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Interview: L.X. Beckett on “Freezing Rain, a Chance of Falling”

Tell us a bit about “Freezing Rain, A Chance of Falling.”

My first novella is a story about a journalist who ends up on the wrong side of a futuristic online shame spiral. Drow Whiting tries to expose a popular songwriter as a plagiarist. Her response makes the Internet—now called the Sensorium—turn on him… and when you stop bringing in the equivalent of Facebook likes, you can’t get paying work. Drow becomes desperate to regain his popularity, and this makes him vulnerable to the machinations of a rich octogenarian performance artist.

 

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

I’d been trying for some time to write a story where a reporter engages in a mean-spirited expose, and finds themselves in trouble with the online community, but the story didn’t really come together for me until I came up with the pop-up chemo clinics and climate-changed extremes in the weather. Once Drow was not only flailing financially and socially but literally slogging through the worst a Toronto winter could possibly have to offer, it all seemed to snap together.

I grew up in the Prairies with pretty dramatic winters, but only just returned to the land of ice and snow a few years ago. Getting used to blizzard conditions again was an experience that shaped the story.

 

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

Showing the gig economy at its most voracious, in a world where most young people are madly juggling multiple marginal jobs just to ensure solvency while their privacy is eroding ever more rapidly, was a bit of a dance. With intense world building comes a great temptation to infodump; I wanted to be sure the story stayed entertaining.

Something that’s fun in “Freezing Rain” is playing with a future culture of fandom mash-ups. Drow’s parents met in Batman fandom and that cultural heritage lingers on within his relationship with Crane.

 

Can you tell us about any of the research you may have done for “Freezing Rain, A Chance of Falling?”

Lots of the research just came of being online a lot and watching the ebb and flow of Internet shame culture, but I’ve also looked into carbon fixing strategies, climate change adaptations, and some economic theories about what the world might become as we move further into a cashless economy.

 

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

I hope all stories are personal to their authors! But, specifically, I am furious about the injustices created by poverty, and the way our richest citizens are trying to entrench us in a system where they hold all the cards—to preserve a class of ultra-rich, white, rapacious oligarchs—is something I take very personally.

 

Who do you consider to be your influences?

There are so many brilliant authors, lovely giants of SF with long careers, who’ve given me infinite riches with their books, stories and essays! But lately I am trying to be influenced by our newest stars, energetic and innovative writers people breaking new ground on racism, gender issues, and sexual politics. Kai Ashante Wilson, Amal el-Mohtar, Pria Sharma, K.M.Szpara, Lara Elena Donnelly, and Sarah Pinsker have all been especially inspiring lately.

 

What are you working on now?

I have a novel called Gamechanger, set in the same world as this novella, but fifty years later—and a much older Drow is in it, as is Crane! It’ll be out from Tor next year.

 

“Freezing Rain, A Chance of Falling” appears in the July/August 2018 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1807.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

L.X. Beckett’s website: http://lxbeckett.com

Interview: Matthew Hughes on “The Prevaricator”

Tell us a bit about “The Prevaricator.”

I have long had an interest in, perhaps even a fascination with, the psychopath — particularly the con man subspecies.  So “The Prevaricator” is an extension of that interest combined with my predilection for writing fantasy stories set in my continuation of Jack Vance’s Dying Earth setting.

 

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

The prompt was unusual:  a fan of mine in Europe wrote me and asked if I would write him a 6,000-word Dying Earth fantasy that he could have illustrated and bound into a single, unique volume for his private collection.  All other rights would be mine.  I took the deal and wrote “The Prevaricator,” and it’s now in the process of being turned into that unique work.  I’ve seen some of the sketches the artist (the renowned Peter Andrew Jones)  is doing, and they’re pretty cool.

I thought the story was pretty cool, too, and that readers of F&SF would like it.  So I offered it to Charlie Finlay and he bought it.

 

Why do you write?

It’s the only thing I know how to do really well.  And people seem to like it.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

Yes.  Last year, when I put together a collection of stories about Raffalon, a thief of the Dying Earth, I wrote a new story to be exclusive to the collection — a sweetener to encourage Raffalon-likers to buy the book.  Now that it’s been a year since I self-published 9 Tales of Raffalon, I decided it was time to offer the new story, “Sternutative Sortilege,” to F&SF.  A little while ago, Charlie bought it.  So Raffalon will come back to the magazine.

Still on Raffalon, I’ve pitched a UK publisher on the idea of a novel, or even a series of novels, touching off from where I left him at the end of “The Inn of the Seven Blessings,” in the anthology, Rogues.  If that deal comes through, I’ll get started.  If it doesn’t, my Plan B is to get enough patrons sending me their pledges on Patreon that I can afford to write novels with the aim of self-publishing them as ebooks and POD paperbacks.  Here’s a link to me Patreon page:  https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4687520

Also, I’ve decided to go to WorldCon after all.  Like many patriotic Canadians, I considered not crossing the border during this time of your president’s unjustified attack on our economy, but I heard from enough Californian fans to make me reconsider.  So I’ll be in San Jose in August, unless the border’s closed by then.

Finally, Geoff Hart suggested that I really ought to make it better known that I am a book doctor;  i.e., I “fix” fiction manuscripts that aren’t getting published because some part of them doesn’t work.  I’ve done a few when asked — one of them even won a national best novel of the year award — but I haven’t really marketed myself.  So I’m starting to do that now.  Inquiries are welcome, though I should point out that I don’t work cheap.

 

“The Prevaricator” appears in the July/August 2018 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1807.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

In addition to Mr. Hughes’s Patreon account noted near the end of the interview, if you click on his photo, you’ll be taken to his website.

Interview: “Ku’gbo” by Dare Segun Falowo

Tell us a bit about the story.

Ku’gbo is a short fantasy set in the village of Ala, which is a dreamscape where human souls pass through after death/sleep on Earth, also known as Ile Aye. It deals with the growth and metamorphosis of the central character Akin, as he discovers more about himself, his connection to the larger spiritual environment known as Ayika, and what it might hold for his future.

 

What was the inspiration for “Ku’gbo,” or what prompted you to write it?

When I wrote it originally, it was titled ‘Faun’ and was the debut story on my now-defunct wordpress; Dragons in Lagos. This was circa 2012.  I had just seen Pan’s Labyrinth and was obsessed with the aftertaste it left in my mind and also had memories of how drastically the movie changed every time the faun was onscreen. Somehow I found myself on Deviant Art looking for inkings of faun and found this gorgeous one that had horns just like the branches of a tree, and that sparked my imagination to start writing. I slept on that image and wrote the first draft in one sitting before I went to class, where I was studying Biochemistry at the University of Lagos, the next morning. I remember my mom looking over my shoulder and worrying about me being late for school.

 

Dare FalowoWas this story personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

When it was first written, it was personal to me in the sense that it was the first ever short story I wrote that made me realize that I would like to continue writing for as long as I lived. It signified a jump in quality from the stories I had been writing before then as a member of a virtual rock band of super-powered boys called Pass the Salt. After a while, about two years later, I deleted it off the blog, it felt too open for some reason, despite it being a pure fantasy. Then I revisited it in 2016 with hopes of rewriting and understanding it better and realized it was a very blatant allegory for certain experiences that I had had for most of my life, but that had intensified greatly in the four years after I first wrote it. It hinted at the internal transformations that I would go through, experiences that shaped my earliest 20s; dealing with my budding sexuality and seeking for a more esoteric knowledge about how to lead my life as a faltering spirit. It was like I was coming out to myself before I was ever comfortable enough to own my queer & spiritual identities for what they were.

 

Can you tell us about any of the research you may have done for “Ku’gbo,” or any of the traditions on which it is based?

I knew nothing of Pan/fauns as symbols of expressive sexuality, this revealed itself when the story was viewed as allegory. All my prior research came from within. I simply knew that there was going to be a village where lots of strange dreaming would occur and this would be the first tale drawn from there. So, the village of ‘Ala’ which means dream in Yoruba is a space much like the deep subconscious, where the fantastical (creatures & situations)  is set loose in a bid to train souls that have died/fallen asleep before allowing them move up to the next space in Ayika. There are no fauns in Yoruba culture, but there is a very potent sense of sexuality embedded in the language and way of life, and so in the spirit of balance and streamlining, the word ‘Ku’gbo’ was created, which is a conflation of the Yoruba words for ‘death’ and ‘ram’.

 

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

Rewriting it from scratch was a bit tough because it had been five years since I first wrote it and as I grew older, my ideas became more intricate, and the setting that had just been a village of dreams was revealed to be one aspect of a larger tier of spirit worlds called Ayika. I found that it would make no sense to omit these new ideas from the rewrite, so I had to find ways to weave in the realty of Ayika through the story + my writing style had changed through the years and the story became more surreal than its earlier folkloric counterpart. The most fun part was the feeling of writing it all in a dive, it was very euphoric for me then, as a young man who was struggling with himself inside, to realize the cathartic power of such spontaneous creativity.

 

What would you want a reader to take away from “Ku’gbo?”

There is so much more space for you inside yourself than you know. Your curiosity and hunger to know more might set you free. Change is inevitable; how we embrace it defines how it ultimately shapes us. Oh, and being queer – whether you’re lgbt+ or a faun or an owl is a gift; the world needs your bodies and your being and your breath to have more dimensions, more color, more futures.

 

What are you working on now?

Currently I’m working on a sci-fi novella, that has changed forms thrice; currently, it’s set in a future where global warming catastrophes have ruined all modern civilization and forced us to seal ourselves in forest cites and restructure global society into tribes. After this I’ll return to writing more stories centered around, and in Ayika, where I feel the bulk of my work as a fantasist lies.

 

“Ku’gbo” appears in the May/June 2018 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1805.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/B004ZFZ4O8/

By clicking on Dare Falowo’s photo, you can read some of the author’s old stories at https://dragonsinlagos.wordpress.com/

Or follow the author on Twitter: @falowox

Interview: Lisa Mason on “The Bicycle Whisperer”

Lisa MasonTell us a bit about “The Bicycle Whisperer.”

The title references the 1995 novel, The Horse Whisperer by Nicholas Evans and the story’s plot evokes some of the novel’s essentials. A girl and her beloved horse are severely injured in an accident. The injuries aren’t just physical, but also emotional. In a desperate attempt to heal girl and horse, the girl’s mother takes her on an arduous cross-country trip in search of a man with an uncanny sympathy with horses, especially damaged horses. A horse whisperer. He helps heal both the girl and the horse and reconciles horse with rider.

Readers and reviewers have responded emotionally to “The Bicycle Whisperer”, some disturbed by the end, some finding the story sad, some believing the forgiveness. I’m just glad people are responding emotionally. Emotions are what fiction is all about, even science fiction.

 

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

I was pushing a shopping cart out of the grocery store when I noticed a teenager wandering around the parking lot. He was hitting up shoppers for money. They ignored or shunned him. He had that confused, despondent look of someone who had just been kicked out of the house or fled from there, for his own reasons.

I put my groceries in the car and rummaged around in the glove compartment. I almost never carry cash these days! I found only a crumpled dollar, approached him, and offered it. I said, “Promise me you won’t spend this on drugs.” He gratefully took the dollar and said, “I promise.” I said, “Are you going to be okay?” He gave me a sunny smile and said, “Sure.” And it was like looking down into his soul.

When I drove away, imagining what his life was like, the Lone Rangerette stepped out of the shadows and said, “Forget about him, you are going to write about me!” “The Bicycle Whisperer” is as much her story as Shimano Stella’s and Simon’s. With luck and work, the Lone Rangerette, her sentient bicycle Scout Regalia, and her mobile AI Tekto may have their own YA novel in a year or so.

 

Was “The Bicycle Whisperer” personal to you in any way? If so, how?

I’m fascinated by people’s propensity to anthropomorphize everything. From the love we lavish on our pets (I’m a crazy cat lover myself) to attachments people form to inanimate objects. I had a college friend who was inordinately attached to his beat-up Chevy. He’d gone through several unhappy romantic relationships, but his car—he called her “Clementine”—stayed with him through thick and thin. Just the other day, a reader posted on my Facebook page (http://www.facebook.com/lisa.mason.7393264), saying how much he appreciated the story and that he seriously loved his bicycle from 1974 when he was in college in Austin, Texas. And he referred to his bicycle as “she.”

I’ve enjoyed the sentient car stories recently published in F&SF so I was inspired to write about a sentient bicycle and her troubles. It’s not so far of a stretch to imagine how emotionally attached people could become to AI. Would AI have emotions, too? By definition not, but it’s fun to imagine that they would.

 

What are you working on now?

More stories, always! The YA mentioned above, set in a gritty near-future. A high-concept SF novel. And an urban fantasy. I’m even revisiting a concept I filed in the to-do box, involving a woman detective in 1960s San Francisco. The latter is not fantasy or science fiction, but I enjoy mysteries and should probably write at least one.

 

Anything else you’d like to add?

As always, people can visit me at http://www.lisamason.com for my newly reissued trade paperback books, ebooks, interviews, blogs, adorable cat pictures, and my husband Tom Robinson’s bespoke art, mobiles, and jewelry. My latest novella, published in trade paperback and as an ebook, is One Day in the Life of Alexa, and has been well received with five-star reviews.

 

“The Bicycle Whisperer” appears in the May/June 2018 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1805.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/B004ZFZ4O8/

Interview: Pip Coen on “Inquisitive”

Tell us a bit about “Inquisitive.”

“Inquisitive” is a story about Saffi, a child who’s born into a society she doesn’t understand, without access to the knowledge that she desperately wants. That knowledge is guarded by a political and economic powerhouse called The Inquisition. We follow Saffi’s unrepentant pursuit of a position within The Inquisition, but when she finally gets there, she realizes it wasn’t without help.

 Pip Coen

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

I first started writing “Inquisitive” about five years ago, and then rewrote it after attending The Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers’ Workshop in 2015. I can rarely remember the initial prompts for my stories, and they often evolve beyond recognition by the final paragraph anyway. In the end, this story is an amalgamation of things I enjoy writing about, like the interface between science and society, memory manipulation, individuals that don’t fit into an established niche, and of course, not having enough time to read everything I want to!

 

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

The society of Aypiria explores a few questions that I’m passionate about. Elements like the misuse of technology and public access to scientific research are two issues frequently on my mind. But I’m also passionate about understanding how information is processed in the brain. Most people think nothing of our ability to recognize social cues like questions, jokes, and sarcasm, but this is really an incredible computational feat. For neuroatypical individuals who can’t naturally process these cues, the world can be a difficult place.

 

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

One thing I love about writing speculative fiction is that imagination can substitute for a lot of research. I tend to write stories where the only realism I need to worry about is the emotional realism of my characters—and I probably don’t worry about it enough! Since I’m a neuroscientist by trade, most of the technical elements in this story are things that I’m familiar with, but rest assured, they are wildly exaggerated. Selectively erasing memories will never be possible … probably ;)

 

You utilize epigraphs throughout your story to flesh out the history of the Aypirian Monarchy and the Inquisition.  How important is world-building to you as a writer, and how much world-building did you do for this story that didn’t make it onto the page?

Worldbuilding often forms an integral part of my stories, but I try not to get too bogged down in the world before I start writing about it. I usually vacillate between writing scenes, discovering issues with the world, and then taking some time to flesh out my half-baked world mechanics until I feel I can move forward with the plot. So aside from some deleted scenes, there isn’t much of Aypirian society that didn’t make it onto the page. I should add that many of the stories I love have surreal and inconsistent worlds, but I’ve never managed to free myself from the tethers of consistency when writing.

 

What are you working on now?

I’m passionate about short stories as a medium, and I see myself continuing to work on them for some time. I enjoy the freedom to explore different conceits and characters in a shorter length—even if a lot of those explorations don’t result in a story. That said, I’m finishing up a piece that’s on the far end of novelette length which I’m particularly excited about. I hope to find a home for it soon.

 

“Inquisitive” appears in the May/June 2018 issue of F&SF.

You can buy a copy of the issue here: https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/toc1805.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/B004ZFZ4O8/

Clicking on Mr. Coen’s photo will take you to his website: http://pipcoen.com/

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