Buy F&SF • Read F&SF • Contact F&SF • Advertise In F&SF • Blog • Forum • RSS

Interview: Tamsyn Muir on “The Deepwater Bride”

– Tell us a bit about ‘The Deepwater Bride’.

It’s a love story. It’s also a story about responsibilities, a story about being too smart for one’s own good, and a story about ghastly, abyssal intelligences surfacing to crush mankind. But mostly it’s a love story.

I can’t talk too much about it because I’d give away the plot, but it’s basically What I Did On My Summer Holidays starring a teenage prophet and the Other Girl she’s trying to save from a horrible fate. It pays a lot of homage to Lovecraftian mythos, and probably some to Encyclopedia Brown.


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

I’ve always loved Lovecraft, but as all his fans know, there’s a long list of fairly important subjects he hardly ever goes near. Women are one; youth is another. I wanted to see whether you could write a Lovecraft story in which all the characters were female and the protagonist was a teenager into the bargain. I also have a long-standing fondness for small-town Americana, perhaps as a result of not being American, and I wanted to imagine Innsmouth with a Starbucks. I suppose you can think of it as The Strange Sweet Valley High House in the Mist.


– What do you think is the ongoing appeal of reading/writing Lovecraftian fiction, and what are the challenges in making it feel fresh?

I think what makes Lovecraftian monster stories still stand out from other kinds of monster story is the lack of a win/loss narrative. When the aliens come to Earth, humanity can go to war with them, or make peace with them, or give them all the flu. When the zombies rise from their graves, humanity’s courage and ingenuity and stockpiled shotgun cartridges mean that there’s always hope of a better dawn to come. When Cthulhu arrives, you’re screwed. Not just because he’s so big or powerful or whatever, but because he so profoundly defies human comprehension and human analysis that you simply can’t engage with him on any meaningful level. You can’t even run away. This is where I think some Lovecraftian fiction can go wrong – it can fall into the video game trap of thinking that you can kill a shoggoth if you brought enough bullets, or you can capture one and put it in a lab. The minute you start thinking like that, you’re just telling a monster story, not a Lovecraft story.

Over time, of course, whereas some kinds of horror have become harder to accomplish – stalked by the Strangler, but you’ve got your iPhone 5 – Lovecraftian horror just gets more and more horrifying. Because the more we understand, the more of the world we can tag and put in boxes, the more fascinated we become by the idea that there are things we will never be able to solve. Good horror knocks away whatever you rely on, and the more we rely on science and reason, the more thrilling it is to have them knocked away.


– Was ‘The Deepwater Bride’ personal to you in any way, and if so, how?

Well, as a young queer woman, I suppose writing a story about a young queer woman was always going to be personal in some respects. But it’s not a story that’s particularly close to where I live. I’m not Hester, I’m not Aunt Mar, and I’m certainly not Rainbow. This is a pity as I would actually quite like to be Rainbow.


– How has the experience of attending Clarion affected your writing?

If I listed all the things I learnt at Clarion we’d need a bigger interview, but one major thing it gave me was the ability to see my own work from the outside – or at least to get closer to doing so. At Clarion you write a story and then a lot of very smart, very thoughtful people come along and tear it to shreds – as kindly as possible, but that’s the game. And that makes it easier to, if you like, adopt the persona of your own critic: look at what you’ve written, spot the holes, spot the points where someone might come along and say ‘I have a problem with that’. And then you can decide whether it’s a problem you want to fix, or a problem you’re content to leave the way it is. No-one’s a good judge of their own work, so it helps to pretend to be someone else for a bit.


– Has the experience of being a New Zealander living in the US and now the UK had any impact on your perspective as a writer?

I used to think that being a New Zealander hadn’t affected my writing much, either in flavour or setting. Moving away has changed that. It’s easy to be a Kiwi writer when you’re physically in NZ. While living in the UK, I’ve noticed how I keep coming back to New Zealand in a way I didn’t bother to before – my stories were set in America or Germany or nowhere in particular. The first story I sold after coming to the UK, I’d set it in Whitford and Howick, where I grew up. I’m writing another set in a fantastical Waiuku, another town in Auckland where I used to live. I must have some particular stance in which I write from that’s peculiarly Kiwi – I’ve grown up reading the science fiction and fantasy of Margaret Mahy and Ken Catran – but I think I’ll only be able to identify it the longer I live and write away from home.


– What are you working on now?

Various things, too slowly. I have another Lovecraftian story with a female protagonist – although a very different story and a very different protagonist – coming out in an anthology this year. I have a story about skeletons which has been on the back burner for so long it’s reduced down to a gritty paste, but it’s one I’m very fond of and I’m looking forward to scraping it off the bottom of the pan. I have a story about lichen, because everyone loves lichen, and possibly a story about a princess, although I’m not completely sure where that one’s going at the moment. And then there’s the novel. But the less said about that, the better.

“The Deepwater Bride” appears in the July/August 2015 issue of F&SF, which you can order here:

Interview: Rachel Pollack on “Johnny Rev”

– Tell us a bit about “Johnny Rev.”

​”Johnny Rev” is the third Jack Shade story.  I find this amazing, since, it feels to me as if I’ve already done a whole series of them.  ​

​Each one is filled with lore and offhand references to the world of the “Travelers” (urban shamans, though very much their own tradition, not borrowed from any cultural history), so that for me it seems an existent universe.​  The series has two very disparate sources, the first being Vladimir Nabokov’s amazing novel Pale Fire, which begins with a 999 line poem written by a poet named John Shade.  In Nabokov’s book, Shade is murdered just after he finished his poem, which in part refers to his daughter’s interest in the occult.  The second source was a 60’s TV show called Have Gun, Will Travel, a noir Western.  Out of this came the idea of a sort of sorcerer for hire. Part of Jack’s backstory is that he once foolishly imposed a “Guest” on himself, an obligation that requires him to take on any client who has his business card.  He has always feared where this might lead, focusing mostly on jobs he might find immoral, but now he faces something worse.  His new client is his own duplicate, or “dupe,” that Jack created years ago and thought he’d gotten rid of.  In the world of the Travelers, if you dupe yourself, and then make sure to get rid of it, no harm can come.  But if you leave any trace it can reassemble itself and become a “revenant,” hence “Johnny Rev.” The Rev appears to Jack in a dream and presents Jack’s card.  The assignment is to get rid of the man who stands in the way of the dupe emerging into the world as a full person.  Of course, that man is Jack himself.


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

​To some extent, it was the title, a play on Johnny Reb, the term Union soldiers used for the Confederate enemy.  A feature of the Jack Shade stories is a whole series of nicknames that Jack has, such as Jack Sad, Scarface Johnny​, etc.  In the first story there is a brief scene with a dupe, and when I thought of the name Johnny Rev, I began to think of a revenant.  Meanwhile, the second story had introduced the idea of “dream hunters,” people who find things in other people’s dreams.  So this led me to think of Jack’s revenant coming to him in a dream, and what a problem that could pose for him.​


– Was “Johnny Rev” personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

​It wasn’t personal to me except as a chance to explore some magical themes.  This story has the most lore in it, the most Traveler history, though focused on the idea of dupes.  We learn, for example, of “the strangest book in the Hidden Library, The Book of Duplicates: A Natural History of Replication,” and some of its wonders.​

​We also learn what happens when you have sex with the daughter of a “dispossessed” Sun god (dispossessed means that the tribe who worshiped him died out).​  I also got to include a scene I’d been wanting to do for some time, with the ghost of Elvis Presley appearing to someone in need (in this case, Jack). In the story, Elvis belongs to the Dead Quartet, a group of spirits who come to people in their greatest struggle.  The current line-up includes Joan of Arc (who took over from the Virgin Mary), Elvis, Nelson Mandela, and Princess Di (who took over from Eleanor Roosevelt).  I’d wanted to write about the Dead Quartet since the early 90’s, when I was writing a surreal comic book called Doom Patrol.  I did not get to do it then, and am happy to have had the chance to write the scene with Elvis and Jack.


– Can you talk at all about the themes of identity and transformation, and what “Johnny Rev” might have to say about them?

​The story is not so much about transformation as finding and holding onto your true self.  Jack has to ward off the imitation version, and he does this by discovering who he truly is.  I think many of us–maybe most of us–create a kind of duplicate version of our genuine selves, one that will match society’s, or family’s, expectations of us.  Then we convince ourselves that the dupe is real.  To really overcome the Rev, Jack has to find the part of him that is most true, and not let go of it.  I explored some of these themes way back when I wrote Doom Patrol.  I inherited “Robotman,” a character who was a human brain in a steel body, and invented the world’s first transsexual lesbian superhero.  In one issue Robotman discovers that someone has stolen some of his software and is making bootleg copies–dupes, in other words.  When he finds the factory and goes to smash it, the owner says to him, “What makes you better or different than any of these?”  Kate, the transwoman, helps him to look inside of him and find the part that is most true, that cannot be faked or copied.  Again, this is what Jack has to do in order to survive his final confrontation with the Dupe.


– What are you working on now?

​I’ve actually been struggling with illness for some time, but as I get better I’m hoping to return to a new Jack Shade story. Meanwhile, my novel, The Child Eater, which was published last year in Britain (and made The Guardian’s list of notable SF/F books of the year), comes out July 7 in the States.​


– Anything else you’d like to add?

​Writers often have their own favorite scene or moment in a story.  Mine is when Jack says “She asked her mother.”  People will have to read the story to find out just what that means.​

“Johnny Rev” appears in the July/August 2015 issue of F&SF, which you can order here:

Two F&SF Stories on the World Fantasy Awards Ballot

The Award Ballot for the 2015 World Fantasy Awards has been announced, and we have the following nominees on this year’s ballot:

Novella: Michael Libling, “Hollywood North” (F&SF, Nov./Dec. 2014)

Short Story: Alyssa Wong, “The Fisher Queen,” (F&SF, May/June 2014)

Also, our Publisher, Gordon Van Gelder, has been nominated in the Special Award – Professional category.

Congratulations to ours and to all of the nominees!

Editor’s Note for July/August 2015

Welcome to the 720th issue of the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction! If you don’t have a copy yet, you can subscribe here or order a single copy here.

Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/August 2015, cover by Jill BaumanThis month’s cover art is by Jill Bauman. This is her tenth cover for F&SF (a couple of her earlier covers were finalists for the Chesley Award), and her first since 2009. You should check out her website at

The cover illustrates this month’s novella, “Johnny Rev,” by Rachel Pollack. Pollack may be better known to some of our readers for her comic book writing on Doom Patrol or for her role in creating the Vertigo Tarot Deck with Dave McKean and Neil Gaiman. But she is also a Clarke Award and World Fantasy Award winning author. Her latest novel, The Child Eater, is about two very different boys bound by magic and pursued by the book’s eponymous enemy across two worlds. This month’s F&SF cover story is also a story of magic and danger, and we think you’ll enjoy it. It marks the return of Jack Shade, a present day private eye occultist shaman, who previously appeared in F&SF in “Jack Shade in the Forest of Souls” (July/Aug 2012) and “The Queen of Eyes” (Sept/Oct 2013).

“The Deepwater Bride” will introduce many of our readers to Tamsyn Muir, a New Zealand writer who has lived in the United States and now resides in the U.K. We don’t think this is the last time you’ll be seeing her work.

Longtime readers of this magazine may remember Richard Chwedyk best for his saur stories, including “Bronte’s Egg,” which won the Nebula Award in 2003. He says he is finishing up two more novellas in the series and then a much-anticipated collection will follow. In the meantime, he offers us “Dixon’s Road,” a story that took him almost twenty-five years to finish. “Dixon’s Road” is the story in this month’s free digest edition – so if you don’t subscribe (and why not?), you can download it and read this story on any free Kindle app.

We haven’t seen much short fiction from James Patrick Kelly (on Twitter at @jaspkelly) recently because he’s been working on his new novel. Luckily for us, he made time to polish “Oneness: A Triptych” for readers of F&SF. Meanwhile, Oliver Buckram returns to our pages with “This Quintessence of Dust” while Van Aaron Hughes brings us “The Body Pirate” and Betsy James offers us “Paradise and Trout.” It’s a mix of stories that will take you from a trout stream in the mountains, into the future, and across the depths of space.

This issue also features some familiar characters and worlds.

Raffalon the Thief returns in “The Curse of the Myrmelon” by Matthew Hughes. Raffalon appeared most recently in “Prisoner of Pandarius” in last January’s issue. The introduction to the story provides some new information on where Raffalon’s adventures fit into the Archonate universe.

Over the past few years, one of our most popular science fiction series has been Naomi Kritzer’s Seastead stories about a chain of man-made islands built by people who want more freedom and less government. This latest installment is “The Silicon Curtain.” It’s the perfect introduction for new readers, but also has plenty for the series’ fans.

Gregor Hartmann introduced us to literary con man (is that fair? it seems fair) Franden and the planet Zephyr last January in “The Man from X.” He returns this month with “Into the Fiery Planet” and gives us a closer look at Franden’s new home.

Plus we have our regular columns. Charles de Lint recommends new books by Alex Bledsoe (plus related music by Tuatha Dea), Melissa F. Olson, Pati Nagle, and James Goss, plus Spectrum 21 and a new biography of Joss Whedon by Amy Pascale. James Sallis offers an in-depth critical reading of Find Me, by Laura van den Berg. Kathi Maio reviews the new “Cinderella” remake in the context of all the Cinderella movies, and highly recommends the new documentary “Merchants of Doubt.”

In addition to the reviews, Pat Murphy and Paul Doherty bring us a new science column on “Traveling Through Time.” Paul De Filippo plucks Plumage from Pegasus with “Babel in Reverse is Lebab.” And the Curiosities columns presents American Denim: A New Folk Art (1975), an art book with text by Peter Beagle. Plus we have cartoons by Arthur Masear, Frank Cotham, J.P. Rini, and Danny Shanahan.

If that seems like a lot to squeeze into 260 pages, it’s because it is! F&SF has never been a better bargain. You can order print or digital copies of the issue here:

Interview: Matthew Hughes on “The Curse of the Myrmelon”

– Tell us a bit about “The Curse of the Myrmelon.”

It’s the latest in a series of fantasy stories that began when Gardner Dozois and George R.R. Martin asked me to send them something for their cross-genre anthology, Rogues – which, by the way, just won the Locus Award for best antho.

I thought I’d like to do a Cugel-the-Clever type story, set in my Archonate universe, so I invented a rather unlucky thief named Raffalon who is starving in a forest at the end of an unsuccessful career.  The story, “The Inn of the Seven Blessings,” tells how his luck finally changes.

After I sold the story to Gardner and George, I decided the character had potential, so I began writing stories about him during his earlier years.  “Myrmelon” is the fifth one to appear in F&SF.  In each of them, I’ve tried to show a different element of the society in which Raffalon operates – kind of a thief’s-eye-view of a fantasy world.

In “Myrmelon,” a younger Raffalon actually plays a subordinate role to Cascor, a former provostman who was fired from the police force and has set up as a private detective.  He’s also begun to dabble in magic, for which he has a talent, although he will get into trouble with the Wizards Guild if he keeps it up.


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

I consider myself a crime writer trapped in an sff author’s career.  I like to write about criminals and detectives (see my Luff Imbry and Henghis Hapthorn stories).  I wanted to give Cascor the discriminator a good work-out and at the same time examine some of the world in which he lives.  It’s a faux-medieval world of guilds and autonomous city states, something like Italy as it emerged from the Dark Ages, but with wizards.

My general motivation is to write enough Raffalon and Cascor stories to make a decent-sized collection, which I will self-publish as an ebook and POD paperback.  I’ve found that selling my backlist on Amazon, Kobo, and my own webstore is the modern definition of “money for old rope.”


– The protagonist, Cascor the Discriminator, was a character spun off from the Raffalon story “Stones and Glass.” Do you often discover characters in this way, when writing your ‘Penultimate Earth’ stories?

Yes.  I’m an intuitive writer.  I can’t outline worth a damn.  In “Stones and Glass,” I originally brought Cascor in as a plot complication and foil for Raffalon.  As his backstory emerged, he began to develop some interesting qualities as a potential partner.

I always start with a character in his/her normal situation, add an event that triggers some kind of conflict, then see how it all evolves from there. When I started “Myrmelon,” I had Cascor answering the door to a little man who feared he was under a curse.  I had no idea what would happen next, but I find that if I just let my characters be who they are (or, I suppose, whom I’m discovering them to be), a story begins to unwind out of the back of my head.


– What are you working on now?

Thanks to a healthy grant from the Canada Council for the Arts, may their tribe increase, I’m working on a historical novel I’ve wanted to write for more than forty years, ever since I came across a footnote in a university text that told about how some African slaves, survivors of a shipwreck on the Ecuadorean coast, conquered the aboriginal peoples of the area and created a new society – the Zambo State – that remained independent of Spanish authorities for generations.


– Anything else you’d like to add?

I’m grateful to F&SF for having accepted so many of my stories over the past dozen years.  I used to buy the magazine for pennies a copy in second-hand bookstores when I was a poor kid in the sixties.  If I’d known then that someday I’d be a regular it would have made my penurious adolescence a happier time.

And, if I can be permitted a plug, this summer I’m going to self-publish a collection of my non-Archonate short stories and novelettes, almost all of them originally published in F&SF.  It will be titled Devil or Angel and Other Stories.  Anyone who’s interested can keep tabs on the book’s progress by checking my web page:

“The Curse of the Myrmelon” appears in the July/August 2015 issue of F&SF, which you can order here:

« Previous PageNext Page »

Copyright © 2006–2015 The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction • All Rights Reserved Worldwide
Powered by WordPress • Theme based on Whitespace theme by Brian Gardner
If you find any errors, typos or anything else worth mentioning, please send it to

Designed by Rodger Turner and Hosted by:
SF Site spot art