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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

Interview: S. Qiouyi Lu on “At Your Dream’s Edge”

Tell us a bit about “At Your Dream’s Edge.”

At just under 2,000 words, “At Your Dream’s Edge” is a fairly compact story, but I delve into several topics, such as family, acceptance, identity, and grief. The nightmare-summoning app is entirely fictional, but the concept of experiencing something terrifying—with boundaries!—as a means of processing one’s emotions isn’t new. It’s why a lot of people enjoy watching horror movies, for example. The adrenaline that arises from the experience allows many people to feel a sense of catharsis that they can carry over into their regular lives. I’m aiming for something similar in the experience of summoning a nightmare.

 

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

Funnily enough, the spark was an off-handed tweet by a friend: He’d had a nightmare about calling for an Uber that never arrived. For a while, there were several apps that branded themselves as “Uber, but for ____,” such as “Uber, but for dog walking.” So I asked myself, what if there were an app that were Uber, but for summoning nightmares? I wrote “At Your Dream’s Edge” in one sitting because that idea was so fascinating to me.

 

Was “At Your Dream’s Edge” personal to you in any way? If so, how?

Definitely. Like the main character, I’m also nonbinary, but people don’t typically see that from my appearance. I still use feminine names, dress femininely, and have no intention of medically transitioning. So it can be difficult to face gatherings where I know people won’t be using the right pronouns or names for me. I also struggle with mental health issues, one of which is the cognitive distortion of catastrophizing, or jumping to the worst possible conclusion. “At Your Dream’s Edge” was my attempt to literalize both experiences.

 

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

The writing wasn’t too difficult, as the story simply emerged in one writing sprint. The difficult part was sharing the story—would people think it was too strange? too gory? too out there? Would they be able to see all the vulnerability I hid in the metaphorical images? But when I shared this piece with friends and audiences, the reception was positive. I even had a few people tell me they cried after reading the story, which tells me that the piece moved them on some personal level.

 

Why do you write?

I think writing is an instinctual drive that I was born with, as I’ve written or told stories since I was old enough to do so. My superficial reason for writing is because narratives are a way to create meaning out of the seemingly random events that make up our lives. On a deeper level, writing allows me to express my inner world to others, in hopes that something resonates and creates a sense of connection for both myself and the reader. Every one of us has an interiority that isn’t immediately visible to others, and writing for me opens that door between us.

 

Who do you consider to be your influences?

My list of influences changes depending on where I’m at in my life and what my current narrative focus is. At this time, I’m revisiting a lot of my old favorites, mainly Terry Pratchett. It’s fascinating how his stories were fun for me on one level as a kid and continue to reveal more layers as I grow in age and experience. Pratchett is an icon of adventure fiction with his Discworld series, but every piece of his is also rife with metaphor and commentary on our real world. I strive to achieve even a fraction of his ability to create a rich, imaginary world that is still highly relevant to our real world.

 

What are you working on now?

Most of my work up until now has been set in a parallel version of our Earth with only a few key changes, but I’m now building my own secondary world that I hope will be as rich and diverse as Discworld. It’s been a bit slow going, as this level of worldbuilding is unfamiliar to me and requires all my multidisciplinary skill. But I’m hoping to finish a short story set in that universe and build up to novella-length pieces, if not longer. I’m continuing to curate my magazine Arsenika (arsenika.ink), and I’ve also been writing a lot of poetry. You can follow my updates at s.qiouyi.lu or on Twitter at @sqiouyilu.

 

“At Your Dream’s Edge” 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://s.qiouyi.lu/

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