Posts Tagged "Issue 28"

Interview with Grá Linnaea, author of “Namasté Prime”

by on Sep 6, 2011 in Interviews | 0 comments

Interview by Stephanie Jacob SJ: Tether is a gritty, flawed character who has the ability to get under your skin. He is the kind of character that resonates with the reader and stays with them even after the story is told. Can you tell us about Tether’s development and what motivates him? GL: In the first draft Tether was more sympathetic, but less competent. The story wasn’t quite working, he just lucked into Ejiri and Namaste, but the more talented and jacked-in I made him, the more mercenary and disconnected from the world he became. I sat back and said, “Wow, how incredibly lonely this guy must be.” I realized that underneath the indifference, there had to be part of him that desperately wanted to believe in something. Tether chooses jobs that offer the most financial benefit. “He shook his head. Either way it didn’t matter, as long as he came out okay, and got paid.” In his quest to destroy or save Namasté, a cyber version of the afterlife, he undergoes a fundamental shift. Do you think his encounter with Ejiri raised profound questions that caused a change in action? Yeah, for me that’s the crux of the story. When I first wrote that scene I still had no idea how it all would end. That was when I realized there was still the old crappy version of him out there, the one that had never been offered a chance to do something meaningful and selfless or even been given a reason to care. To me, Tether’s entire character arc really starts after he meets Ejiri. Tell us a little about Ishvara, the predominant world you created. “Other planets were disturbingly subdued compared to the crazy visual assault of Ishvara.” When you are writing science fiction what do you use as inspiration? I have pretty serious A.D.D, so Ishvara was the one place that would actually overstimulate me. This story began with the image of a place where everything, advertisements and music and lights were all so constantly intense that if one was born there, the worst thing they could imagine would be silence and the space to look inside. Most of my story ideas come from emotional reactions, imagining how people cope with specific situations and problems. Science fiction is perfect for that, I love extrapolating, “If technology went here, then culture would go here and how would people deal with that?” I was amazed at the ease with which you created a complex world with many layers in so few pages. Do you have a length in mind when you start a story or do you just write until the story is told? Do you prefer writing short fiction? I adore short fiction. Before this story, the longest thing I’d ever written was 900 words! So my ideal length is about 500 words, but some stories just won’t behave. One of my favorite things is to try to pack as much into as few words as possible. I like stories that are just on the edge of bursting. Of course this tendency makes novel-writing a real challenge. Are there any authors who have influenced your style? I desperately wish I was the lovechild of Ray Vukcevich and Kelly Link, but sadly I’m not. Nalo Hopkinson, William Gibson and Douglas Coupland have also had a deep impact on my writing. In your bio you mention that you have traveled three continents and twelve countries. Do you derive inspiration for your stories from the different people and cultures that you have interacted with? That was just last year! I expected to immediately lift whatever was in front of me and use it in my fiction. “Now for my Kazakhstan story.” “Now for my Turkey story.” etc. But actually I found it impossible to write about a place while was in it. I think there’s something about my mental makeup that I can’t consciously use my experiences, they always sneak up on me from my unconscious mind. You have a very active social media presence. Have you found this...

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Interview with Betsy Phillips, author of “Frank”

by on Sep 6, 2011 in Interviews | 0 comments

Interview by Stephanie Jacob SJ: When we first start reading “Frank” there is a sense of normalcy. But in a few paragraphs we are given our first indication that this story is far from normal. “I could drive on out of here and be so far gone by the time he got back he’d never be able to find me.” I don’t say nothing. If she runs, I’ll have to bring her back. She can’t be hid enough that I can’t find her.” Can you describe how the idea for the story was developed? Do you begin with a basic idea for a plot or begin with a character that begs to be written? BP: “Frank” started simply enough. I wanted to try to write from the perspective of a man, to spend some time imagining what it would be like to have a male body, just to see if I could write about an experience I’ll never have and have it seem plausible. I didn’t expect to write more than the scene of Frank teaching the woman to drive–that was actually the thing that begged to be written, her sitting behind the wheel, the sun catching the fine hairs on her legs, Frank just watching her, not sure what to make of her.–but then I realized, as much as Frank wanted to be okay and normal, there was something not quite right about him. Why, for instance, was he speaking in the present tense? I had to keep writing to see what it was that was so strange about him, and to figure out what Frank was doing on that ranch. I was about halfway through my first draft when I realized he was a zombie, that the doc was like Wade Davis, who wrote The Serpent and the Rainbow, if Wade Davis had gone bad (It’s really a wonder Wade Davis hasn’t gone bad, if you think about it. The line between “How does that guy create a zombie?” and “How do I create a zombie?” has got to be very thin and the temptation to cross it pretty strong once you know how to do it.). So, once I figured out that Frank was a zombie, it seemed obvious that he, even if he didn’t know it, was the one in need of rescuing. That made it clear who was there to do the rescuing. And that’s how the story came to be. “Frank” is a layered and complex story that leaves readers wanting more. Have you ever written short fiction and later decided to bring back the characters for a longer piece. Thanks. I do hope people like the story. I’ve written some about the Devil in short stories and he plays a major role in the manuscript I’m working on, but I’m not sure that counts, since he’s always, in part, just who the other characters need him to be. As for Frank, I do wonder how a person moves on from that. If he became more like his old self again, would he consider himself to be a kidnapper and murderer? Even if, intellectually, he understood that he was under the Doc’s control, how does a person with a conscience live with the terrible things he’s done? Of course, these aren’t questions unique to ex-zombie henchmen, but part of what makes fantasy and horror work is that it lets you shine a light into one part of the truth without getting bogged down by the other parts. We can wonder about how Frank might come out of this because we’re not in fear of him maybe continuing to kill actual women or worried about whether he should be in prison. My favorite line is, “Our memories are like our own private ghosts,” she says. “We’re all haunted by our lives. By the past.”  I think everyone can identify with the idea that our ghosts are ever present.  Do you think Frank will ever be free from his past? I hope not. Part of what makes what the doc has done to Frank so...

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And Cut Down a Moment Later

by on Sep 6, 2011 in Poetry | 1 comment

By Erik Amundsen Light creep down the stairs, each day, a different plan of attack each angle a different disposition the great face plate of the sun, a golden shield, but beneath it, beautiful robes that you never see. And in his hands a sickle and a scythe, the corn bends up to tickle him and cut down a moment later. The women sing in rows, where a creek a river and a road run parallel, and the song so low so peaceful, makes you think it’s all over already. A warp in the sky, spots in the eye, the tower leans toward this bright new thing and cut down a moment later. Head aching with the sound, thin little threads of visions of heavens full of sweet popcorn and cheap treats, making out in the cheap seats, but down those stairs, further down than the sun ever goes, here is everyone all-ages general admission, a pomegranate little queen, seated up in glory down below, in her hands a scissors and a sigh, the thread whines with a wish to never die press the blades together, and cut. More from Erik Amundsen: Jupiter and Gentian Jupiter and Gentian...

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The Improbable, Inevitable Domestication of the Great Old Ones: HP Lovecraft’s Iconic Influence on 21st-Century Fantastic Literature and Culture

by on Sep 6, 2011 in Nonfiction | 0 comments

by John H. Stevens “Monsters are fabulous at getting our attention.” — Pamela Coles “Why are games about Cthulhu so much fun?” — Steve Jackson Games’ Cthulhu product website. In his introduction to The Strange Sound of Cthulhu: Music Inspired by the Writings of H. P. Lovecraft, S.T. Joshi proclaimed that “[i]t is a tribute to H.P. Lovecraft’s universal appeal that he can elicit praise” and attention from a wide range of sources. “Clearly, different readers draw different types of nourishment from Lovecraft, and this diversity appeal [sic] augurs well for his survival….” The proliferation of the image of Cthulhu and the use of Lovecraftian ideas and tropes in all sorts of popular culture-expressions seem to substantiate Joshi’s contention that Lovecraft’s creations possess a catholic appeal. The question is: what is the nature of that appeal? What is it about Lovecraft’s work, and particularly the figure of Cthulhu, that makes it so popular for all sorts of widespread appropriation decades after the death of this eccentric, self-described “pulphound?” As Joshi notes, the mytho-apocalyptic creations of Howard Phillips Lovecraft have infiltrated many areas of popular culture, sometimes as aesthetic sensibility, sometimes as quasi-totemic, commoditized symbols. Lovecraft’s creations have been fertile ground for germinating a profusion of productions, from comic horror novels to cuddly plush doll Cthulhus, from games of all sorts to lollipops. To catalog and discuss every iteration of Lovecraft across numerous popular and literary forms and cultures is a book-length project (which has been attempted at least once, in Don Smith’s uneven H.P. Lovecraft in Popular Culture: The Works and Their Adaptations in Film, Television, Comics, Music and Games) and may not be possible (or even fruitful) to fully describe. But the Mythos, codified and kept alive after his demise, has an undeniable cultural presence that cannot be completely grasped, only pursued and pieced together like the unearthly influence of creatures gathered beyond the veil of our reality, obliquely and incompletely. Lovecraft’s storyworld seems like a counterintuitive choice for such a range of cultural influence; it is nihilistic, esoteric, and often hyperbolically grotesque and sublime. Layers of ontological unknowability, hordes of bizarre abominations, and a cast of deranged, obsessed, and unlikable characters abound in his stories. Lovecraft sometimes projected disconcerting biases, from a peculiar brand of elitism to outright racism, into his work. And, most obviously, the stories are about vast, alien entities that will one day storm into our world and annihilate life as we know it, and prepare the way for that invasion by haunting our consciousness. Such a milieu of cosmic horror, looming and inexorable, seems like poor fodder for toys and cartoons, novels and video games, yet qualities both external to and intrinsic in the tales open up the corpus to reproduction and create conditions for play and pleasure to be generated. In general, the gradual decoupling of the creator from his ideas, and the odd history of his works’ copyright status, create opportunities for co-optation. Cthulhu and his fellow Great Old Ones can be incorporated into new stories and products in ways that exceed the original works’ parameters, a practice that Lovecraft himself encouraged. Many authors did, and still do, borrow from Lovecraft, and it is this precedent for reinterpretation that sets the stage for the broadening of Lovecraft’s “appeal.” It is a confluence of opportunity and the simulation of specific characteristics rather than some inherent universalism that encourages and renders meaningful Lovecraftian themes, symbols and metaphors for broader cultural adaptation. Lovecraft’s work was kept alive not just in the stories he told, but in the growing shared universe that was created in his wake. August Derleth, Lin Carter, Donald Wandrei, and many others promoted and reprinted Lovecraft even as they contributed to a flourishing corpus of tales inspired by his writings. Lovecraft’s coalescing legend was foundational in the creation of the publishing company Arkham House, and grew beyond that as more writers discovered his work, its variegated offspring, and the laudatory missives of the Lovecraft Circle. In those early years, not only was Lovecraft’s work being gathered and codified, it was explicitly...

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Gemphalon

by on Sep 6, 2011 in Short Fiction | 0 comments

by Elizabeth Engstrom The call came mid-sun. It was like a bell, or a chime, something Gemphalon had never heard before. He put down the piece of slate he’d chosen for the roof of his house and looked east. Desert wasteland stretched as far as his eyes could see, all the way to the yellow horizon. The suns were at their zenith, crossing overhead, the little one closer this time of year, but no less intense. Gemphalon rotated again, reached for the piece of slate, but then the call came again, scrolled right up the screen of his mind, and it was so clear that he could not ignore it. He straightened up and looked around. His house was almost finished. His design was sure to attract a suitable mate, and he would be of breeding age by swarm this year. He didn’t want to leave his house, because the moment he did, some sexually-mature interloper would move in, make use of it and then make use of Gemphalon’s mate when she arrived. No, he couldn’t leave. He wouldn’t leave. Swarm was his right, it was his duty. He had spent his entire life preparing for it. He wouldn’t miss it, especially not this, his first year. But he’d been called to the east. He had to go east. No. He ignored the call, and picked up the piece of slate. But this call was like no other. It was a hunger so deep that Gemphalon felt weak in its shadow. An unidentifiable longing overcame him. It was much like the longing for swarm, which had increased steadily in the past few months, only this was a thousand times, a thousand thousand times stronger. This could not be denied. He would deny it. He was preparing for swarm. It’s what his greater had done, and his greater before him. It was what every breeding-age male in the colony was doing. The females would come within two weeks, and Gemphalon would be prepared. His house was better than most; he would attract a fine mate. Then the call washed over him so completely that the slate dropped from his grip and shattered on the ground. East. He looked again at his house, and it had lost all importance in his carefully prioritized life. He barely had will enough left to fetch his walking stick before starting out. First stop was the tree, where he gulped a bubble of water. Within the short minute he paused on what was already his journey, the hunger pawed at him again. As soon as he began walking, it eased into a constant gnaw. No one from the colony accosted him; no one asked him where he was going. Everyone was intent on getting ready for swarm. When swarm ended and life settled down to egg tending, someone would ask after him, surely, but until that happened, preparations were the priority and Gemphalon’s whereabouts were of no importance. Gemphalon walked among the toilers of his colony, all his eyes straight ahead, going from certainty into mystery without enough will to stop himself. By the time he had left his clustermates behind, he didn’t even doubt that he shouldn’t have any doubts. All his priorities had been rearranged. All he thought of was going east. Going east was the only thing that settled his soul. He wanted what was there, though he had no idea of what that was. Something to sate this craving.  Everything else would fall into place. And so it did. Sun after sun, when hunger came upon him, he found an abundant supply of lessers to catch and eat. The occasional tree held a bubble of water, and into his mind began to flow ideas, many ideas, concepts that were above the colony and beyond the stars. Those ideas came in gushes, giving Gemphalon time between flows to try to digest their meanings, although most of it was beyond his ken. Gemphalon made his way slowly east, eating when hungry, drinking when thirsty, never doubting that those needs would be cared for...

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