This book was originally being marketed as cyberpunk, but the publishers, Angry Robot, switched over to calling it solarpunk just a couple of weeks before release. It is definitely both: it has the cyberpunk technology of the neural implant, which is sort of like an instant messenger in your brain, controlled by eye movements, that also allows you to feel the emotions of the people you're connected to. It also has the fast-paced race-against-the-clock feel of cyberpunk, and the focus on information and data as the ultimate key to power. To keep sensitive data from being hacked, they encrypt it into a courier's blood cells. So, yeah, it's totally cyberpunk.
But Implanted doesn't take place in the same dark, polluted, brutalist type of setting usually featured in cyberpunk. New Worth is a domed city—one of many that people have retreated into to survive a massive climate crash. The city itself is stratified, based on the anatomy of a forest: the rich live up in the Canopy or the Echelon, the middle class in the Understory, etc. Many of the descriptions we get of the city show it as green, beautiful, with plants and fountains and attempts to simulate the nature they're yearning to get back to. Much of the plot revolves around the idea of Emergence from the dome—when it will happen, who does the work, who gets to benefit. New Worth is certainly not a utopia, but it's not a straightforward dystopia either, and our narrator learns there's a lot more going on than she realized at both the highest and lowest levels of this complex society. It's ultimately very optimistic and "punk" in unexpected ways. So, yeah, it's totally solarpunk.
Here's the official description:
When college student Emery Driscoll is blackmailed into being a courier for a clandestine organisation, she's cut off from the neural implant community which binds the domed city of New Worth together. Her new employers exploit her rare condition which allows her to carry encoded data in her blood, and train her to transport secrets throughout the troubled city. New Worth is on the brink of Emergence - freedom from the dome - but not everyone wants to leave. Then a data drop goes bad, and Emery is caught between factions: those who want her blood, and those who just want her dead.
Lauren C. Teffeau is a fellow New Mexico writer, and I read pieces of this book in a much earlier draft. I loved it back then, but I was blown away with how tight and exciting the story became in this final version. I asked Lauren to chat with me about her path to publication and her approach to worldbuilding.
Sarena Ulibarri: In a nutshell, what was the path from manuscript to publication for IMPLANTED?
Lauren C. Teffeau: Some of my projects have longer gestation periods than others. I was building the world IMPLANTED is set in well before I had an agent or a professional sale under my belt, so we’re talking many years here. I like to think that time was crucial in thinking through all the moving pieces and bringing it to life in vivid detail. We’ll see! I went through many drafts with my crit groups until I felt like I had a strong enough project to bring to my agent. I revised it again based on her feedback, and the manuscript sold to Angry Robot after approximately six months on submission.
SU: The early drafts of IMPLANTED were written as Young Adult, but it’s being published now as Adult. What changes did you need to make to “age it up” in the final version?
LCT: This is an issue I have run into before with my novel projects. I’m drawn to that time in characters’ lives when they face their “first test” in the real world. While that’s often part and parcel of coming-of-age stories which we often see in YA, I seem to always come up with scenarios where it’s harder to justify how these young teens are doing all these amazing things to save the world on such a grand scale, when it’s far more realistic for someone a bit older to have the life experience and, more importantly, the access necessary to drive the plot. Plus as a recovering romance writer, I sometimes include adult themes in my stories that are more appropriate for Adult books. As far as IMPLANTED goes, when my agent and I decided to treat it as an Adult project, it actually made some of the setup a lot easier to pull off because I didn’t have to explain all the reasons why my teenaged main character had the skills/background needed to make her role in the story more convincing. Instead of being a high school student, she’s now a recent college grad and has four more years under her belt to contribute to suspending readers’ disbelief.
SU: Could you talk a little about the worldbuilding of New Worth? What tools did you use to imagine and create this fascinating domed city?
LCT: I wanted to explore what happens after the coming climate apocalypse, a time where people have had to retreat from the natural world. The traumatic upheaval would be felt for generations and affect the city’s design and development as living memory fades and approximations and reinterpretations become all that’s left over. In a domed city where people are kept at far remove from nature, I figured access to the sun would become a new commodity of sorts. That led me to modeling my city’s structure off of the rainforest: canopy, understory, and ground level, each distinct ecosystem defined in part by the amount of sunlight they receive. And in my domed city of New Worth, those sections roughly correspond to different socio-economic groups, with the rich and well-connected living in the upper levels with the most access to sunlight. Population ecology, survivor bias, even fractals all contributed in some way to the city’s design as well.
SU: What books, authors, or films influenced you while writing IMPLANTED?
LCT: When I’m drafting, I try to keep my mind uncluttered of other media until the story I’m trying to write has firmed up and can stand on its own. That said, I’ve always loved espionage-tinged media—James Bond, Jason Bourne, even Sterling Archer—romance, YA, and most action/adventure properties, and those interests often come out in my work in both subconscious and conscious ways. At some point I was descripting IMPLANTED thusly: Take Johnny Mnemonic, add a dash of Person of Interest, mix with Logan’s Run, and wrap it all up in a Blade Runner-meets-solarpunk aesthetic.
SU: What advice do you have for beginning writers who are struggling through the first draft of a science fiction novel?
LCT: Finish your shit. And it will feel like shit. It will feel like you’re a fool for wanting to write and for wanting to share your stories with the world. But you have to push through all that to get to THE END. Then, take a break. When you return to your project, you’ll discover that maybe it isn’t as bad as you thought it was. Or that you are in a better position to see the story’s flaws and how to fix them. Either way, you cannot submit something that is incomplete. And it is only once a draft is complete that you can get a sense for how to revise. If nothing else, remember there are no shortcuts and try to enjoy the journey along the way.
SU: Do you have any readings or signings coming up? Where can readers find you?
August 3-5 ArmadilloCon in Austin, Texas
August 10 Reading and Q&A at the Albuquerque Science Fiction Society
August 16-19 Worldcon in San Jose, California
August 24-26 Bubonicon in Albuquerque, New Mexico
September 6 Reddit/Fantasy Ask Me Anything
September 8 Reading and Signing at the Denver Science Fiction and Fantasy Series
September 15 Reading and Signing at Page1 Books Albuquerque, New Mexico
October 7 Reading and Signing at Bookworks Albuquerque, New Mexico
October 19-21 MileHiCon in Denver, Colorado
My website laurencteffeau.com is the best way to stay up-to-date with what’s going on with me.
Lauren C. Teffeau was born and raised on the East Coast, educated in the South, employed in the Midwest, and now lives and dreams in the Southwest. When she was younger, she poked around in the back of wardrobes, tried to walk through mirrors, and always kept an eye out for secret passages, fairy rings, and messages from aliens. She was disappointed. Now, she writes to cope with her ordinary existence. Follow her on Twitter, Goodreads, Amazon.com, and Pinterest.
Marian Womack was one of the amazing authors I had the privilege of spending six weeks with at the Clarion Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers Workshop in 2014. I first met her about a month before Clarion started, while my husband and I were visiting Spain. It was great to get off the regular tourist routes in Madrid, and also to get to know one of my classmates a bit better before the craziness of Clarion began. During the workshop, I was always impressed with her lush prose and gothic-influenced style, and I was thrilled to hear that a couple of her Clarion stories would be published in a collection—after making the rounds at places like Apex, Weird Fiction Review, and Year's Best Weird Fiction, of course. Just look at this gorgeous cover:
These stories explore place and landscape at different stages of decay, positioning them as fighting grounds for death and renewal. From dystopian Andalusia to Scotland or the Norfolk countryside, they bring together monstrous insects, ghostly lovers, soon-to-be extinct species, unexpected birds, and interstellar explorers, to form a coherent narrative about loss and absence.
Marian's stories can often be considered climate fiction or eco-weird, and I think this cover perfectly captures the beauty and strangeness you'll find inside. I asked Marian to talk about her path to publication and her experience at the Clarion Workshop.
Sarena Ulibarri: In a nutshell, what was the path from manuscript to publication for LOST OBJECTS?
Marian Womack: I was finding it a bit difficult to find venues where my writing could be a good fit. It wasn’t about getting rejections: I was lucky enough to get a story included in The Year’s Best Weird Fiction anthology series the first year I started publishing in English. But I was also getting a bit overwhelmed with the vast amount of possibility out there. In a way, I felt that the stories fitted together better as a group than on their own, so I decided I didn’t want to break them, and instead of trying to get them published in different venues, I put together the book I had had in mind from my first story in English, a coherent narrative with a meaning of its own. I am very fortunate that the reviews of the book so far have noticed and appreciated this.
SU: What advice do you have for young writers who are struggling to get their first short stories published?
MW: One of the hardest things to navigate for an author is to keep believing that you are not wasting your time, or other’s time; that what you do is valuable. You need to do that, you need to find the strength to invest hours and months and years in your writing without knowing if it will ever be read by others. Keeping that faith is paramount. We all go through periods of self-doubt, but it is important not to give up.
SUL How has writing in English or living in the UK affected the way you tell stories? Are the stories you've written in Spanish different in tone or theme than the stories you've written in English?
MW: This is an interesting question. In a way, that is partly the reason why I write weird and uncanny fiction. I spent many of my formative years in the UK, and that made me cultivate a sense of the strangeness in the world around me. I was, and still am in a way—depending on the circumstances—looked upon as an outsider. That sense of never really having fitted has been invaluable in helping me find the stories I want to tell. After so many years away from my native Andalusia, I also feel disconnected in some ways from the everyday when I am back there. It is a curious feeling, but again I can’t deny that it helps a writer to gain some distance, and to develop a different way of looking at the world that is particularly suited for writing weird, uncanny and speculative fiction. I have written and published many stories in Spanish, and I have also published two full-length books. And, ironically, some reviews said that my writing sounded as if it was ‘translated’ from English. I always took it as a compliment! I had been brought up on Dickens and Emily Bronte, long before I read Cervantes or Borges, so it made absolute perfect sense to me.
SU: What’s your favorite memory from the Clarion Workshop?
It’s so difficult to choose! Ann and Jeff VanderMeer in class, with silly hats on, making us feel more confident about our writing. Catherynne Valente declaring that the closing sentence of my story was the best sentence of the whole week (it was ‘Reader, I shot her’, I think!). The sense of being in a family, of having found a family, of like-minded people.
SU: How many stories did you write at Clarion, and what became of them?
MW: I was very productive, I think. I wrote five stories in total and a couple of flash fictions. Two of the stories were published shortly afterwards in Apex and Weird Fiction Review, and are reprinted in this collection. Another was published in the anthology EcoPunk! The story I considered my most successful of the workshop, the one I wrote in Catherynne Valente’s week, I have been developing into a full-length novel over the past four years. I am very fond of that story, very humbled that two of my favorite Clarion classmates, Nino Cipri and Kristen Rupenian, wrote fanfics based on it…
SU: Do you have any readings or signings coming up? Where can readers find you, online or off?
MW: I am a tentative and introverted user of twitter, where I am @beekeepermadrid. And my webpage is marianwomack.com. I try to keep the links up-to-date, but it is hard sometimes with a full-time job, a young family and two very demanding cats! I will be launching Lost Objects in FantasyCon in October. And I hope there will be some more readings in the near future. I am planning to travel to the US next year, fulfilling a long-held dream of attending ReaderCon at last. Who knows? Perhaps I will manage to do something while I am in the US as well. I am a very shy person, but I have never had problems reading my work. It is such a privilege to share your writing with others in real time, such a gift. After so many hours toiling on your own, sharing your writing and getting to know your readers is the nicest reward possible. I can only hope this will happen with Lost Objects.
Marian Womack is a bilingual writer. She is the founder of indie press Nevsky Books and worked for nearly a decade in publishing before becoming a postgraduate researcher at the Anglia Ruskin Centre for Science Fiction and Fantasy. Her genre-bending fiction gained her a place in the Clarion Writers Workshop, and in the Creative Writing Master degree at Cambridge University. Marian’s writing is concerned with loss, nostalgia and nature, and her research explores the connections between the weird and ecological fiction. Other research interest are narrative theory, genre publishing and translation. Her fiction in English has appeared in LossLit, Weird Fiction Review, SuperSonic, Apex, or the anthologies The Year’s Best Weird Fiction, vol. 3 and EcoPunk! Speculative Tales of Radical Futures. She has also been translated into Italian and she has written for videogames. Lost Objects, a collection of tales about ghosts, loss and landscape, is now available from Luna Press Publishing.
Claudie Arseneault was actually the first person to introduce me to the term solarpunk (a genre I've been rambling non-stop about ever since), through the call for submissions to her solarpunk dragons anthology Wings of Renewal. I've been following her career ever since, and it turns out she's just an all-around good person and awesome writer whom I'm glad to have encountered.
Today, I've invited Claudie onto my blog to talk about her new fantasy novel Baker Thief.
Here's what the book is about:
Adèle has only one goal: catch the purple-haired thief who broke into her home and stole her exocore, thus proving herself to her new police team. Little does she know, her thief is also the local baker.
In a nutshell, what was the path from idea to publication for BAKER THIEF?
I started Baker Thief as a project that would be as fun and tropy as I wanted it to be, a story in which I’d allow myself to write Whatever I Wanted. The first glimpse of the project involved an investigator looking for a thief at a masked ball and a f/f romance—that changed quite a bit, but I was already aiming for The Good Tropes.
I hadn’t even put the first word down before I knew one of the MCs would be bigender and aromantic, and that I didn’t want romance, but a queerplatonic relationship. These stories were near impossible to find (they still are hard, but it got better), and I felt drawn to them. Turns out that was because I was aromantic myself, but I didn’t know at the time. I also… jumped in with as much French as I wanted to, and to have my language in there quickly became incredibly meaningful and important to me.
It took me quite a few drafts to get the ending right, then it made the typical rounds of dev editing through writer friends, sensitivity readers, beta readers, and copyediting. I started the first draft in February 2016, and here we are, about a year and a half later.
What’s your typical writing routine? Do you write at a certain time of day, have word count goals, a particular playlist you listen to, etc.?
It really depends on what part of the process I’m at. If I’m creating new words, typically for first drafts, I will write nearly every day and set word count goals (usually around 700-1,000 for weekdays, and 1,500-2,000 for weekends). As a writer, I do a lot better if my progress is constant. My full-time job makes this rather difficult, however, which means that I will write whenever I can. At least half of Baker Thief has been written on my cellphone during transit, and a good chunk of the other half was over my lunch break.
I don’t have playlists as much as I have artists I’ll put on and listen on loop. And I don’t mean many of them. Most of my previous novels were written and edited on a background of Mumford and Sons. For Baker Thief, though, I stuck to artists from Québec, either Karkwa or Dumas. It felt right to listen to local music for a WIP that drew so intensely from my roots.
What advice do you have for young writers who are struggling through the first draft of a fantasy novel?
The first and most important for me is… don’t give up. Get to the end. Writing the end will teach you so much about the craft, about your story. Even if you end up trashing the story, it will be worthwhile (and you will have finished a draft!). That doesn’t mean you have to power through unquestioningly, though. Different writers need different things to get to the end. I handle unclear drafts very well, so I write start to finish without ever revising what’s behind, even if I decided halfway through I need to make a major change. I just take a note, act like the change is done, and move on. I know writers who couldn’t do that—no chance in hell—so they revise as they go, and their first drafts take longer but are a lot cleaner.
So I guess my biggest piece of advice is experiment. Try things out! See what works for you, what allows you to progress and what just makes you hyper-anxious and unproductive. We all work differently, and sometimes our process even changes from one story to another. But if you find yourself never finishing anything? Find a way to get to that end; you’re limiting your growth otherwise.
You’re very invested in the topic of asexual/aromantic representation. Do you remember the first time you saw this type of character represented well in fiction? What are some other published books that get it right?
My first time was for a sex-repulsed asexual character, Nadin from Fourth World by Lyssa Chiavari. Nadin struggles a lot with her sex-repulsion and there are scenes throughout the novel that felt like someone had spied on my life. One in particular made me set the book down, because I needed time to take it all in.
That was my first time, but by actively seeking representation over the course of the last 2-3 years, I’ve found so many more. I couldn’t even begin to list them all here. I recommend picking up the Chameleon Moon series, as it has an alloromantic asexual MC in the first book, and an aromantic asexual one in the second (and a whole lot more queer disabled diversity). If you’re more a contemporary person, then Let’s Talk About Love is about a biromantic asexual black girl. For aromantic characters, Darcie Little Badger has a wonderful short story, “Nkásht íí”, that is online for free and is all about friendship. I also thoroughly enjoyed A Promise Broken, from Lynn E. O’Connacht—a low-stakes fantasy of manners about a girl grieving and her aroace uncle.
As I said, there are many more out there! You can check out Penny Stirling’s list of aromantic or asexual fiction that’s free online, Queer Books for Teens recommendations for aromantic and asexual, or even access my database which has a record of all the aro or ace fiction I could find, with tags and filters to make it easier to narrow down on what you really want.
How have your own baking adventures informed the development of BAKER THIEF?
Not in major ways. I was already well into the novel by the time I got really into baking, and I’d done my fair share of research before. It did change the way I described it—the details, basically. It’s just not the same until you have both of your hands in the dough and your lower back kinda hurts from all the kneading and you got flour over your clothes again because you keep forgetting an apron.
Do you have any readings or signings coming up? Where can readers find you, online or off?
I don’t have a lot of in-person stuff coming up, but I attend Can*Con every year, and I expect to be at Sirens Con this year, too! October is my convention month, haha. I am much easier to find online, however. I tweet at ClH2OArs and my website is at claudiearseneault.com. You can also support me more directly on Patreon.
Claudie Arseneault is an asexual and aromantic spectrum writer hailfing from Quebec City. Her love for sprawling casts invariably turns her novels into multi-storylined wonders centered on aromantic and asexual characters. Her high fantasy series, City of Spires, started in February 2017. Her next book, Baker Thief, features a bigender aromantic baker and is full of delicious bread, French puns, and magic.
Claudie is a founding member of The Kraken Collective and is well-known for her involvement in solarpunk, her database of aro and ace characters in speculative fiction, and her unending love of squids. Find out more on her website!
Joanne Merriam is the publisher of Upper Rubber Boot Books, a fantastic independent publisher who has brought you amazing books such as Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation and Choose Wisely: 35 Women Up to No Good. Now Joanne is running a Kickstarter to get two new anthologies off the ground. Broad Knowledge features a story by my good friend and Clarion classmate Vida Cruz, as well as stories by Wendy Nikel and Aimee Ogden, two authors I've been lucky enough to work with through World Weaver Press. Sharp and Sugar Tooth looks pretty awesome too, featuring some familiar names that always deliver amazing stories: Catherynne M. Valente, Alyssa Wong, Damien Angelica Walters, Caroline M. Yoachim, and many others.
Check out my interview with Joanne Merriam, and then support the Kickstarter here:
Sarena Ulibarri: Your description for these anthologies says they focus “on ‘bad’ women, and ‘good’ women who just haven’t been caught yet.” This reminds me of that famous quote about “well-behaved women rarely make history.” What made you want to publish stories about this kind of character?
Joanne Merriam: That description is defining ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in reference to what we expect women to be, and I’m really fascinated by social expectations and how people structure their lives to adhere to or challenge them. The women in these anthologies appear to be doing everything ‘right’ while getting their own way, or decide they won’t be held back by others’ expectations, or, tragically, try to adhere to or challenge expectations and pay a terrible price for it.
I hope that the breadth of stories will collectively show different ways of being, and open up a mental space for thinking about their own options for our readers (whether or not they’re women), in addition to entertaining them.
SU: Can you give a couple of teasers about some of the stories we’ll find in BROAD KNOWLEDGE and SHARP & SUGAR TOOTH?
JM: Broad Knowledge includes a scientific paper written by a researcher who contracts Innsmouth Fish-man Syndrome, an article for biblical scholars on a seraph’s visit to Earth, an in-depth ethical discussion for journalists covering a woman who has been quarantined on a military base so her ideas don’t spread to the general population, and a series of newspaper headlines and excerpts covering the invention of time travel—but the story that’s probably the most fun, and also possibly the darkest, is “Mary in the Looking Glass,” about the legendary horror figure Mary Whales, and her ex-lover.
Sharp & Sugar Tooth features the ritual consumption of funerary meat, poison as a replacement for war, chefs who heal society one meal at a time, alien biomes which entirely consume their hosts, and women turning into chocolate, honey, pastry, fish food, and apple-bearing trees. I’m particularly taken with Jasmyne J. Harris’ “What the Bees Know About Discarded Girlish Organs,” in which part of romance is being eaten by your partner, and what happens when people split up before the process is completed. It’s really haunting.
SU: You are editing BROAD KNOWLEDGE, while SHARP & SUGAR TOOTH is being edited by Octavia Cade. Did the two of you take different approaches to curating these books?
JM: Yes, I think so. Octavia is quite brilliant! She struck me as very deliberate and careful and thoughtful about how she structured the book, both in selecting stories and in ordering them, to fit a kind of overall narrative arc. I took a more topic-oriented approach to ordering, and am perhaps not as smart, but I’m always saved by the amazing writers who send in their stories and make me look really good as an editor.
SU: How do these two anthologies differ from CHOOSE WISELY, the first anthology you did of “Women Up to No Good”?
JM: The main difference is the theme, of course: Choose Wisely is all about choices, while Broad Knowledge is about (you guessed it) knowledge, and Sharp & Sugar Tooth about food and consumption. They are also more diverse: Choose Wisely has more white authors, and more Americans, than either of these anthologies, and that’s reflected in the stories in these anthologies being more varied and reflecting more of our world.
SU: You have some excellent writers lined up in these two anthologies. As an editor/anthologist, how do you go about reaching out to writers to ensure a diverse table of contents?
JM: I use social media extensively to reach communities I’m not a part of. For calls for submissions, I post, where appropriate, on the FB groups Call For Submissions; Calls for Submissions (Poetry, Fiction, Art); Open Call: Science Fiction, Fantasy & Pulp Markets; Open Submission Calls for Horror/Paranormal/Mystery/SciFi Writers; Call For Submissions : QUILTBAG; Asian Science Fiction & Fantasy; Feminist Science Fiction; The State of Black Science Fiction; Women of Color Writers' Community; and WOMPO (Women's Poetry Listserv). I also tag writers who I’m interested in seeing work from, and post using hashtags like #diversesff on Twitter and Tumblr, and note the call for submissions in my emailed newsletter, which goes out 2-3 times/year. I’m also on Duotrope, so people who use that to search for markets will find our listings.
When I’m selecting stories, I try to read blind by saving all of the stories under their titles and removing author identities. Of course, it’s never entirely blind because I can recognize some writers’ voices, but I make the attempt, which means that I have to address diversity in my submissions pool before I get to that largely-blind selection stage. Midway through my submissions period, I’ll go quickly through the submissions I’ve received to get a sense of who is submitting, just looking at names, and faces where gmail has included a photo, so I can see if I need to work harder to get the word out to certain communities. It’s necessarily an incomplete and uncertain process, so I try to err on the side of assuming I need to do more work. I try to do this at least a month and preferably longer before submissions close, so people have time to respond to renewed calls for submissions.
SU: What's the process a story goes through between the time it is accepted and the time it is published in an Upper Rubber Boot Books anthology?
JM: External editors have their own editorial processes, but for me there’s editing and proofreading with an outside proofreader, and then there’s all the stuff that goes into making the books themselves. So I go through any edits with the authors (reading closely, sending suggestions for changes), and possibly rewrites if they’re required, and then I figure out what order the stories should go in (usually I try a bunch of different orders until I settle on something that feels right), then create an html file of the stories, which will eventually be part of the ebook (I make the html file first then create the print book file from it so that any errors in the html will get caught). Then I do the formatting for the print files, then send those to the authors to double-check.
Check out some excerpts from these anthologies below, and support the Kickstarter until June 30, 2018 by clicking here.
Full disclosure: Jennifer Lee Rossman is one of the authors I work with through World Weaver Press. We've been lucky enough to snag short stories from her for Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers and Mrs. Claus: Not the Fairy Tale They Say, and she'll have a science fiction novel that is fun and heartbreaking in all the right ways coming out with us in early 2019.
Then again, she's got stories all over the place these days, so other publishers are clearly catching onto her talent! I invited her onto my blog to tell us a bit more about her awesome time travel novella, out now from Kristell Ink.
Here's the description of Anachronism:
It's the same old story: Time traveler meets girl, time traveler tells girl she's the future president, time traveler and girl go on a road trip to prevent a war...
Sarena Ulibarri: In a nutshell, what was the path from manuscript to publication for ANACHRONISM?
Jennifer Lee Rossman: When I wrote ANACHRONISM, I had never been published and, quite frankly, had no clue what I was doing as far as publishing was concerned. I wrote my query letter in about five minutes and proceeded to send it to every publisher that came up in my "sci-fi novella publishers" Google search (typos and all and, in one case, I managed to send two copies of my query letter in one email).
By some miracle, it worked, and Kristell Ink's amazing editor Kate Coe has helped me polish the manuscript and guide me through the confusing world of proof copies and promotion. It's been a long process, but holding an actual book full of my words is the best feeling.
SU: Without too many spoilers, how does time travel work in your novella? Are there limitations and constraints your time traveling characters have to work within?
JLR: Moses doesn't like to give a lot of information about the intricacies of the science involved in time travel, but he does say that paradoxes are possible. There is nothing stopping you from going back in time and killing your ancestor, but it might make your ancestor pretty mad.
SU: What books, authors, or films most influenced you when writing ANACHRONISM?
JLR: The writing style has been compared to Douglas Adams, but that wasn't really a conscious decision. I was really inspired by roadtrip buddy movies. I love the dynamics (and hilarity) that arise when you stick two people in a car and force them to get along, and getting to add sci-fi and save-the-world elements made it really fun to write.
SU: What’s your typical writing routine? Do you write at a certain time of day, have word count goals, a particular playlist you listen to, etc.?
JLR: I write whenever I can, usually listening to 70s and 80s music. I try to write at least one page every time I'm on the computer, which sometimes results in short paragraphs and a lot of dialogue.
SU: What advice do you have for young writers who are struggling through the first draft of a science fiction novel?
JLR: Find other writers in your genre, whether that means a critique group at your library or a couple nerdy people on Twitter who will laugh along with you when you realize you accidentally stole half of your plot from Star Wars.
SU: What are you working on now? And where can readers find you, online or off?
JLR: I'm trying to rewrite a series of novellas I wrote when I was nineteen. They are... not well written, but I think they're fixable. And a bunch of people on Twitter have somehow convinced me to write a book about werewolves in wheelchairs. Called Chairwolves.
I also have a novel, Jack Jetstark's Intergalactic Freakshow, coming out next year with World Weaver Press. The editor is a really nice lady named Sarena Ulibarri, and she definitely did not force me to say that.
I blog at jenniferleerossman.blogspot.com and Tweet @JenLRossman, and you can find my stories in these anthologies on my Amazon page: amazon.com/author/jenniferleerossman
About the Author
Jennifer Lee Rossman is a science fiction geek from Oneonta, New York. When she isn't writing, she cross stitches, watches Doctor Who, and threatens to run over people with her wheelchair. Her work has been featured in several anthologies and her novel, Jack Jetstark's Intergalactic Freakshow, will be published by World Weaver Press in 2019.
I met Michael David Lipkan a few years ago at the Solar Fiesta (New Mexico has a fiesta for everything), an event primarily aimed homeowners looking to install rooftop solar panels, but which also included things like an electric car race, a solar oven cookie bake-off, and educational panels about sustainable architecture, climate change, and other green topics. Michael's presentation on Linear Cities gave me tons of ideas about how solarpunk cities could look and work. So when I started planning the Solarpunk Anthology Translation Kickstarter, I tracked him down to ask if he'd be willing to offer a concept consultation—my hope was that a couple of solarpunk writers might take advantage of his vast knowledge to better inform their own worldbuilding!
Below, please enjoy a brief interview with Michael David Lipkan, in which we talk about sustainable technology, and what kinds of conflicts might still arise in a solarpunk world.
Sarena Ulibarri: There’s a ton of information about sustainable cities on your Imagine Cities website! Can you break down what you think are the most important principles for a sustainable future city?
Michael David Lipkan: Perhaps the most important principle for building a sustainable future city is the ability to live close to the food supply. That idea is integrally linked to many other systems that are part of the processes or supported by the processes that provide food for the citizens.
Renewable energy in all its variety of forms should be integrally linked to the performance of the city. Solar, wind, geothermal, hydroelectric, and biomass conversion are high on the list of renewables we should be using.
SU: Have you seen/read any science fiction movies or books with cities that look like the future you envision?
MDL: I have not read or seen any books that are like the kind of city I envision for the future. As a child I remember reading a story I believe, by Isaac Asimov, about what I call glidewalks. Airports use glide walks to speed passengers along their concourses. Basically, they are moving conveyor belts that people can walk on. I believe we should use many more of these kinds of devices in the future.
SU: Stories still have to have conflict to be interesting, even those set in beautiful eco-friendly cities. What kinds of new conflicts do you think might arise in this kind of a future world?
MDL: I believe certain kinds of conflicts will probably be inevitable despite the humane and eco friendly nature of any city we build. That is because there are conflicts that are a result of emotional disturbances and are not controlled by rational thought.
By reducing design-provoked stress, we make the city easier on our emotions. For me, overhead telephone poles, power lines, and advertising signs have been stressors throughout my life. In the 1970s, main arterial streets packed with business signs seemed like an artist’s nightmare of mismatched juxtapositions of form and color. Hot parking lots, non-point source toxic pollution cocktails caused by environmental contamination, and noise are a few more.
I like to think we can build egalitarian cities in the future. Individual wealth and power would be determined by using a standardized, comprehensive test of mental acuity and physical health. From first grade on, students are taught that doing well in school is paramount to future success in life. This is made believable since pay would be determined by comprehensive test scores and not a person’s job or occupation. The extreme gap between the highest and lowest paid people is reduced enough to cause a universal sense of economic justice. This reduces crime.
Despite efforts to help everyone believe the “Comprehensive Test” is fair, some may believe otherwise and steal to gain more wealth. The concept of self determined pay I am suggesting works within a controlled economy. Simplifying all manufacturing to the point of greatest workability aims to reduce ridiculous variety of similar products while mass producing higher quality for any items made. This is an egalitarian principle.
Healthcare is a right achieved by nationalizing healthcare for all. Healthcare should not be about making profit. That is contrary to the Hippocratic Oath. Additions to the Constitution encourage the consolidation of all healthcare providers. There is no greater reason for government to exist than caring for the people.
Crimes of passion will probably be more difficult to control than greed. The “Seven Deadly Sins” may be with us until enough social control factors are put in place. (Better healthcare for all reduces this probability.) Regardless of how close we come to building a “Justopia” (a portmanteau of justice and utopia) there will probably always be some who think they know better and prefer using violence instead of discourse to get their way.
SU: When did you first become interested in sustainability and alternative energy?
MDL: I have been concerned with concepts relating to sustainability since I was very young. I grew up believing it was wrong to be wasteful. When studying Physics in college I came to believe linear cities could help avoid much wasted energy in our transit systems. That epiphany started a schema in my mind that has grown with me as I learned about new problems. Nearly every problem from global warming to solving world hunger can solved or at least mitigated by building linear cities.
SU: What are some of the newest developments in sustainable technology that you’re most excited about?
MDL: There are many sustainable technologies that should supersede existing practices because they do more with less or accomplish a given job with better results. Higher quality with less muss and fuss. (Less entropy with similar results.)
Vertical farming techniques, under cabinet drawer refrigerators, electric automobiles, water desalinators, 3D printers, modern cell phones, LED TV’s (not LED backlit LCD TV’s), battery storage technologies, geopolymer bricks, light field photography, high speed computers, are an extreme understatement of sustainable technologies worth developing. Nearly everything we do or use as a tool can either be improved upon or eliminated as we consciously evolve toward the future. Everyone plays many parts as the future unfolds. The ideal society encourages everyone to be the best they can be.
Originally from Charles City, Iowa, Michael David Lipkan now lives in Albuquerque, New Mexico. After visiting Arcosanti, an experimental eco-village in Arizona, he became profoundly aware of the dysfunctional nature of our cities, and has spent more than thirty years thinking, writing, creating images, and finding answers to correct our city problems. He is a board member of the New Mexico Solar Energy Association, and is the author of Imagine City: Dream the City Sustainable and Farming in the Sky, both available for free from the iBookstore. Find out more at www.imagine-city.info
Today is release day for Sunvault, a new anthology from Upper Rubber Boot. In Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation, you can find optimistic sci-fi stories by authors such as Daniel José Older, Nisi Shawl, Lavie Tidhar, A.C. Wise, and many more.
Check out my interview with the Sunvault editors, and then pick up a copy of their book at Amazon, Kobo, iTunes, or IndieBound.
And, if you want to support even more solarpunk fiction, check out the Kickstarter to fund the translation of the earliest solarpunk work from Brazilian Portuguese into English: www.kickstarter.com/projects/262808239/solarpunk-anthology-translation
Sarena Ulibarri: Sunvault: Stories of Solarpunk and Eco-Speculation was your first time editing an anthology, right? How did that process go? Was it harder or easier than you anticipated?
Brontë Christopher Wieland: It was! The process has been long, and we’ve done a lot that I used to imagine was unachievable. Like… Phoebe and I ran a Kickstarter that raised over $6000??? Isn’t that territory for people way more adept at the publishing world than I am? Ultimately, the process went much more smoothly than I had anticipated, and I think that was largely because Joanne Merriam of Upper Rubber Boot Books is a powerhouse. She seemed to know the ins and outs of just about everything, and Phoebe and I both learned a lot from her over the last two years.
Phoebe Wagner: I second that about the wonderful, amazing Joanne Merriam. She works so hard to make the SF world a better place, and it was a privilege and important learning experience to work with her at Upper Rubber Boot Books. The anthology was a new experience, and totally rewarding by the end. Reading submissions was fun and exciting (if not exhausting), but I definitely wasn’t sure how to go about helping on social media, which is still a mystery to me. The hardest part was rejecting stories that we liked but weren’t right for the anthology.
SU: Can you give a couple of teasers about some of the stories we’ll find in Sunvault?
BW: How do y’all feel about generation ships, burgeoning sentience in refuse collection droids, solar sails, self-sustaining smart buildings, oil struggles, community-centered educational systems, asteroid mining, reforestation, and planet- and society-saving genetic engineering?
PW: Everything from AR resistance to Strandbeests to genetic modification. Without spoiling the story, one that I think about a lot is “Death of Pax” by Santiago Belluco. It deals with ideas of evolution and genetic modification and the story changed my ideas on GMs and their utilization.
SU: What does the “punk” in solarpunk mean to you?
BW: So so so so so much. This is an important question, because “punk” in a genre name often connotes an aesthetic derivative of cyberpunk’s techno-orientalism, something that is mostly lacking in solarpunk. Solarpunk is still punk as hell, though.
To me, the root of a -punk genre necessarily needs to be countercultural. In a very basic way, solarpunk responds to and challenges SF and Hollywood’s recent spell of “gritty reboot” stories. More deeply, though, solarpunk manifests a counterculture in the ways that it is community-focused, anti-capitalist, decolonial, inclusive, etc. Solarpunk presents an alternative. Every piece in Sunvault is in some way a response to the artists’ concerns for the world around them and a little nugget of hope.
PW: This question comes up a lot from people exploring the solarpunk community, which does have an optimistic element that many seem to consider un-punk. To me, solarpunk is all about resistance, and what’s more punk than that? A resistance of consumerism, capitalism, environmental destruction, selfish individualism, racism, ableism, homophobia, sexism, specisim, and on. Solarpunk has a strong DIY and community aspect that always attracted me to “punk” in general.
SU: What do you most hope to see in new books and stories following the solarpunk tradition?
BW: This sounds corny, I know, but I want to see what more and more new voices bring to the genre; I want to see solarpunk reimagined and reborn with every new story. I want to see what solarpunk looks like to those of cultures, classes, faiths, places not represented in Sunvault. I especially want to see solarpunk become ever more decolonial, and I would love to see indigenous voices from around the world become central to the genre.
PW: Hopefulness, joy, new ways of resistance, community. Speculative fiction has a way of shaping the future (from the early conception of Sunvault, Star Trek and how it inspired the cell phone has been in the back of my mind). Right now, SF is predicting a pretty bleak place. Let’s imagine change and inspire people to create solutions. Like Brontë said, I hope solarpunk gets decolonial AF. I’d love to see more international voices and more connection with the science communities. I day dream of a collaborative series of solarpunk stories/poems/art where the artist and scientists work together to create and inform the solarpunk ideas.
SU: What’s next for you, either as writers or as editors?
BW: First I have to cry a lot, then I have to finish my novel! After that, who knows? Hopefully, I can finally write some solarpunk of my own.
PW: I’m finishing up my graduate thesis right now—a YA novel that, while not solarpunk, does deal with climate change in a non-dystopian way. At least, that’s what I’m trying to do.
Phoebe Wagner grew up in Pennsylvania, the third generation to live in the Susquehanna River Valley. She spent her days among the endless hills pretending to be an elf and eventually earned a B.A. in English: Creative Writing from Lycoming College. Follow her on Twitter: @pheebs_w
Brontë Christopher Wieland is an MFA candidate in Creative Writing & Environment at Iowa State University, where he thinks about language, storytelling, nature, history, community, and their intersections. His fiction has previously appeared in Flash Fiction Online and Hypertext Magazine and his poetry in FreezeRay. Follow him on Twitter: @beezyal
Leena Likitalo is one of the fantastic authors I was lucky enough to get to know at the Clarion Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers' Workshop, which we both attended in the summer of 2014. Though many of our cohort have published a good deal of short fiction since that summer (some of it very well received), and a few have landed small press book deals, Leena is the first of our group to be published with a "Big Five" publisher like Tor. THE FIVE DAUGHTERS OF THE MOON by Leena Likitalo is out today, July 25, 2017, and the sequel, THE SISTERS OF THE CRESCENT EMPRESS will be available in November 2017.
I'm thrilled that more people will finally have the chance to experience the wondrous worlds that flow from Leena Likitalo's fingertips.
Inspired by the 1917 Russian revolution and the last months of the Romanov sisters, The Five Daughters of the Moon by Leena Likitalo is a beautifully crafted historical fantasy with elements of technology fueled by evil magic.
Sarena Ulibarri: In a nutshell, what was the path from manuscript to publication for THE FIVE DAUGHTERS OF THE MOON?
Leena Likitalo: The Five Daughters of the Moon came to me, demanding to be told right at that moment, and perhaps that's why everything happened so very fast.
The story came to me first in November 2014. I had just started in a new job and resolved not to work on any novels for the time being. This story didn't care about that! It was so insistent that I had no other option but to scribble it down as a short story.
The good thing about insistent stories is that they pretty much write themselves. The next summer, when I had some time off from work, I jotted down a synopsis for the duology — by then I'd realized the story was too big and complex for one book. It took me around three months to complete the first draft of the novel, and in November 2015, I had a book in my hands.
I'd been in touch with Claire Eddy—my editor-to-be—before about a different project. While she said no to that one, her kind feedback encouraged me to approach her with my new project in February 2016.
Fast-forward to June of the same year, and there I was with a two-book deal from Tor.com, represented by the wonderful Cameron McClure of Donald Maass Literary Agency.
SU: What advice do you have for young writers who are struggling through the first draft of a fantasy novel?
LL: You can do it. You can. Just keep on writing. Word after word. Sentence after sentence. See, put them after each other like that. There's your first page, chapter, and the rest will follow. It's fine if you don't know how the story is going to end. Eventually you'll get there if you just keep on going.
Keep on writing. Write every day, even if it's just a word, even if that word is wrong, or perhaps it's the right one. One sentence a day is a lot. A whole page? You're on the right track.
Finish what you're writing. Cherish it. Toss it away in shame. Both are fine. As long as you feel something toward what you wrote, you're doing it right. If it's bad, you know you should probably try a different thing next time around. If it's good, then great!
Google. Google your favorite author and how they got where they are now. Read forums on how to become a writer. Learn the trade. Blog post after another, websites, too. Standard manuscript format, synopsis, query, publishing deal anatomy, foreign rights. You want to know all about them. Just in case one day…
So you have a novel in your hands? I'm so happy for you! Is it ready go or do you want to work on it still? It's ready? Then it's time for the next step on your journey.
Query agents. Get rejected. Cry. Get over it. Submit again. Rinse and repeat. This is writer's life.
Put the first novel into a drawer. Start a new one. Rinse and repeat until success follows. It might take only one iteration. Or then nine. But eventually, one day, maybe one day your writerly dreams will come true.
SU: What books, authors, or films most influenced you when writing THE FIVE DAUGHTERS OF THE MOON?
LL: I've always loved Russian literature. When I was fourteen, we read Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky in school. I was the only kid in my class that cheered on the assignment. But darn, that language, the impeding melancholy… that's my cup of tea. And if you want to read a novel with the most fabulous cast of characters ever brought to life, try War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy.
Around the time The Five Daughters of the Moon came to me, I wanted to brush up my Swedish. Maria Turtschaninoff had just won the prestigious Finlandia Junior prize for her novel Maresi, and so I decided to try that one.
Maresi is a quiet and dark story that builds up slowly and stays with you months and months after reading the last page. The women in the story are strong, each in their own unique way. This novel inspired me to seek new dimensions in the stories I had to tell -- I realized that it was possible to write tales where women are in control of their own fates even if the world is set against them.
Now movies, you ask? Gimme historical dramas. I like the aesthetics of Downtown Abbey – the dresses, the country houses, ridiculous dedication to etiquette. Another favorite of mine are the Hercule Poirot movies. The best one is of course Murder on the Orient Express.
SU: What’s your favorite memory from the Clarion Workshop?
LL: Ah, Sarena, you should know that there are too many to name just one!
I think the utmost best thing about Clarion was making connections that last for years and years to come. We're still in touch with my group, and it's been immeasurably valuable to me! No one understands writer's pain and anxiety like another writer… And to see my fellow classmates selling stories and becoming editors – it's a fabulous thing to witness!
SU: How many stories did you write at Clarion, and what became of them?
LL: I had decided that I would write six stories in Clarion, and while I did stay true to my decision, I think I might have been better off with just four or five.
My Week 1 story was not good at all, and I knew it even when writing it. The sole purpose of that story was to remove the writerly blocks lingering in my blood and get going with the actual business of telling tales.
My Week 2 story, Operating Santa's Machine, was a hit amongst my Clarion classmates — but let's just say that there's not much market for naughty Santa stories.
My Week 3 story, Give Your All to the Cause, started as a silly car-ride conversation about buying political favors with organ donations. It took me half a year to finish this story, but once it was done, I was very happy with it. This one found home at Galaxy's Edge magazine and I think it's one of my best scifi stories to date.
My Week 4 story, The Village At the Shadow of a Sleeping Cyclop, crushed me. It spiraled out of control, and I couldn't finish it in the way I wanted. I'm still thinking of fixing it, because I like the imagery and concept. But there's so many stories I really want to tell, that this one might need to wait a few more years still.
After Week 4, I was sure I couldn't piece another story together. And then this epic poem came to me pretty much out of nowhere, and so Ocelia, Ocelia was born. Jeff VanderMeer bought it for weirdfictionreview.com, and there's a Finnish translation available, too, coming out hopefully this year still.
And then there was Week 6 — rather than letting an idea come to me, I decided to go with an idea I'd been toying with for some time already. The end result was crafted rather than organic. Not my finest piece.
SU: Do you have any readings or signings coming up? Where can readers find you?
LL: Worldcon 75 will be organized in Helsinki — my very hometown. I'll be participating in a panel there, and hanging out in countless others.
You can find more about me and these events in www.leenalikitalo.com.
Leena Likitalo hails from Finland, the land of endless summer days and long, dark winter nights. She lives with her husband on an island at the outskirts of Helsinki, the capital. But regardless of her remote location, stories find their way to her and demand to be told.
While growing up, Leena struggled to learn foreign languages. At sixteen, her father urged her to start reading in English, and thus she spent the next summer wading through his collection of fantasy and science fiction novels. She has fond memories of her "teachers": J.R.R. Tolkien, Robert Jordan, Roger Zelazny, and Vernor Vinge.
Leena breaks computer games for a living. When she's not working, she writes obsessively. And when she's not writing, she can be found at the stables riding horses and playing polocrosse.
You can visit her online at www.leenalikitalo.com.
Blood Rose Rebellion is the debut novel by Rosalyn Eves, and it landed on shelves March 28, 2017. The first in a new YA trilogy, Blood Rose Rebellion is historical fantasy set "in a world where social prestige derives from a trifecta of blood, money, and magic, one girl has the ability to break the spell that holds the social order in place."
Rosalyn Eves is another of the amazing writers I met through PitchWars, along with others such as Hayley Stone and S.D. Grimm, whom I interviewed last year. I asked Rosalyn to join me on my blog today to talk about her road to publication and the challenges of writing historical fantasy.
Sarena Ulibarri: In a nutshell, what was the path from manuscript to publication for BLOOD ROSE REBELLION?
Rosalyn Eves: I started writing the book that would become Blood Rose Rebellion in the fall of 2012 (wow—so long ago!). It took me about 9 months to write, and another 9 months to revise. I started querying just before I got into Pitch Wars, so I stopped querying and hunkered down for an intense revision (I cut 27k from the book and added another 24k or so). Pitch Wars really jump started the agent hunt though—I wound up with 16 or 17 requests, plus a few agents from prior contests were waiting for the Pitch Wars revision. I got my first offer about two weeks after sending out my PW novel, and signed with Josh Adams the first part of December. (He wasn't one of the PW agents, but I'd met him at a conference that spring and he requested the full when I'd finished revising). BRR went on submission in mid January, and sold mid February.
Laid out like that, the process (once I finished writing) seems pretty speedy and smooth—but there were plenty of trunked novels before this one!
SU: What kind of things did you learn from your PitchWars mentor when you were getting your PitchWars manuscript ready to query?
RE: I learned that I can be long-winded, and sometimes I need to sacrifice historical accuracy for the sake of the story. For example, the middle was dragging because I was trying to keep the Hungarian revolution on the actual date (3/15/48), but those winter months before the revolution were taking too long to get to the point, so I had to move the rebellion forward a few months. (The opening date, around the start of the London season, was less negotiable). Though I'd been hearing this from other readers, my mentor (Virginia Boecker)'s feedback is what really motivated me to cut and rewrite the middle section.
SU: BLOOD ROSE REBELLION is historical fantasy that takes place at the height of the Austro-Hungarian empire. What was it about this place and time period that made you want to write about it?
RE: I've always been fascinated by the nineteenth-century, so I was automatically drawn to that time period. I'd lived in Hungary for about 16 months in my 20s, and fell in love with the language and culture. When I decided to set the story in Hungary, that automatically narrowed the time frame for the story, because the revolutionary era was so dynamic.
SU: How much research did you have to do to get the historical details right, and what gaps did you have to just fill in for yourself?
RE: I did a lot of research for this book—as much as possible, I tried to rely on real historical details for the world (though obviously, the magic is invented). Food, dress, social customs--I got all those from books. I read history books to get a general feel for the revolution and other historical context, but I also read lots of novels, especially English translations of Jokai Mor, a Hungarian writer who had a fantastic eye for detail, lived through the revolution (and was friends with many of its leaders) and wrote multiple novels about his contemporaries. I also read several travel narratives written by British travelers to Hungary mid-century, who helped me understand how a British transplant might see her new homeland. And of course, I have Hungarian friends who helped me with some of the translations and answered my questions. The hardest research involved Romani culture, as most nineteenth-century records were written by outsiders, not the Romanies themselves. I read as much historical research as I could, talked with experts, and extrapolated some from 20th century ethnographies and first-person narratives by Romanies.
SU: What advice do you have for writers struggling through the first draft of a new fantasy novel?
RE: Keep going. One of my favorite bits of writing advice is that first drafts just have to be finished to be perfect.
The other thing I'd suggest is to read nonfiction--history and culture and economics and anything that can help you flesh out your world. You probably won't be able to lift any details directly (doing so runs the risk of cultural appropriation), but understanding how economics affects government, etc., can help you build a more believable world.
SU: Do you have any readings or signings coming up? Where can readers find you?
RE: I just got done with a short book tour and some local signings, but I will be at Salt Lake Comic Con in September. Readers can always reach me on social media: @rosalyneves (Twitter and Instagram), and https://www.facebook.com/rosalyneveswriter/
Rosalyn Eves grew up in the Rocky Mountains, dividing her time between reading books and bossing her siblings into performing her dramatic scripts. As an adult, the telling and reading of stories is still one of her favorite things to do. When she’s not reading or writing, she enjoys spending time with her chemistry professor husband and three children, watching British period pieces, or hiking through the splendid landscape of southern Utah, where she lives. She dislikes housework on principle.
She has a PhD in English from Penn State, which means she also endeavors to inspire college students with a love for the English language. Sometimes it even works.
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As part of the Apex Revive the Drive subscription drive campaign, I have the privilege of interviewing Apex Magazine managing editor Lesley Connor. I'll admit I haven't read every issue of Apex, but every time I dip into it, I find a new favorite, and some of my all-time favorite short stories have been published there, stories such as "Jackalope Wives" by Ursula Vernon, "Frozen Planet" by Marian Womack, "Paskutinis Iliuzija (The Last Illusion)" by Damien Angelica Walters, and of course "If You Were a Dinosaur, My Love" by Rachel Swirsky. Apex stories are always dark and gorgeous, and stay with you long after you hit the end.
The Apex Subscription Drive runs until April 17, 2017, and features some very cool perks. See the full details here.
Sarena Ulibarri: The aesthetic of Apex Magazine has surely changed and evolved over the years and under different editors. What are some of the stories you feel best define the current Apex aesthetic?
Lesley Conner: This is a fantastic question! And also a really hard one to answer because it isn’t as simple listing personal favorites. Apex Magazine is striving to publish stories that are dark and surreal, stories that push boundaries, that blend genres—or throw genre out the window entirely. We want real human emotions in fantastical worlds. Give us outrage, desperation, sorrow, and then twist it into something new and heart-wrenchingly beautiful. We want stories that introduce us to new worlds, that stretch our imaginations.
None of these are things that are easily defined. But I will give it a shot!
Stories I feel best define the current Apex aesthetic:
This is a pretty fair mix of stories. Different genres, different subject matter. Authors from different backgrounds. But all of these stories have something that says “Apex!” to me when I read them and I think they’d be a good place for new readers who wanted to sample what Apex is about.
SU: What's the process a story goes through between the time it is accepted and the time it is published in the magazine?
LC: We are looking for stories that are pretty close to being ready to publish when we buy them. We do a light copy editing and then a second pass proofreading, but that is basically it.
Saying it that way, it sounds like we should be publishing a story the issue after it’s accepted, but that isn’t the case. We typically have several issues worth of content scheduled at one time. This means when we accept a story, it can be a while before we have the chance to publish it. Which is a good thing for us as a publication, because it allows us to select stories for an issue that fit together. Rather than simply publishing all the stories that we really liked—with no thought or consideration to theme, or pacing, or all the other things that make stories work together—having a cushion of already scheduled content gives us time to make sure we’re publishing a story in the correct issue with other pieces that will compliment it.
SU: Jason is editor-in-chief and Lesley is managing editor—what's the difference in your roles?
LC: Jason would tell you that I’m the one in charge and he just writes the checks. This isn’t true.
I manage things. I know, I know, a really imaginative way to explain what a managing editor does—way to not really say anything, Lesley!—but it’s true. I make sure we have all the pieces we need for each issue: Have the stories been copy edited? Do we have author bios? Have I gotten the interviews back? What is the nonfiction for this month? Did we sell ads for the issue? I make sure that authors have been paid, our slush readers are getting through all the submissions in a timely manner, and handle queries from writers, artists, and readers.
Jason does in fact send all the checks and payments, but he does much more than that. As editor-in-chief, he has the final say on what is going to be included in each issue of the magazine. He selects all the fiction, finds nonfiction, decides which authors we should interview and which story to podcast. He also builds the eBook editions of every issue. While I’m handling all the details, he has to deal with more big picture, long term issues that come with running a digital zine.
Basically, Jason makes all the decisions and I organize the shit out of everything!
SU: Apex Magazine always has fantastic cover art. How do you decide what image will grace each new issue?
LC: Thank you! I love hearing that people enjoy our covers!
Finding cover art is one of my favorite Apex tasks. We don’t try to fit specific artwork with certain issues/stories; I’m more thinking in terms of the other artwork we already have scheduled. I want to make that I’m not focusing too much on a particular color palette or a similar focal point in the image. The last thing that I want is for our covers to become predictable. So it’s a balance of finding artwork that fits the aesthetic Apex desires, while at the same time making sure that view doesn’t become stale.
Lesley Conner is a writer/editor, managing editor of Apex Publications and Apex Magazine, and a Girl Scout leader. When she isn’t handling her editorial or Girl Scout leader responsibilities, she’s researching fascinating historical figures, rare demons, and new ways to dispose of bodies, interweaving the three into strange and horrifying tales. Her short fiction can be found in Mountain Dead, Dark Tales of Terror, A Hacked-Up Holiday Massacre, as well as other places. Her first novel The Weight of Chains was published by Sinister Grin Press in September, 2015. Best of Apex Magazine: Volume 1 marks her debut experience in anthology editing. She lives in Maryland with her husband and two daughters, and is currently working on a new novel. To find out all her secrets, you can follow her on Twitter at @LesleyConner.
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