (M.R., not Henry), Sayers, Lovecraft, Vance, McBain, Moorcock, Hulke, Sladek, Lem, and any number of more current writers including, she’ll doubtless side-eye me for saying, Cassandra. It’s true, though; I reread a pile of her work before doing my pass on “Shooting Iron” specifically to influence my own style and make it more compatible with hers. That sort of deconstructive read emphasised to me the craft that underpins her writing and encouraged me to be less conservative in some of my descriptive work.

CK: Totally doing the side-eye. It’s funny, but Jonathan’s works are what I read up on when I want to do a pastiche of British voices. I reread Johannes Cabal whenever I do any work for Failbetter Games, and it just works perfectly. I end up very English and I end up very confused, as does everyone else I meet because suddenly, I sound like a very stark, very irritable German necromancer with a distinctly English voice. (Wot.)

My other influences include, among others, Lavie Tidhar, Cherie Priest, Brooke Bolander, Joe Hill, and Rin Chupeco.

 

What are you working on now?

JLH: A couple of game projects, one of which is NDAed at the moment, but the other is an adventure game called “Land of Hope & Gorey,” about how an attempt to make up for a shortfall in casual labour post-Brexit by raising the dead as workers accidentally triggers a very British zombie apocalypse. I’m also writing a non-SFF historical comedy novel about a borderline competent Victorian criminal mastermind.

CK: Finishing my Rupert Wong novel right now, which keeps getting waylaid by the fact I’ve been wrung of all life by recent work-related events. I just wrapped up things at InXile Entertainment, and am off to a certain very large company in Montreal. I’m also fretting at the corners of Project Wight and working on something divinely tentacular for Sunless Skies.

 

“Shooting Iron” appears in the September/October 2018 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1809.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/B004ZFZ4O

Learn more about Cassandra Khaw (http://www.cassandrakhaw.net/index.php) and Jonathan L. Howard (http://www.jonathanlhoward.com/index.html) at their websites.

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