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Interview: Beth Cato on “My Ghost Will Know the Way”

What was the inspiration for “My Ghost Will Know the Way,” or what prompted you to write it?

I was reading Ursula K. Le Guin’s poetry. She had such a gift for bringing together memory and emotion and the natural world. I couldn’t help but be inspired, and I looked back on my own life for elements to draw upon. The words flowed from there.

 

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

The end result was quite personal, yes! I regard the poem as a fictionalized autobiography. It describes the very sort of thing I did as a child, and the facts align with my own life, down to the cats and my current distance to my hometown. The matter of magic and ghosts is the fictional element–presumably.

 

Beth CatoDo you find that writing poetry influences your work in prose?  How is writing a poem different or similar to writing a short story?

Poetry has taught me a great deal about storytelling in concise form. In theory, writers know that every word counts, but it’s easy to be lazy about those extra words when writing in long form. In a poem that’s maybe some thirty lines long, you can’t get away with superfluous words.

I tend to write the majority of my poems during April and November (I usually choose one month each year) when Writer’s Digest’s Poetic Asides Blog does its Poem-A-Day prompts. I also have a few bonus times a year when moods strike and I churn out several poems in the course of a day. That’s how “My Ghost Will Know the Way” came about. I read Le Guin, and then had three poems pour out of me in the next few hours. It’s marvelous when the Muse cooperates. That’s not often the case. Usually I need to bait a trap for it so I can make my monthly short story goal.

 

What are you working on now?

I’ve been working on two big projects and I continue to develop short stories and poems. I need to keep busy! I also bake a lot and share recipes on my Bready or Not food blog. If people are ever in need of a good cookie or bar recipe, I can hook them up at BethCato.com.

 

“My Ghost Will Know the Way” appears in the July/August 2019 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1907.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: Molly Gloss on “The Everlasting Humming of the Earth”

Molly GlossTell us a bit about “The Everlasting Humming of the Earth.”

Joyce is a woman who has an unusual *gift*:  She can feel a tremor in her body when a major earthquake is about to happen somewhere in the world—but she cannot know where in the world the quake will strike.  This means, even if she could persuade everyone that she’s not a crackpot or a nut, she’s helpless to give any sort of useful warning—what good is it to have advance warning of a quake if you can’t say where it will strike?  It’s a story about dealing with the burden of helpless knowledge; and also a story about a middle-aged woman dealing with loss and grief, and finding community.

 

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

I live in Oregon, close to the Pacific Subduction Zone, where it’s generally thought that The Big One is already overdue. So earthquakes were on my mind even before I began reading about the continuous sound the Earth makes, a kind of humming, below the level humans can hear but picked up on scientific listening devices; and reading theories that this might be the sound of the globe turning, or the continuous swish and sway of the world’s oceans. And that the sound changes during and after an earthquake, as if the whole Earth is reverberating like a struck bell.  I began to wonder, what if a human could hear the humming of the earth, and the reverberations of an earthquake? Then what? And how would that person deal with the knowledge?

 

Was “The Everlasting Humming of the Earth” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

The horse who appears late in the story represents my own experience of horses acting as empathetic listeners to one’s troubles…does that count as “personal”? And there’s the Pacific Subduction thing—I travel with a fully-stocked preparedness kit in my car and another in my house, enough to survive without outside help for up to three weeks. Oh, I’m ready!

 

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

From a writerly standpoint, do you mean?  I struggled, a bit, figuring out where the pieces of Joyce’s backstory ought to go. I tried scattering them throughout the story at first, and then decided to front-load most of it. But I held back one piece—the scene in which her husband learns the source of her tremors—until very late, when the memory is triggered by something Raylene says.  Finding just the right place for it was like turning a particular piece of a jigsaw puzzle, trying and trying until your eye lights on a subtle variation of color and shape, and suddenly you can see where it needs to go.

 

Why do you write?

Ha ha! I imagine almost everyone has the same answer to this question. I write because I can’t NOT write. Oh, and of course I write to be read.  There is a kind of magic in storytelling, no? Immaterial words creating worlds that do not exist in our ordinary reality, people and sometimes places that are alive only in story. And we write to share those worlds, the worlds of our imagination, beaming them, in a way, from the mind of the writer to the mind of the reader. Magic. That’s why I write.

 

Who do you consider to be your influences?

Perhaps you won’t be surprised to hear me say Ursula K. Le Guin has always been a model for me, especially in science fiction, and especially for showing me that the science in science fiction need not always be physics or chemistry but could be centered in biology, or in the human sciences—sociology, psychology, anthropology.  But of course there are many other writers who’ve influenced my writing—too many to name; I’ll just call out Willa Cather and A.B. Guthrie, Jr., for showing me what Western writing could aspire to be.

 

You’ve been a published writer for more than thirty years: how have you noticed the industry change, and how has it had an impact on your work? 

The publishing world has changed dramatically since I began writing seriously in the 1980s. In those days (and when did I get old enough to use the phrase “in those days…”?)  much more of the marketing and publicity effort for a book was done by the publisher;  now the burden is largely on the writer. I’d never heard “platform,” or “brand” mentioned in connection with writing until a few years ago;  and now a writer’s social media presence is the primary focus of marketing.  And of course there are many fewer newspapers reviewing books now, reviews having become primarily the province of GoodReads and book bloggers and readers commenting on Amazon.  But there have been some very good changes as well—lots of thriving magazines, both print and on-line, especially in the science fiction and fantasy realm—and many of them are still reviewing books (F&SF!).  And with social media there’s more direct communication (if you wish it) between writers and readers, and which I do love. None of this has had an impact on what I write, I have always just written the stories that I wanted to read. But I do feel a bit at sea when it comes to the marketing piece of the puzzle. I’m comfortable tweeting good news, announcing an upcoming publication, and so forth, but beyond that I’m not very savvy about strategies that might draw in more readers. One thing that hasn’t changed:  the joy of seeing my work in print!  Magic!

 

“The Everlasting Humming of the Earth” appears in the July/August 2019 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1907.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

Molly Gloss has three reprint novels out from Saga Press in 2019: OUTSIDE THE GATES, WILD LIFE, and THE DAZZLE OF DAY, as well as a new collection of short stories, UNFORESEEN.

Visit the author’s website at https://www.mollygloss.com/

Editor’s Note for July-August 2019

Summer is here (or Winter, for our readers in the southern hemisphere) and so is the July/August issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction!

Many of our electronic and paper subscribers have already received their issues, but if you’re looking for a copy you can find us in most Barnes & Noble stores, as well as many local independent booksellers. You can also order a single copy from our website or buy an electronic edition from Amazon, AmazonUK, and — now, available worldwide and in every electronic format — through Weightless Books.

Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August, cover by Mondolithic StudiosMondolithic Studio‘s cover illustrates the inevitable robot apocalypse.

ROBOTS INVADE!

This month, humanity’s doom comes on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

Cassandra Khaw, who first appeared as the co-author of “Shooting Iron” in our Sept/Oct issue last year, returns with a story set in London in the aftermath of the great robot war to remind us that “Mighty Are the Meek and the Myriad.”

And across the Atlantic, in the ruins of robot-ravaged New York, F&SF regular Alex Irvine relates “The Legend of Wolfgang Robotkiller.”

FANTASY, SCIENCE FICTION,
AND THE DIFFICULT TO CATEGORIZE

Our other science fiction for this issue includes the F&SF debut of Theodore McCombs, who takes us to a near future where computer-aided memory enhancement leads us to “Lacuna Heights.” Dominica Phetteplace returns with another story of the near future at the intersection of social media and private healthcare with “Nice for What.” And another debut author, Eliza Rose, takes us on a colony ship to deep space for a visit to “Planet Doykeit.”

What robot-filled summer issue would be complete without some dragons for balance? On the fantasy side, Deborah Coates gives us an intimate look at the dragon invasion of South Dakota and introduces us to some “Girls Who Never Stood a Chance.” G. V. Anderson takes us to Yorkshire for a gothic tale of haunting and asylums seen in “A Strange Uncertain Light.” And Albert E. Cowdrey returns with another story of William Warlock, a New Orleans lawyer with supernatural abilities and a client who receives “The Legacy.”

And some stories are just too hard to categorize but that’s part of what makes them so interesting. In this issue, we have “The Slave” by Andrej Kokoulin, translated from the Russian by Alex Shvartsman. In 2017, “The Slave” won the FantLab Award and immediately prompted a lengthy debate about whether or not the story is speculative. We’ll let you decide what you think. We also have “The Everlasting Humming of the Earth” by Molly Gloss, whose fiction constantly invites you to forget about categories and consider the human experience instead. 


You’ll also find two new poems slipped into pages between the stories. Mary Soon Lee has a message directed “To Skeptics” and Beth Cato makes her first appearance in F&SF with the assurance that “My Ghost Will Know the Way.”

OUR OTHER COLUMNS AND FEATURES

Looking for summer reading? Charles de Lint recommends some Books to Look For, by Sarah Pinsker, Kim Beall, John R. Little, Melissa F. Olson, and Philip K. Dick: A Comics Biography by Laurent Queyssi and Mauro Marchesi. Meanwhile, Michelle West is Musing on Books by Tim Maughan, Max Gladstone, K Chess, and Cate Glass. And for our monthly Curiosities column, rediscovering lost writers and books, David Langford reviews Charles Eric Maine’s The Mind of Mr Soames, a 1961 novel about science and the social contract.

In our latest film column, David J. Skal shares his delight in the new Mary Poppins movie. Jerry Oltion’s science column explains “How Vaccines Work.” And Paul Di Filippo has plucked another feather of the Plumage from Pegasus to tickle your fancy. The print version of the magazine also offers up new cartoons by Nick Downes and Arthur Masear.

LET US KNOW WHAT YOU THINK

We hope you’ll share your thoughts about the issue with us. We can be found on:

Happy reading!

C.C. Finlay, Editor
Fantasy & Science Fiction
fandsf.com | @fandsf

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