A question for Setsu Uzumé

Q: What do you think makes for a good story?

A: Voice. Voice is like the truth, but it’s flavored by awkward, embarrassing, and messy realities — not what you think the audience wants to hear. It gives insight and context that shapes everything else. Voice is the thing that makes a story different and interesting, the same way a person stands out when they represent themselves authentically. It isn’t always easy. Part of voice is exposing our hopes and fears to the scrutiny of strangers; but to me that’s what makes a story come alive.

Setsu Uzumé’s story “Snapped Dry, Scraped Clean”
in Metaphorosis Friday, 25 January 2019.
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A question for Helen French

Q: What’s easier for you – imagining a happier world, or a darker one?

A: It’s easier for me to imagine a darker world – but I’d much rather imagine a happier one. I like my stories, whether I’m writing or reading them, to have at least a glimmer of hope within them, though that can be tough in the very shortest of shorts.

I enjoy all sorts of fiction, and I don’t shy away from exploring dark worlds. But I think that even the darkest, grimmest landscape can contain moments of joy or happiness or kindness.

Isn’t that what we see all around us? Yes, there are lots of horrible things going on in the world, and it sometimes feels like nothing but doom and gloom, but when it comes both fiction and real life I like to hope there’s a chance that tomorrow will be a better day. Or that if it isn’t, I will find joy in a small part of it.

Writing a happier world can be tough – is such a world going to be solid and believable? Not everything can be fixed. But writing happy moments is usually achievable, though they may not suit every story.

Writing darkness is usually easier, I just don’t want to linger in it for too long.

Helen French’s story “Two Villains, a Notebook, and a Lump of Coal”
in Metaphorosis Friday, 18 January 2019.
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A question for Alyssa N. Vaughn

Q: Duckbilled platypus – result of divine distraction, or alternate universe crossover?

A: So the platypus belongs to the mammalian subclass Prototheria, which sounds like a kingdom from World of Warcraft and most of the animals that belong to that group are extinct. It’s pretty much the platypus and the echidna, and both of them are weird as crap. Did you know that the echidna doesn’t have nipples? It has milk patches on its skin instead. So does the platypus. And the platypus is one of the only venomous mammals. It only produces its venom during the platypus mating season. What the heck.

Honestly, my favorite thing about the platypus is that it is one of several species that have hypothetically stopped evolving. They said “yup, being a venomous beaver-duck is totally working for me, y’all go on ahead” and that’s how we got platypi. They are nature’s old man, grumbling about these species today, with their placentas and their nipples and their non-beak-faces and their no-venom-producing-claws. The platypus wants you to stop trying to explain Snapchat to it and go outside once in a while, for goodness sake.

I may be a platypus.

I’m really stuck on the subclass though. “Your quest will take you to Prototheria, therein you must seek the strange creature of venomous claw and hideous beak, very nearly the last of its kind…”

Alyssa N. Vaughn’s story “Five Star Review”
in Metaphorosis Friday, 11 January 2019.
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A question for M.J. Gardner

Q: If your writing style were a bird, what type of bird would it be and why?

A: If my writing were a bird, it would be (free-range) chicken. Chicken is a versatile food. You can smother it in slipstream, steam it with some Lovecraft, spice it up with horror and serve it with a side of suspense. You can use part or all of the chicken in dishes like BBQ short stories, novellas stuffed with cheese and mushrooms for a dinner party, or roast a whole novel for a more filling meal. No matter how you cook it, my writing is a good source of protein.

M.J. Gardner’s story “The Book of Regrets”
in Metaphorosis Friday, 4 January 2019.
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Yet another question for Kathryn Yelinek

Q: Do you write with a particular audience in mind?

A: Short answer: Yes, an audience of one–me.

Long answer: I don’t start a story thinking, is this a story for young adults or adults? Or is this a story for people who like epic fantasy or urban fantasy or fairy tale retellings? My reading tastes encompass all of these subcategories, and I suspect the same is true of many readers. So I set out to write stories that I would want to read and that involve elements that are of interest to me. Of course this means I often write about similar concepts or themes. I’m a big bird-lover, so many of my stories involve birds to some degree. I once had a writer friend tell me that any story I write isn’t one of mine unless it has a bird in it. I also tend to write about issues of loneliness, love, animal-human relations, and the environment. My stories often have at least a suggestion of happiness in the ending, if not a completely happy ending. I hope these elements appeal to a wide audience.

Kathryn Yelinek’s story “Cinders and Snow” will be
published on Friday, 28 December 2018.

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A question for Lindsey Duncan

Q: How does writing speculative fiction affect your daily life (not as a writer but as a person)?

A: Being a speculative fiction writer means that life is rarely boring. I’ve always got some plot point to chew on, and the oddest details in life might inspire a story. I’m always asking, “What if?” and spinning thoughts from that. But it’s also entertaining because (at least for me), it’s fostered a tendency to take metaphor literally. You have no idea how disappointed I was to find out that “Entertaining Silverware” just sits there. I also find that writing speculative fiction makes me both more open-minded and more skeptical. Speculative fiction is about what-if, considering what could be true or become true, so it tends to break down the tendency to say, “This is impossible.” On the other hand, when everything could be true in some world, I find I’m less inclined to proclaim (even to myself) that “this is so” in our world. My reaction to a theory or belief that sounds plausible is not so much to accept it as to acknowledge that it could make a good story.

Lindsey Duncan’s story “Family Tree” was
published on Friday, 21 December 2018.

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