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Interview: Dare Segun Falowo on “Kikelomo Ultrasheen”

Dare Segun FalowoTell us a bit about “Kikelomo Ultrasheen.”

“Kilelomo Ultrasheen” is the story of a birth into power based on my relationship with hair. I have very ordinary coarse hair, “goat-droppings” as they say, but I grew up in a hairdressing salon, in assistance of my mother. It was very interesting to remember how I dwelt in that completely feminine space while still trying to find boyness, in that feeling of being surrounded by false hair and creams and nail polish. To write the story I had to also remember the pain and bliss of the customers when they had the right ‘hand’ on their head and make that into a sort of vague magic system. You see some people’s hands just hurt your head and others bring your peace.

 

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

A while back, FIYAH declared a Hair Issue and the deadline was about a week after I found out. So I didn’t want to write it, but I kept on confronting myself about how hair is a fundamental part of my life. I still visit my mother’s hair salon to collect the house key and sometimes chill with the babies of customers. The energy remains the same. There’s a meditation to watching a million thin braids grow out of a living head. I also marvel at how well some my mother’s stylists (actual assistants who want to learn the secrets of the work) adapt to specific aspects of hair making. They get so good that they become the only ones who know how to do this specific thing and the customers refuse all who try to do it, until they arrive. I learnt to see value as a symptom of putting your back into it and doing the right actions, though watching hairdressing.

 

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

Well, as I’ve stated, I grew up around hair. I worked and washed and rolled Nigerian hair for the dryer a lot. I could do long braids but never mastered the cornrow. Washing hair is pure therapy and I wish we all made it a clause in our friendships. Touching another person’s head is the height of spiritual ministration, so I attempted to envision the rise of an unwilling priestess of the head via hairstyling. The head is also known as ori in Yoruba metaphysics. Ori is the center of all being: the Yoruba knew this before Western science declared the brain the computer of the body.

 

Can you tell us about any of the research you may have done for this story?

Memory sifting and asking my baby sister, Faith, to give me a list of her favorite hairstyles. My mother also added some corrections. The rest was a result of immersion and rewriting till balance presented itself.

 

Can you tell us anything about your writing process for this story?

When my sister gave me her list of hairstyles, I realized writing it in chunks with each ingeniously named hairstyle as verse title would best reveal the authenticity of the tale. I wrote fast and got rejected, probably because the story was still quite amorphous, so fresh. I got several rewrites and edits in and retried submission at F&SF. The rest is history.

 

Why do you write?

Freedom from obscurity. To unravel and reveal that which hovers beneath and at the back, the rush of big feeling that dictates my life. Sometimes, I feel writing will never capture just how much there is to feel and see, but I must continue. Looking through a pinhole best defines the process. It can be stressful and it can be exhilarating, but reduced to basics for me; it is the right way to reveal what is within.

 

What are you working on now?

Fleshing out the juicy prompt for an old (2016) short story that I found in my mail from an old collaborator. The themes he set out resonate too well now, so I must exhume it somehow. There’s a lot of kaiju. Also I am a few hundred words into crafting my mystical debut novel. Feels like weightlifting.

 

“Kikelomo Ultrasheen” appears in the March/April 2020 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a paper copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc2020-29.htm

You can buy an electronic copy of the issue here: https://weightlessbooks.com/authors/elizabeth-hand-authors/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-march-april-2020/

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 (all formats): https://weightlessbooks.com/format/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-6-issue-subscription/

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 website: dragonsinlagos.wordpress.com

Interview: John Possidente on “Red Sword of the Celiac”

John PossidenteTell us a bit about “Red Sword of the Celiac.”

It’s the story of a book reviewer who gets an unattractive assignment that turns out to be not what it seems. Their discovery arc seems to include a slightly cynical but essentially loving whirlwind tour through two decades of overused SF tropes. It might be allegorical. Or symbolism. It might not. Also, there’s a cat.

 

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

This one started with the title (which was nice, because coming up with titles can be a real pain). I was chatting in too much detail with someone about the symptoms of their celiac disease–because everything is interesting if you’re a writer, right?–and the phrase popped into my head. “The red sword” sounded like a fantastical euphemism for the gut pain celiac can cause. It also sounded like the title of an old pulp novel. I’d just finished reading Breakfast in the Ruins, a book of essays by Barry Malzberg, and suddenly I had the idea to write a review of that nonexistent pulp novel (which of course was the third in a trilogy). Borges and Lem rolled over in their graves, and here we are.

 

Was “Red Sword of the Celiac” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

Only in that I had enormous fun looking back on all the stories and novels and films from those times and choosing which tropes to include. Lots of fond memories.

 

Why do you write?

I want to say, “because it’s fun,” but that seems flippant, because sometimes it’s hard work. Mostly I think it’s that the ideas, the characters, the stories assemble in your head, and you get excited about them; it would feel like a waste and a shame to leave them there, uncommunicated. Showing a story to somebody and seeing that they enjoyed it, that’s a great feeling. The collaboration between the text and the reader–finding out that someone got something else out of it, a meaning entirely different from what you intended–that’s delightful.

 

What are you working on now?

Too many things. I tend to jump around between projects, depending on which one I’m excited about–which is a terrible, horrible, inefficient way to work and I don’t recommend it to anybody, except that Ray Bradbury said that’s how to do it, to write where your passion is. I guess he did okay, so maybe it will work out for me.

 

“Red Sword of the Celiac” appears in the March/April 2020 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a paper copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc2020-29.htm

You can buy an electronic copy of the issue here: https://weightlessbooks.com/authors/elizabeth-hand-authors/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-march-april-2020/

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 (all formats): https://weightlessbooks.com/format/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-6-issue-subscription/

Amazon US (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O

Interview: Ian Tregillis on “Come the Revolution”

Alex IrvineTell us a bit about “Come the Revolution.”

“Come the Revolution” is the story of a mechanical woman, born on a magical assembly line into a life of painful eternal servitude. Though the process that created her and her fellow mechanicals imbued them with intellects and emotions and unique personalities (all the things that make us human, in other words) they have no free will. Every moment of their lives is spent doing their human masters’ bidding, lest they suffer terrible pain.

The more she learns about the world (its cruelties and kindnesses) and her place in it, the more she yearns to change it.

 

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

I’ve had the good fortune to hear from readers who enjoyed the Alchemy Wars books. Once in a while, when people tell me they’ve enjoyed that series, they express a hope that I’ll do more with that world. I don’t know if I’ll write more books in that world, but there is plenty of room for stories. I liked the freedom of telling a story that was tangentially related to the novels — meaning I wouldn’t have to invent a world and its rules all over again — while simultaneously exploring a new space.

 

Can you tell us about any of the research you may have done for “Come the Revolution?”

Backing up a bit… when I sat down to write the Alchemy Wars trilogy, I posited a massive change to history around the year 1675 or so. The invention of the Clakker — a tireless, superhuman clockwork slave eternally animated by alchemical magic — would have altered European history (and, eventually, world history) not unlike the way various meteoric impacts have altered life on Earth. As this particular meteor would have smacked Europe in the midst of a war between several powers including Catholic France and the Calvinist Netherlands, I imagined the emergence of Clakker technology would have influenced not only warfare and the fate of nations (fasten blades to your Clakker’s arms and you effectively have a clockwork Terminator) but also religion, the subsequent evolution of philosophical thinking, and even the development of other technologies. (Why bother to invent a steam engine when you can just snap your fingers and say, “Hey, you, go turn that crank 24 hours a day for the next 50 years”?)

The upshot of all this hypothesizing was that I had to give myself a crash course on the state of Catholicism and Calvinism in the late 17th century. In particular, I tried to get a handle on how various groups might have viewed questions of predestination, free will, and even the existence of the soul, pre- and post-Clakker. I also tried to learn a little bit about the philosophies of Descartes and Spinoza, as these became touchstones for several debates that occur over the course of the trilogy.

This was challenging. I am neither a philosopher nor a historian. (Yet I have a bad habit of formulating story ideas that play with history. Perhaps someday I’ll stop doing this to myself.)

By the time I sat down to write “Come the Revolution,” my large-scale historical interpolations (good or bad) were already locked down. (Once it’s published, it becomes canon, whether you want it to or not.)  So unlike the novels, this novella required little to no “true-historical” research — it takes place firmly in that radically altered Europe. Instead, I had to research the alternate history I’d devised.

Several years had passed between when I wrapped up the trilogy and when I started “Come the Revolution.” So… I’d forgotten a few details. Also, when I cracked open my notes, I found I had somehow managed to never establish a solid timeline for many of the events that took place prior to the trilogy and which are mentioned in passing throughout the books. I was honestly a bit shocked — it’s really unlike me to play things by ear.

I ended up skimming through the books, and my disappointingly scant notes, to infer a timeline. In order to make “Come the Revolution” consistent with the novels, I had to place the forging of poor Maklobellathistrogantus closer to the time of Christiaan Huygens (inventor of the Clakker!) than I’d originally intended. In fact, for a short while I worried that I wouldn’t be able to shoehorn her origin story into the continuity. But I managed to squeeze her in. I think.

 

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

Clakkers can be extremely challenging characters to write. That was true when I started chapter one of The Mechanical, and it was still just as true three books later when I typed the final sentence of The Liberation.

When viewed from exterior points of view — say, through their leaseholders’ eyes — they’re frequently seen as little more than walking furniture. Though they have emotions and desires and personalities, the Clakkers tend to hide this from their makers. So when interfacing with humans they necessarily present a very sterile, and of course servile, façade. They do this out of self-preservation, of course, but it makes them boring… unless you happen to be in the point of view of a rare human who knows Clakkers are more than they appear. But those folks are rare.

It doesn’t get much easier when writing from inside a Clakker’s point of view. How do you write an compelling character who has no free will?  A character who has no free will and who dares not show the slightest hint of shrugging under that yoke?

They’re heart and soul (pun intended) of the universe presented in “Come the Revolution.” But they’re tricky. Mab was no different. Even though I knew who she was in the instant she’s first activated in the Forge, and who she would later become, the constraints on her made it a challenge to capture that evolution in a meaningful, compelling way.

 

Can you tell us anything about your writing process for this story?

In terms of Mab’s character arc, I had to work backward a little bit, which is not how I usually do things. Starting out, I knew exactly who and what Mab would be by the end of the story, but not how she got there. I knew a few little things when I created the character, but I’d never gone to the trouble of fleshing them out.

So I spent some time contemplating her long journey from that first moment of consciousness in the Forge to the Mab I already knew. I thought about the kinds of experiences that would resonate with her personality and sculpt her. Although Clakkers are potentially very long-lived, the story takes place over just a few decades, so it’s a story about Mab growing from infancy to full adulthood, much like a human being. How does a happy and curious child, just beginning to learn about the world, turn into an angry dangerous adult?

 

Why do you write?

I ask myself that question all the time. Very frequently in the past couple of years, as a matter of fact, because when I started work on “Come the Revolution,” I was just emerging from a years-long, burnout-fueled writing hiatus. During that time off, I thought long and hard about my relationship to writing, what function it served in my life, and whether I wanted to keep doing it.

In the end, I arrived at the same answer I would have given you if you’d asked me this question ten years ago. I write for the feeling of personal achievement. When I finish a project, whether it’s a short story or a novella or a trilogy, I feel proud of myself for putting the work in. Even things that never sell and never see publication give me a sense of satisfaction. Perhaps not always satisfaction with the work itself (what writer is ever satisfied with their work?) but satisfaction that I achieved something — even if that achievement is simply
following the project through from beginning to end. I enjoy being able to say, “I created this.” I started writing at a time in my life when I feared I might stagnate if I didn’t give myself new long-term goals. I’ve been very fortunate to have books and stories published. For me, that never detracts from the desire to achieve something new — to write another book, to sell another story. It’s not like climbing Mount Everest and then saying, “Well, there’s nothing left to conquer.”

 

What are you working on now?

When the burnout overcame me a few years ago, I had several unfinished stories in the hopper. Most of these were barely begun, just a few pages at most, but they were constantly in the back of my mind. When I was able to pick up writing again, I systematically worked my way through that backlog. “Come the Revolution” was the first of these unfinished stories. The next was a story called “When God Sits in Your Lap” that is forthcoming in Asimov’s September/October issue. The next story after that was a novella written for the Wild Cards shared universe, which has sold and will appear in the world someday. In the course of finishing off those stories, several new ideas presented themselves to me, so I had to tackle those stories, too. I’ve been more productive with short fiction recently than I had been in the previous decade.

I’ve also returned to some fairly extensive research I undertook as prep work for a novel. I don’t know if I’ll finish that novel. Even if I do, I don’t know if it will see publication. But like those unfinished stories, it will keep nagging at me until I do something about it.

 

“Come the Revolution” appears in the March/April 2020 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a paper copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc2020-29.htm

You can buy an electronic copy of the issue here: https://weightlessbooks.com/authors/elizabeth-hand-authors/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-march-april-2020/

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 (all formats): https://weightlessbooks.com/format/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-6-issue-subscription/

Amazon US (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O

Ian Tregillis’s website: http://iantregillis.com/

Interview: Matthew Hughes on “The Last Legend”

Matthew HughesTell us a bit about “The Last Legend.”

It’s a standalone novelette set in my extrapolation of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth milieu.  Those who read the second volume of my Henghis Hapthorn trilogy, The Spiral Labyrinth, might catch a reference as to how the story fits into the overall arc of the Archonate universe, but the story is meant to be appreciated (or not) on its own merits.

 

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

The late and great editor Gardner Dozois had a tendency to invite me into his signature anthologies, either on the first round or if he had a hole to fill when somebody failed to deliver as promised.  When he died, he was putting together The Book of Legends, the third volume in the series that began with The Book of Swords and continued with The Book of Magic, both of which had novelettes by me.  He sent me an email asking for something along my usual lines that fit the title of the antho.

Whenever Gardner asked me for a story, I would drop what I was doing and write one.  This was partly because it was an honor and a pleasure to write for him, but also because he would always have some advance money from the publisher, and would pay authors who got their books in early.  Since I live on what I make from writing, augmented by some small pensions, I right away wrote “The Last Legend,” and sent it in.  Gardner liked it and sent me money.

Then he died and the question of whether the other invited authors would write their as-yet unstarted stories led to some confusion.  Finally, Bantam declared that the project was canceled.  I got the rights back, so I offered it to Charlie Finlay, who bought it for F&SF.

 

What are you working on now?

I’ve written a 55,000-word draft of Barbarians of the Beyond, an authorized sequel to Jack Vance’s The Demon Princes quintilogy.   I’ve sent the draft to John Vance, Jack’s son, and if he likes my approach, I’ll polish it up and we’ll see what can be done with it.  I’m thinking it might draw some attention, and might even be considered for magazine serialization.

After that, I’m looking at bringing back Cascor the discriminator, Raffalon’s sometime collaborator, and writing some adventures for him, in association with the characters Ioveana and Ifgenio, from the story, “The Vindicator.”

 

“The Last Legend” appears in the March/April 2020 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a paper copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc2020-29.htm

You can buy an electronic copy of the issue here: https://weightlessbooks.com/authors/elizabeth-hand-authors/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-march-april-2020/

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 (all formats): https://weightlessbooks.com/format/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-6-issue-subscription/

Amazon US (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O

Click on Mr. Hughes’s photo to visit his website.

Interview: Amman Sabet on “Say You’re Sorry”

Amman SabetTell us a bit about “Say You’re Sorry.”

Say You’re Sorry” is a story about the power that apologies hold over us.

 

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

I’m not really sure. The premise probably came out of one of those “what if” scenario conversations you have with friends or family. One or two rough drafts of other stories also merged into this one (some characters and scenarios, etc.) giving it some shape.

 

Was “Say You’re Sorry” personal to you in any way? If so, how?

I grew up in and around NYC, and I’ve worked in a bunch of design offices. I drew from a personal canvas when assembling the backdrop and relationships.

 

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

I found it a little difficult because when you write a story about saying sorry, you naturally go to the perspective of people saying sorry to you, instead of the other way around. Once I went there, things opened up.

 

Why do you write?

I want to be liked. Stories, with luck, interact with readers on their writer’s behalf and maybe even become appreciated. My naked hope is that, through this, I have a chance at appreciation (at a not-uncomfortable remove).

 

What are you working on now?

I’m revising a workshopped draft of a novel about a portrait artist living through a major food epidemic, as well as several short stories that I am trying on endings for. I’m also finishing up a graduate degree.

 

“Say You’re Sorry” appears in the March/April 2020 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a paper copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc2020-29.htm

You can buy an electronic copy of the issue here: https://weightlessbooks.com/authors/elizabeth-hand-authors/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-march-april-2020/

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 (all formats): https://weightlessbooks.com/format/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-6-issue-subscription/

Amazon US (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004ZFZ4O8/

Amazon UK (Kindle edition):http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004ZFZ4O

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