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Interview: Richard Bowes on “In the Eyes of Jack Saul”

Tell us a bit about “In the Eyes of Jack Saul.”

“In the Eyes of Jack Saul” is an amalgamation of Victorian fiction and reality. Jack Saul was a real person and served, at one point, in a male brothel that was visited by several elites including Prince Albert Victor, grandson of Queen Victoria, for whom the era is named. The fictional inclusion was Oscar Wilde’s “The Portrait of Dorian Grey”, seen through the eyes of Jack Saul, as real a figure as the gay world has ever produced.

 

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

The Rent Boys and Mary-Ann’s in somewhat different circumstances appeared throughout my life. As a kid in Boston I realized that I wasn’t like the other boys. I sought out the attention of other men and found myself in situations not unlike Jack Saul’s. Later when I became a writer, I discovered that these experiences grabbed me above all else.

 

Was “In the Eyes of Jack Saul” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

Gay material was fairly uncommon when I began writing stories like this one. People didn’t imagine there was much of a crossover between historical and gay stories. I knew it was working because it captivated me.

 

Can you tell us anything about your writing process, for this story or in general?

My writing process is this: I get an idea, I jump on it until I strangle it to death.

 

Why do you write?

It’s a bad habit, one I find hard to break.

 

Who do you consider to be your influences?

Many people write, I steal from my influencers. It gives me a jumping off place to begin my own stories.

 

What are you working on now?

Something I am calling “My Old Inner Life”. What that may amount to, I have yet to find out.

 

“In the Eyes of Jack Saul” appears in the May/June 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/format/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-may-june-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: Robert Reed on “Who Carries the World”

My daughter loves art, eats history, and works the Internet like a champ. Donatello’s wooden statue of Mary Magdalene was spellbinding for her, and when she showed/shared the image with me, I knew that I had to write about a prophet consumed by her cause.

But what kind of story?

The Great Ship seemed like the perfect venue. Aliens and high-technology. And I have several durable characters who might happily do the job. Perri and Quee Lee, for example. They’re always up for adventure. So sure, why not them? Except I soon decided to focus on Perri alone, shifting the usual dynamic.

About the story’s broad history … well, the machinations of why I decided on this and not that doesn’t particularly interest me. And I’m so rarely in the mood to wander back through the original attempts in Google Docs. What I do recall is that Perri was very cooperative. Which is only reasonable, since I know him and his wife better than I know any of my neighbors. But how to handle the mind-holding-an-entire-world business? How could such a thing be managed, in fiction and in reality? And most importantly, how would the afflicted think and speak?

Before I could settle into the writing, I had to “believe” my what-if.

Once that was accomplished, everything else was relatively easy. Perri as a detective trying to solve a crime … that was a very pleasant business, and I’m wondering now what else I might coax him into investigating in the future.

I originally intended to write a different ending for “Who Carries the World.” Which is not that unusual in my business, and I can’t recall what it might have been.

And here is some distracting trivia: I suspect that the flying organism at the beginning of the novelette is not what it seems to be. The Great Ship is inhabited by secrets, you see. And these secrets have taken an interest in the small motions and mammoth lives of certan people. My people.

Or maybe the critter is just a fancy bird.

I’m just the writer here. I’m not allowed to know all that much.

 

“Who Carries the World” appears in the May/June 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/format/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-may-june-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: Rebecca Zahabi on “Birds Without Wings”

Tell us a bit about “Birds Without Wings.”

Zoe is hitch-hiking across Spain with her boyfriend Alex – but as the story progresses, they are separated along the road, and we discover that there are shifters in the country, fake people which can replace your loved ones, and you would never know… The story progresses from that premise. I can’t tell you more without spoilers! It’s a story about love and change, and life on the road.

 

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

I’ve lived with my partner for 7 years now, and of course we’ve both changed during that time. When I started writing this story, I was wondering – why does our love feel special? Lots of couples separate. There is no good reason to believe we won’t too, in time. To me, that is a frightening thought: the fact that what we have spent so much time building together, trust and love, can be overturned. That love, as well as people, can die. So I started playing with that idea: what if he changed – what if I changed? We weren’t the same people we were when we met. We could change again, and change more. What if he looked the same, spoke the same, was still the person I loved – but what made me love him had been taken away?

Of course in this story, the change is more than simply growing apart, or growing up; but I think it comes from the same place, this fear that we won’t recognise the people we love.

 

Was “Birds Without Wings” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

As I’ve said, I was writing from a personal place when I started this story. Aside from that, I’ve done the same trip as Zoe – the Santiago pilgrimage, picking the path across the North of Spain. When I was 18, I went hiking for a month, stopping in a different inn or youth hostel every night. I walked through the South of France, reached the border, and crossed over to the Northern Camino, which I followed until Bilbao, where I turned back. I didn’t do any hitch-hiking – I walked all the way – and I was alone, but it was an interesting setting which I wanted to put in a story. And it really did pour down with rain the whole time!

 

In this story and in your previous one for F&SF, “It Never Snows in Snowtown,” a recurring theme in your work seems to be the idea that evil lurks beneath the surface of people and places we trust.  Can you talk about this at all?

I think we take a lot for granted – the people around us, modern comforts such as food, heating, transport, etc. And we don’t spend much time worrying about what would happen if we lose it, because it feels so set in stone. But as we’ve seen with this pandemic, not everything is set in stone; people, and circumstances, can change quickly, leaving us treading quicksand. I think that’s why I often wonder what evil, or darkness, can lurk beneath the surface. Sometimes it was always there but we didn’t see it – like in It Never Snows in Snowtown – and sometimes it appears – like in Birds Without Wings.

 

Why do you write?

That’s a difficult question! For lots of reasons. Because I can’t not write; the voices whispering in my ear want to be heard. Because I believe (and I hope I’m not wrong!) that I have something useful to say. But mostly because we need stories: they change and shape our mindscape, and our mindscape changes and shapes the world. 

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

I hope readers enjoy the story and, if so, I’ve got an exciting announcement: my début novel, The Game Weavers, is coming out this fall 2020! I mentioned it briefly in the interview for Snowtown, but I can tell you a bit more now. We follow Seo Kuroaku, a champion of Twine, a high-pressure international sport. Played in arenas where thousands come to watch, weavers craft creatures from their fingertips to wage battle against fearsome opponents. But Seo is harbouring a secret. When he is outed, he has to find a way to get his life back on track, whilst facing the biggest match of his life.

Watch this space!

 

“Birds Without Wings” appears in the May/June 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/format/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-may-june-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: Holly Messinger on “Byzantine”

Tell us a bit about “Byzantine.”

I call it a gay demon romance set during the Siege of Constantinople. I wanted to play with the “deal-with-the-devil” trope, to figure out why a demon might enter into a bargain with a human in the first place, and who might come out ahead in such a deal? For self-indulgent writerly reasons I set that story against the historical backdrop of the Conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Empire in 1453.

 

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

“Byzantine” is the origin story of a villain, and I’d been composting it for a while—I had the characters in mind, I just needed to find them a setting with the appropriate grandiose background. This isn’t a Bond-type villain who has grand plans for taking over the world; he’s a pure sociopath, but clever enough to keep the world from noticing how much destructive potential he has. I wanted to explore the motivations of such a villain, and I needed to set that against the stage of major world events, to illustrate how the struggles of kings, especially in the name of faith, can outshine the predatory or indifferent acts of evil that take place in the shadows.

 

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

I initially chose the Conquest of Constantinople somewhat at random, because I needed the backdrop of a long siege with plenty of carnage, but once I started doing research I became fascinated by the military history, the politics of the world stage at the time, and the character of Mehmet II, who was a bleeding genius and probably a sociopath himself (this was a guy who had his baby brother drowned in the bath while his father’s body was still warm). He ended up being a magnificent foil for the antihero of my story, because both of them are dudes whose inner lives will never be known, only inferred from their actions and the myths they create of themselves. And maybe when a guy succeeds in conquering the world, the myth he writes of why he did it is probably not that inaccurate.

 

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

Honestly, this one came together so easily I kept second-guessing myself, thinking it wasn’t going to work: that it was a cheat to use actual history for the backbone of the plot and I was just writing my own fanfic. And both those things may be true but it doesn’t mean the story can’t work on its own machinery. I wasn’t sure until the next-to-last scene whether it would come together, but a writer’s subconscious is a marvelous thing. Once I got to that “Aha!” moment—or as I prefer to call it, the “Oh, shit!” moment—I could see the whole architecture of the thing and it was solid.

 

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

I’ve been deep in the historical fantasy trench for a while now and I’ve kind of developed a pattern. I write the beginning of the story, get the setting, characters, and hook in place. Then I step back for a bit, do some research, make sure I have a feel for the setting and the worldbuilding. Often then I will write the ending, or what I think will be the ending, just to stake out the emotional arcs and/or the plot backbone. After that it’s advance, survey, research; lather, rinse, repeat until I get to the climax. “Byzantine” was so dependent on actual events, and the events themselves were so jaw-droppingly cool, it was more a matter of deciding what I was going to leave out. At the two-thirds mark in the story there was a turning point I knew needed to happen in my character arc, and I had to find an event during the siege that I could turn to my purpose. And that’s sort of my process in a nutshell—finding those parts of history I can exploit to serve my story.

 

Why do you write?

I can’t really remember a time when I didn’t invent stories. I remember being 7 or 8 years old, watching Wonderful World of Disney and suddenly understanding how plot worked. I wanted to write a sequel to The Apple Dumpling Gang. I went to first grade the following Monday and stapled together a little booklet in which to write my opus, and the teacher took it away from me because I wasn’t doing my seatwork. That set the pattern for my school and work life to date.

 

What are you working on now?

I just wrapped up the rewrites for my second Jacob Tracy novel, Curious Weather. Hopefully the pandemic won’t delay its release too badly. Ironically a major subplot of that novel has to do with creating a vaccine for a deadly magical contagion. Next up is a novel about Trace’s pal Boz and his adventures. Werewolves, Chinese coal miners, and worship of money-demons feature heavily in that one.

 

“Byzantine” appears in the May/June 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/format/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-may-june-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 Holly Messinger’s website: www.hollymessinger.com

Interview: Richard Larson on “Warm Math”

Rich LarsonTell us a bit about “Warm Math.”

A claustrophobic escape pod thriller featuring espionage and psychosurgery.

 

 

 

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

“Warm Math” is obviously a riff on “The Cold Equations” by Tom Godwin, but I’ve never actually read that story — I just know the basic plot. It’s also inspired by Chuck Palahniuk and Memento, plus a long conversation that took place in a semi-flooded park in Gatineau.

 

Who do you consider to be your influences?

I’m more influenced by specific works than by specific authors. There are many writers who produce a whole bunch of stuff I’m ambivalent about, but one thing I love obsessively. For instance, CS Lewis’s Till We Have Faces, Megan Whalen Turner’s The Queen of Attolia, or MT Anderson’s feed. The writer I can think of who produced a whole bunch of stuff I love obsessively is Kenneth Oppel.

 

What are you working on now?

I use interviews as a way of procrastinating, so what I am not working on now is a novel about a despised prodigal returning to his icy homeworld to hunt down an ancient sapient machine and break a mining strike. It’s a mish-mash of many influences: the poem Beowulf, novels like Rose and Germinal, an old online game called Galidor Quest, and shows like Rick and Morty and Bojack Horseman. 

Sometimes I think it’ll turn out great. Sometimes I do interviews.

 

“Warm Math” appears in the May/June 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/format/the-magazine-of-fantasy-and-science-fiction-may-june-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. Larson’s photo to visit his Patreon page.

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