Weird Tales: Scott H. Andrews on Why I Write Fantasy

Writer: Scott H. Andrews
Weird Tales Story: Excision (Issue #347, Nov/Dec 2007)
Writer Bio: Scott H. Andrews is a chemistry lecturer, a musician, an amateur historian, a luthier, a connoisseur of zymurgy, and a writer. His story A Brief Swell of Twilight won the 2006 Fiction Award from the Briar Cliff Review.

***

When friends read my genre fiction, they often chuckle at the irony of a Ph.D. chemist writing not science fiction but fantasy. I find it ironic as well -couldn’t I be getting some cool use out of all those years in grad school? But the single most interesting thing for me in those years of schooling wasn’t the science, it was the people. Science is a method or a mindset -one I most certainly have, or my bookshelves wouldn’t be organized chronologically. Science is discovering information and designing application. But it’s not quirks and contradictions, like people are or life can be. It’s not awe-inspiring absurdities. And in this hypermodern age, it’s no longer the breathlessly unexpected.

That must be why I write fantasy. I want those quirks and contradictions, in characters and their worlds. I want awe, regardless of whether infection-draining magic or giant winged lizards are scientifically possible. I want the breathlessly unexpected to burst from the page, while also telling me something about who we humans really are.

Fantasy is by no means the only canvas for capturing these traits, but it’s ideal for emphasizing them because it allows us to exaggerate them to entertaining and symbolic levels. Fantasy doesn’t have to focus on science, or on a murder mystery or a scheme for global domination, so it’s free to be about the people. They move through the awe of their exaggerated surroundings, revealing their human quirks and contradictions. Their stories captivate us with the unexpected, while also illuminating our own humanity. And that has to be the single coolest use for infection-draining magic or giant winged lizards.

Shriek in Russian!

A nice surprise–Shriek: An Afterword has been picked up for publication by my Russian publisher. I’m assuming City of Saints and Veniss (one of which is pictured above) must have done decently, considering that this deal is sweeter than the previous two.

Jeff

Weird Tales: Ramsey Shehadeh on Thoughting

Writer: Ramsey Shehadeh
Weird Tales Story: Creature (Issue #347, March/April 2008)
Writer Bio: Ramsey Shehadeh is a computer programmer by day and an aspiring writer by night. He lives close enough to Washington DC to have internalized the casual panic of day-to-day life there, and owns a beagle who was previously employed as one of the heads of Cerberus. His first published short story, Creature, will appear in Weird Tales next year.

*** 

I first went thoughting in the winter of 2002. It was a good time for it — the first day of warm weather after a dreary week of ice and snowstorms. The crowds were out in force. My mentor and I, an old pro named Dan Splendor, got a cup of coffee and took our seats outside a cafe on L street, and watched the hordes go by.

“The secret to thoughting,” said Dan, “is concentration. How do you do it with those magic eye pictures?”

I shrugged. “Not very good.”

“Well, that’s a problem.” He leaned back and hooked his thumbs into his belt. “That’s a problem. Thoughting is all about disambiguation. You got to get past the noise, down to the nut of it all. Take that young lady over there.”

I followed his outstretched finger to a worried-looking woman hurrying by on stilt heels, staring down at a blackberry. A dark mass of thought roiled over her head.

“Tell me what you see,” said Dan. “Hurry now.”

I squinted at the cloud. It beat like a heart. Sparks played along its surface, and occasional bolts of lightning arced out of its center like darting serpents.

“Wow,” I said. “That’s a mess.”

“Keep looking.”

“I can’t …”

“There, in quadrant four. Look.”

I squinted at the lower right portion of the cloud, and then I saw it. A shimmering notion, bright vermilion and shaped like a kidney bean. I blinked, and blinked again, just to make sure I was seeing it right.

“Is that a Haberdasherenvy?”

“Yup,” said Dan. There was a broad smile on his face. He took out a notebook and made a notation. “Third one this week.”

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The Behemoths Approach

Yep, they do.

The only real question for the serious genre devotee is what plan of attack will work best–something you must work out before receiving the books. Once gazing upon their thick spines and mind-blowing covers, you will no doubt be struck dumb and senseless, unable to think properly.

Top Three Reasons I Can’t Wait to Finish This Predator Novel

#3 – Cats unwilling or unable to pay attention long enough to help me properly choreograph the relevant battle scenes.

#2 – Sick of writing “Suddenly the Predator popped out of the bushes and killed [the character whose life history was just laid out before you in the prior chapter].”

#1 – The perfect Padron 1926 series hand-rolled cigar waiting for me upon completion.

Jeff

PS I will continue to be a bad correspondent until Jan. 14, folks. Have a good holiday week.

Weird Tales: Hunter Eden on My Three Bogeymen – Memories of a Good Childhood

Writer: Hunter Eden
Weird Tales Story: Selected Views of Mt. Fuji, With Dinosaurs (Issue TBD 2008)
Writer Bio: Hunter Eden is a Nashville-based writer of weird fiction. He recently finished an alternate-historical mob novel, Mr. Incan Empire, currently represented by the Faye Swetky Agency. Hunter lives with a lone cat, “Hellcat” Maggie Grimalkin, works at a hotel, and has gone unthreatened by bipedal saber-toothed tigers for most of his adult life. He welcomes comments at <smokingmirror4444 at gmail.com>.

***

When I was in first grade, I had three major demons in my life and I mean that literally. I guess I’d probably be showing my age if I say that while my classmates were having nightmares about Freddy Krueger and a troubled Dutch-American youth named Jason Voorhees, hockey masks and bladed gloves didn’t figure into my world. All my bogeymen were homemade, so there was no comfort of the “Relax, it’s only a movie” sort. Let’s start with Mr. Evil Eyes, since he bothered me the least.

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Weird Tales: Matthew Pridham on The Artful Silence

Writer: Matthew Pridham
Weird Tales Story: Renovations (Issue #348, Jan/Feb 2008)
Writer Bio: Matthew Pridham writes, reads, and lives in New Mexico. He is a fan of Nabokov, Argento and Dickinson. He believes in instant-runoff voting, universal healthcare, and writing things in lists of three.

***

Where does the pleasurable fear of the unknown lie? Lovecraft told us “… the oldest and strongest kind of fear is the fear of the unknown,” (Supernatural Horror in Literature, 1939.) He ascribes this largely to our evolutionary history, all those long ages of not knowing where the lightning came from, what the nature of death is, why the saber-toothed tiger burns so bright. His macrocosmic theories and interests led directly to his brand of “weird fiction”, a style that could almost be called the Dark Speculative or Scientific Horror or Sci-Ho or whatever someone of a more categorical bent might wish to label it.

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Weird Tales: chiles samaniego on Being Asked

Writer: chiles samaniego
Weird Tales Story: Time and the Orpheus
Writer Bio: chiles samaniego started out wanting to be a storyteller, like John Hurt in Jim Henson’s The Storyteller, but by putting words down on paper rather than speaking them out loud by a fire to a cheeky dog. Later, however, he realized he was better at rambling insensibly. He dreads growing up to be that uncle, and spends a lot of time trying not to worry about it.

***

A while back, Neil Gaiman flew to the Philippines, saw how steeped in realism our literature appeared to be and began endorsing the first Philippine Graphic/Fiction Awards to promote what he called “Filipino Unrealism”. Here: “There is a strong tradition of Filipino realism in literature; I want to encourage Filipino unrealism.”

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Happy Holidays!

Something shimmering and heavy hit Nikolai’s side of the jeep with a force that cracked metal, and in that split second before the jeep overturned and they all went spilling out onto the ground, onto the road, Nikolai felt something right beside his head, something that made a growling-clicking sound that made him scream, and behind it the sensation of great weight and a smell like rotting meat so that he steeled himself for a blow, but no blow came, just the delicate scrape of a clawed hand across his face, receding as the changed momentum of the jeep and his own inertia carried him away from the creature, and he cried out again as time released him and he was thrown clear, so relieved, so happy to be away from that awful alien presence that he didn’t care if he lived or died.

Weird Tales: Calvin Mills on The Element of Weird

Writer: Calvin Mills
Weird Tales Story: The Stone and Bone Boy (Issue #348, Jan/Feb 2008)
Writer Bio: Calvin Mills is a short story writer and essayist. His recent work has appeared in Short Story, The Caribbean Writer, and the Tales from the South Vol. 1. He was raised behind the Redwood Curtain, and currently lives and teaches in Port Angeles, Washington.

***

A psychedelic toad, a half-sized mute, a hypnotized antelope, and a Dominican child prostitute who plays the violin — what do these things have in common? They all appear in short stories I’ve written. But they are also attempts to satisfy an often overlooked element of fiction.

Writers know most of the elements of fiction by heart: plot, character, setting, tone, point of view, style, language, theme, symbolism, allegory, and image. But there is another important element that often goes unacknowledged — the “weird” element. Good writers know this. So do good filmmakers. If you don’t believe me, watch David Lynch’s “Blue Velvet” or his new epic “Inland Empire.”

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