Craving Authenticity: a reading of Tom McCarthy’s Satin Island

“Reading Tom McCarthy’s fiction induces a certain kind of mania,” writes Duncan White in The Telegraph. “It demands to be unpacked and decoded, charted and mapped. Every chapter – no, every sentence – invites you to plunge deeper into the book’s dark pool, groping for the submerged pattern. It is as if you are trying to read two books at once. There is the conventional one – paper and ink – but this is only the gateway to the second, which is a vast virtual blueprint of the novel’s hidden architecture, detailing its dizzying connections. Reading a McCarthy novel is like being in a McCarthy novel: everything is part of a fizzing network, the scope of which can never be fully apprehended.”

It’s an uncannily accurate description of this uncannily accurate novel. I recognized the sensation instantly: that induced mania.

Revisiting “Love Is The Spell That Casts Out Fear,” a story about love, sacrifice, and magic

Far Fetched Fables is a great podcast that has featured many of my most favorite writers, so I was very happy when they asked to present my story “Love Is The Spell That Casts Out Fear,” originally published in John Joseph Adam’s The Way of the Wizard in 2010. A tiny excerpt:

The wizard lives alone in a tiny house at the forest’s edge. To the north are the tangled woods, home to unlikely zoological and botanical specimens the wizard has spent several lifetimes cataloging; she plans to spend several more. To the south lies the city: Perta Perdida, the City of Lost Girls.

The girls of Perta Perdida call the wizard Hanna D’Forrest, when they think of her at all. She’s charged with their protection. Whether this responsibility is one for which she volunteered, or one forced upon her, they no longer remember. Neither does she. Time moves differently here, languid as a summer stream. A place of refuge, this city was built to elude change. If they could trap this world like a leaf in amber, they would. But in the absence of that kind of magic, they settle for slowed clocks. They cling to their world as tightly as they can.

 

You can download Far Fetched Fables #88 here. Along with my story, read by Heidi Hotz, the episode includes flash fiction by Melody Marie Sage, read by Catherine Logan.

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If podcasts aren’t your thing, the full text of the story is freely available here, along with a fantastic short introduction that I think is really insightful about what I was hoping to do with the story.

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When the The Way of the Wizard came out, editor John Joseph Adams published interviews with several of the authors. You can read my interview here. 

Tell us a bit about your story. What’s it about?

My story is actually two stories. One story is about an average girl who lives in a middle-class suburb, attends a typical evangelical Christian church, and hides a big secret. The other story is about a girl wizard who lives in a fantastical city called Perta Perdida, where lost girls from every universe escape to be safe. Of course, the two stories are really the same story. That story is about the sacrifices we make for people we love, and the way our fantasy lives give us the power and courage to make these sacrifices.

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

When I first set out to write a story about a wizard, I knew I wanted to write something that would explore magic and wizardry in a metafictional way. I adore M. John Harrison’s story “Seven Guesses of the Heart,” which beautifully engages the idea of magic and what it means — as well as what it is and isn’t capable of changing. Inspired by this story, I wanted to write something in a similar vein. I also knew I wanted to write something with anachronistic elements, using signifiers and scenery that would disassociate the story from any particular place or time.

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Listen to the podcast

Read the story

Read the interview

Buy the anthology 

 

 

What the #@&% Is That? The Saga Anthology of the Monstrous and the Macabre

Ranging from irreverent humor to straight out horror, What the @#&% Is That? grew from a meme on Twitter when iconic comic book artist Mike Mignola painted a monster. Nobody knew what the F it was, but they loved it. 

What the @#&% Is That?, edited by John Joseph Adams and Douglas Cohen,  is forthcoming from Saga Press in August 2016 and includes my story “Down in The Deep and the Dark.”

Tomorrow’s Cthulhu: Stories at the Dawn of Posthumanity

Tomorrow's Cthulhu
Gleaming labs whir with the hum of servers as scientists unravel the secrets of the universe. But as we peel away mysteries, the universe glances back at us. Even now, terrors rise from the Mariana Trench and drift down from the stars. Scientists are disappearing—or worse. Experiments take on minds of their own. Some fight back against the unknown, some give in, some are destroyed, and still others are becoming… more.

 

 

Forthcoming from Broken Eye Books… Tomorrow’s Cthulhu: Stories at the Dawn of Posthumanity, edited by Scott Gable and C. Dombrowski. The anthology includes my story “The Great Dying of the Holocene.”

Pre-order now for release on 1/21/16.

 

“Construction Project” at Nightmare Magazine

My short story “Construction Project” is live at Nightmare Magazine, the new horror publication edited by John Joseph Adams. I’m excited and humbled to appear in this issue alongside such luminaries as Ramsey Campbell, Joe Haldeman and Poppy Z. Brite.

Also check out the author spotlight, which may shed some light on the more ambiguous aspects of the story. Nightmare Magazine’s Editorial Assistant Seamus Bayne asked me some great, thought-provoking questions — fun to answer and hopefully fun to read!

 

Strange Survival in Jerome Bixby’s “It’s A Good Life”

At Weird Fiction Review, I discuss science fiction author Jerome Bixby’s 1953 short story, “It’s a Good Life.” Read the story (it’s utterly haunting), then check out my review:

 

But “It’s a Good Life” – the story that elevated Bixby from forgettable pulp scribbler to science fiction grand master – well, it’s different. If Bixby’s other stories began as tales told around the campfire, this one began with a cold sweat in the middle of the night. “It’s a Good Life” is a slowly building nightmare; each layer is a new realization of powerlessness and despair.

The story centers on Anthony, a psychic three-year-old who possesses the power to change the world with his thoughts. Anthony’s unfortunate family and neighbors do all they can to avoid attracting his notice. Mostly, this means living in a constant state of bland cheer, not just in word, but also in mind.

 

The Triumph of the Unseen in Tanith Lee’s “Yellow and Red”

My article on Tanith Lee’s weird short story, “Yellow and Red,” is now live at Weird Fiction Review. Weird Fiction Review is also running another short story by Tanith Lee, the creepy “Where All Things Perish” — which I also touch on in my essay. There is also an interview with Tanith Lee.

I discovered Tanith Lee’s work in 2002, on one of those serendipitous library strolls. (I worked in the stacks at Emory’s Woodruff Library, so those happened a lot.) At the time, her work was a revelation for me. I devoured The Silver Metal Lover and Electric Forest, amazed by the aesthetic. I’d never read such lush, bewitching romantic science fiction. For the first time I began to imagine, in the larger sense, what a feminine voice in science fiction might look like. And so, I began to think that I might be able to find my own voice, one influenced but not dictated by the boy’s club of cyberpunk and postmodern metafiction.

All that to say, Tanith Lee will always be one of my heroes, and I jumped at this chance to revisit her work. Please, if you have a moment, go read about Tanith Lee!

“Thirteen Incantations” reprinted in Heiress of Russ 2012

My story “Thirteen Incantations,” first published in Realms of Fantasy in February, 2011, is being reprinted in Heiresses of Russ 2012: The Year’s Best Lesbian Speculative Fiction, edited by Connie Wilkins and Steve Berman. The anthology will be released on October 1st, but you can preorder it now. My story gets a shout-out in this positive review from Publisher’s Weekly. The anthology looks gorgeous, and I am so happy to be included.