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Interview: Gregor Hartmann on “The Unbearable Lightness of Bullets”

Tell us a bit about “The Unbearable Lightness of Bullets.”

I want to show Zephyr from different perspectives. So far I’ve used a social-climbing immigrant writer, marine biologists, a lawyer for a science agency, aristocrats and proles, a hermit theologian… Why not a police detective? Why not two while I’m at it? Since murders occur everywhere, they’ll be able to take the reader into all sorts of interesting situations.

 

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

Cryptocurrencies are intriguing. At the moment most of them are scams, but it’s reasonable to assume that eventually the kinks will be worked out, and that a future society like Zephyr’s would use electronic money issued by multiple entities, and the relative values would be constantly changing. So, given that basic situation, what sort of crime would occur? Predicting the exact technology is not my concern; I’m more intrigued by the human angles.

 

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

I have to balance in-your-face action and background world-building. I’ve worked out a lot of facts about Zephyr that I haven’t shown yet. I have to remind myself that each story is entertainment, not an entry in Wikipedia Galactica, so I must give the reader a good ride.

I love doing research. Finding female goddesses for the Pathway pantheon, for example. When I came across Ma’at I instantly knew she was going to be on the shoulder patch of a uniformed officer.

 

Why do you write?

Same reason I breathe, I guess.

 

What are you working on now?

Sadly, murders keep occurring on Zephyr, so my philosophical detective and her religious sidekick are already investigating another case.

 

“The Unbearable Lightness of Bullets” appears in the March/April 2019 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1903.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

Interview: Jerome Stueart on “Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun”

Jerome StueartTell us a bit about “Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun.”

A jazz-playing faun finds everything taken from him a hundred years ago could be his again, if he’s willing to take it from his own student. He struggles to find another way. These two characters are trying to change their lives for the better, and finding it almost overwhelming. It has Jazz, Mentoring, and Hope.

 

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

Steve Berman at Lethe Press was putting together an anthology of re-imagined myths for a gay audience, and asked if I wanted to write something.  I tried to re-imagine the Satyr/Faun, Pan, in a “bear” romance (read: big hairy gay men) story.  The story I wrote was awful and boring.  It was trying too hard to be a gay romance in a bar with some magic…and yeah, it just went nowhere, and made me depressed.  So, with me being already over the deadline, I scrapped it, salvaging only a couple of things, and started over. Everything else was new.  I wanted to write something uplifting. I’d been an intern twenty-five years ago for the Traditional Arts Apprenticeship Program pairing up artists with students who want to learn from a local master in some traditional art form–fiddling, basket-weaving, hat-making—and wanted to write a story around that instead. About healing yourself through mentoring someone else.  I took out all the romance because that wasn’t important now.  What was important? These two characters struggle to become someone new.  The young musician who used to be a football player but who wants to play jazz is frustrated by his lack of skill and the hopelessness he feels in changing his life.  “I feel like I’m a tiny tugboat trying to turn a whole life around.”  That sums up this story of these two characters for me, struggling to change.  Steve liked it, and planned to use it, but the anthology never quite got completed.  After a little more than a year, I asked him, carefully, as you do, if the story might be available again. He was incredibly positive–knowing that the anthology might take a lot longer to be published–and he encouraged me to find the story a good home.

 

Was “Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

I was inspired by these two characters seeking to change their lives—and how hard that is, at any age.  They try, mess up, but they keep going, and they find a way to get what they want, or at least what they need (thanks, Rolling Stones, lol) . I’ve been there, trying to change habits, ways of thinking, whole careers—so that felt personal to me. Mr. Dance and I have also both been hurt by religion but we also both found our way out of our hurt and rediscovered our joys again. And these two characters really inspired each other—and the friends that come to them to help felt like the times I’ve been carried by friends who are helping me become who I want to be.

 

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

Writing about music was the most difficult challenge. I had a hard time knowing how you talk about music–especially jazz–outside of “that’s a nice melody!” So I looked at James Baldwin’s story “Sonny’s Blues” (which I have loved since I read it first in college) and Rafi Zabor’s jazz novel, The Bear Comes Home, and tried to talk about jazz like the songs were a conversation between musicians, or a fight scene. Which ended up being the most fun!

 

Why do you write?

I love my characters.  I want to see where they’ll go, what they’ll want and pursue, and how hard they will work to get it.  They inspire me.  I like to tell stories of people who struggle but who eventually pull out a win. Those are the kinds of stories that I love to read, so that’s what I want to write.  People making difficult discoveries about who they are. What they really want.  I also write stories that I would want to live inside—with characters like me.  I feel it’s important for me to write more gay, more queer, characters because I never saw any of those characters growing up and the absence of them had an effect on me.

 

Who do you consider to be your influences?

I lived a weird, magical life in my Southern Baptist-infused home that influences me today.  Of course, we had to memorize a lot of the Bible, and the stories were told and retold to me–Lions’ Dens, Fiery Furnaces, and Jesus Raising the Dead.  There’s a lot of magic and miracles in the Bible that can feed a fantasy-loving soul.  I also used to eat up Greek mythology as a kid— all these passionate gods and goddesses–I read every myth I could find. My mom read C.S. Lewis to the three of us kids in the hallway before bedtime.  My dad, my Preacher, gave me a comic book subscription to Spider-Man and the Fantastic Four when I was 9, and introduced me to Star Trek, which we watched together as reruns.  My parents are awesome people and, looking back, I realize, while we were living in a restrictive and fearful version of Christianity, my folks still managed to sneak in magic somehow, and for that I’m so grateful.  I feel like I still write somewhere from that weird place.  As a writer, I also learned a LOT from Ray Bradbury and Madeleine L’Engle, and later, Andre Dubus, Ron Hansen, James Baldwin, and Alice Munro. I like writers who make me feel something, who make me care about their characters. These days, since we never stop being influenced, I’m probably being influenced by Martha Wells, Mary Doria Russell, and Victor LaValle. At least, I hope so.

 

What are you working on now?

I’m writing a novella about a chef on a starship who’s promoted to diplomat to secure a treaty, and negotiate reparations, with a culture that reveres food and cooks—but she has a lot of guilt herself over what happened, and is willing to do more than anyone knows to make it right.  It’s really a story about how we say “I’m sorry.” and how we deal with guilt.  It also has recipes from one of my favorite Yukon chefs, Miche Genest, the Boreal Gourmet. The chef in the story is based on my “udder mudder,” the partner of my birthmom for twenty years who was a Las Vegas chef. I miss her.

 

“Postlude to the Afternoon of a Faun” appears in the March/April 2019 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1903.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

The author’s website: https://jeromestueart.com/

Interview: Nick DiChario on “Bella and the Blessed Stone”

Nick DiCharioTell us a bit about “Bella and the Blessed Stone.”

On the surface, “Bella and the Blessed Stone” is about a girl who has an epiphany and what that epiphany costs her. I love to write stories that are hard to categorize, and I think “Bella” is one of them. It’s not exactly science fiction or fantasy. It’s not a dream, an allegory, or an alternate history. Mr. Finlay, in his intro, called it a “contemporary fairy tale of sorts,” which might be as close as anyone will come. Whatever you want to call it, the story fits comfortably within the genre — a clean, well-lighted place open to quirky short fiction that can at times defy classification. I’m grateful for that, and for the ever-adventurous readers of F&SF who appreciate stories that stretch the imagination and challenge the very idea of story.

 

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

I had a notion that I wanted to write a satire (of sorts) about social media, human behavior, culture, chance, and faith. That’s a lot to pack into a six-page story, but I hope I’ve done it, or come close. As I get older, I find that I mull a lot. I enjoy mulling. In fact, I love the word mull. It’s a small word that carries a fair amount of heft. I’ve always been a muller to an extent, but while I used to mull over my job, to-do lists, responsibilities, and family stresses of one kind or another, I’ve replaced that with what I call creative mulling. I’ll take long walks outside (one of the advantages of living in Florida), or go to the gym or a yoga class and let my imagination wander. Sometimes this doesn’t lead to anything I’ll want to write about, and other times I’ll get a few story ideas. I might go home and take some notes, or type out a couple paragraphs to see what sticks. That’s how “Bella” happened. I was thinking about how social media has shortened our attention spans, how humans are becoming creatures of brevity. We only have a moment to stand out in the crowd, and when that moment passes, we die a little death. I wanted to write a story that explored that social trend. I suppose that was my inspiration. It began on the yoga mat as a downward dog, and it ended up in the pages of F&SF.

 

What was the most fun about writing this story?

“Bella” is one of those pieces that was at first a thought experiment and became a story as I was writing it. That can be scary or fun, depending on how it goes. It’s fun when it works. I got lucky this time. Things got interesting when God walked on stage not as a character but as a meme. That gave me the bright idea to write the piece from the omniscient point of view, pull the camera angle way out, and fiddle around with the question of God and science. I love super tight stories where the reader can’t afford to take a break, where every sentence counts. I thoroughly enjoy writing that way. I think, in part, it’s why I’m so drawn to folk and fairy tales. I’m an obsessive rewriter. I get a kick out of trimming and refining after the first draft is done. So, to your point, I guess I’m going to waffle on the most fun part. It could have been getting the idea, finding the story, rewriting it ad infinitum, or seeing it in print. Let’s call it a happy draw.

 

“Bella and the Blessed Stone” appears in the March/April 2019 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1903.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

Visit Mr. DiChario’s website by clicking on his photo.

Interview: Diana Peterfreund on “Playscape”

Diana PeterfreundTell us a bit about “Playscape.”

I’ve been describing “Playscape” to people as “mommy horror.”  I’ve had friends who are parents tell me they can’t read it, or that I’ve given them nightmares. So: mission accomplished!

 

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

The park in the story is a park near my house, where my family and I used to go every day. I first got the idea for the story when my oldest daughter was a toddler, and then when my younger daughter got big enough to play on that same playground, I was reminded of it and then the voice came to me and I just ran with it.

You’re supposed to keep your eye on your kids when you’re out, but then, they go into a tunnel or something on the playground and you can’t see them and you get a little jolt of adrenaline, even though you know they are about to come out the other side. It’s irrational, but you think every time, where is my kid? Where did they go? Every parent’s worst nightmare is they turn around for a second and their kid disappears. It’s a primal fear.

 

Was “Playscape” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

It’s a story about motherhood, and about the mommy wars and how we make ourselves feel “safe” by tearing down other people’s parenting choices. My friend was involved in a national scandal because she allows her children to walk to the park by themselves. I watched the way even some of our neighbors turned on her. I was also fascinated by the way any time a tragedy happens to a child, it’s always, “where was the mom, what did the mom do wrong that allowed this to happen?”

 

Was there any aspect of this story you found difficult to write?

This story was a bunch of huge firsts for me. First time I ever wrote in second person. First time I ever submitted a short story to a periodical. I wrote it in this hazy rush, but then I sat there and said, what in the world am I going to DO with you? I usually write sci-fi or fantasy novels for kids. I certainly had never written horror before. Was it even horror? It was the submitting that was really new and challenging for me.

I will say, though, that after I made it all real on the page, I had a hard time going back to that park in my neighborhood.

 

Who do you consider to be your influences?

For this story, certainly Shirley Jackson, who imbued everything she wrote with this gorgeous, quiet, feminine horror. And also Stephen King, whose horror shorts I grew up reading, and who could always make everyday objects utterly monstrous.

 

What are you working on now?

In a total tonal departure from this story, my newest series is a trilogy of YA mystery novels based on the board game CLUE, which I’m publishing in partnership with Hasbro. The first book, IN THE HALL WITH THE KNIFE, will be out from Abrams in October. As a die-hard fan of both the game and the 80s movie, I could not be more thrilled.

Though I will admit, I did recently get another idea for a creepy short story…

 

“Playscape” appears in the March/April 2019 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1903.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

Diana Peterfreund’s website: http://dianapeterfreund.com/

Interview: Rich Larson on “Contagion’s Eve at the House Noctambulous.”

Tell us a bit about “Contagion’s Eve at the House Noctambulous.”

“Contagion’s Eve” is a gothic science fiction story about twisted aristocrats in a barren future.

 

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

It was inspired by a piece of artwork that I’ve since lost, a grayscale scene of a forest at night with someone in a bird mask turning over their shoulder to look at someone leveling an old-fashioned rifle at them from behind. I saved the image, but only to my laptop, and that laptop met its demise in Portugal. I’d love to find it again and find out who the artist was.

 

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

I had fun using a more flowery style than usual, giving the story a kind of Poe-ish vibe, and also coming up with spooky futuristic Halloween-type decorations. It wasn’t particularly difficult to write — it follows a pretty basic plot — but the ending did take some tweaking to make Burgewick’s final act believable and horrifying.

 

Why do you write?

To impress people at parties.

 

What are you working on now?

I’m currently struggling through a large-scale rewrite of Cypher, the sequel to my debut novel Annex. After that I have plenty of short stories to write, including a cabin-in-the-woods cosmic horror piece, a Mesoamerica-inspired fantasy, and a futuristic action thriller about warring arcologies.

“Contagion’s Eve at the House Noctambulous” appears in the March/April 2019 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1903.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

Visit the author’s Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/richlarson

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