Monday, 30 January 2023

Micro-interview with Simon Kewin

Simon Kewin, author of “His New Body” in The Future Fire #64, joins us for a mini-chat.


Art © 2023 Miguel Santos

TFF: What does “His New Body” mean to you?

Simon Kewin: For me, this is a story about the powerless and the marginalized finding a road and a voice—told as a somewhat off-the-wall urban ghost story! Sometimes, I'm sure, we all feel invisible, and the characters in this little story simply find their own odd ways to rectify that.

TFF: If you had to make yourself a new body from inanimate objects, what would you choose?

SK: Highly-polished wood would look nice, but I'd probably go for something that wouldn't ever wear out. Also, we obviously need to be reusing stuff a lot more—so perhaps discarded scraps of metal and plastic?

TFF: What can you be found doing when you're not creating/writing?

SK: I do a lot of walking and a fair bit of running.

TFF: What are you working on next?

SK: I've just completed the third novel in my Office of the Witchfinder General series (published by Elsewhen Press) and I'm either going to move onto the fourth of those, or perhaps a completely unrelated science fiction novel.


Extract:
He waited for the safety of night. Night and cold kept the people—the living people—off the streets, and this was a raw winter night of ice and fog. If he stayed away from the bright lights he’d be, at most, just a ghost image on grainy CCTV feeds, easily missed.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the stories or illustrations in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/01/new-issue-202364.html.

Monday, 23 January 2023

Micro-interview with Ujjvala Bagal Rahn

We welcome Ujjvala Bagal Rahn, author of the poem “Going Under” in The Future Fire #64, to chat with us about this work, mythology and art.


TFF: What does “Going Under” mean to you?

UBR: I’m thinking of the depression of people with all their cares, depression& that they deny is happening. Persephone is a sad character, always pulled back underground.

TFF: Do you think stories from mythology tell us about eternal truths, universals that will always be relevant?

UBR: Stories from mythology are wonderful, holy even, because of their ambiguity, as profound as poetry. How fair is it that Persephone is tricked into eating the taboo pomegranate seeds, condemning her to a half-year underground? Yet, why couldn’t Demeter or Persephone find another trick to save her? I’ve thought that swallowing the seeds from the underground world of the dead made her part of it, and so she feels drawn back. Now that I think of it, this myth could also represent addiction. What would be really interesting is a happy interpretation of Persephone's story…

TFF: Would you use a piece of art to tell someone that you love them?

UBR: I have in fact written poems for my husband and daughter, normally about some aspect of them or their lives that resonate with me. My husband and daughter each has a binder to keep copies of “their own” poems— enough for at least a chapbook each, I’d guess. Each poem was a holiday gift.

TFF: What are you working on next?

UBR: I am sending out my second poetry collection Memories Lounge out to competitions. In addition, I like the idea of chapbooks, so I have been collecting poems for three—holidays, Buddha-themed, and on my thirty-plus year relationship with my husband Marty, who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair.


Extract:

Like Persephone, you hear
the rivers gurgling in the caves,
like bells that sing, “Come to us,
you know you want to.” Don’t you?

Reminder: You can comment on any of the stories or illustrations in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/01/new-issue-202364.html

Monday, 16 January 2023

Micro-interview with Joyce Chng

We’re delighted to have a little chat with Joyce Chng, illustrator of “Solitary” in The Future Fire #64.

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Solitary”?

Joyce Chng: As usual, I read the story and let the images come to me naturally. For "Solitary", the visual images came easily. First, forests, and then crown shyness.

TFF: Is there a theme-song to your current work-in-progress?

JC: There are many projects I am working on. Contracted gigs and self/personal projects. I have my Joan of Arc “PhD”/independent research. I have also started feeler paragraphs on something I’d always wanted to write for a long time (since 2001!). It’s a fantasy, to say the least. So, the theme-song is “Remembrance” from Delerium’s Karma album. 

TFF: With whom, alive or dead, would you most like to collaborate, and on what?

JC: Terri Windling. I would like to collaborate with her on animal people. (I also miss Terri—met her when she visited Singapore for Singapore Writers' Festival).


Reminder: You can comment on any of the stories, poems or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/01/new-issue-202364.html.

Monday, 9 January 2023

Micro-interview with Jonathan Olfert

We welcome Jonathan Olfert, author of “The Thousand Tongues of Sara” in The Future Fire #64, to answer a few short questions.


Art by Cécile Matthey, © 2023
TFF: What does “The Thousand Tongues of Sara” mean to you?

Jonathan Olfert: I found a lot of meaning in the fear and excitement of engaging with a diverse universe through languages and food. I’ve lived in something like fifteen towns and cities across North America: I’ve blundered through language barriers and loved all manner of cuisines.

TFF: What other species on Earth do you think should count as sapient (if we manage not to drive them to extinction in the meantime)?

JO: Drawing a firm person/not-person dichotomy has rarely been on the right side of history, but based on metacognition, tool-making, ritual, humor, and language, yes, some kinds of cephalopods, great apes, and cetaceans are people. Where the rubber hits the road: I eat pork but not octopus.

TFF: What are you working on next?

JO: These days I’m trying genre after genre to see what really clicks. I’ve sold bits of paleofiction, horror, poetry, and sword-and-sorcery, and I’ve given myself permission to write about neurodivergent people like me. Who knows, maybe next year I’ll be engrossed in romance and experimental lit fic. It could happen.


Extract

Humans, the matriarch Sara understood, experienced time as a thing to be counted, as if days were hyenas guarding a watering hole. They’d used only numbers (310 days each way, plus 40 on the alien world, all carefully translated) to tell her how long she’d be away from Earth. What they should have said, if they cared, was that she’d miss family and sky as long as any of her pregnancies had been, with just as many tears.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the stories, poems or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/01/new-issue-202364.html.

Tuesday, 3 January 2023

Monday, 14 November 2022

Micro-interview with Annika Barranti Klein

We had a brief chat with Annika Barranti Klein, author of “AITA for throwing away my wife’s haunted dolls?” in The Future Fire #63.


TFF: What does “AITA for throwing away my wife’s haunted dolls?” mean to you?

Annika Barranti Klein: I love dolls, the more haunted-looking, the better, which seems to bother a lot of people. Like, a lot of people are really anti-doll! I wanted to write a story about haunted dolls, and this story was what happened when I sat down to try. I love it, and I know all of the dolls’ names, even though they didn't make it into the story. Their leader, Eleanor, is based on a doll of mine.

TFF: What famous work of art would you like to hang over your bed?

ABK: Flaming June, the painting by Sir Frederic Leighton, which belongs to Museo de Arte de Ponce in Puerto Rico, who bought it for something like $120 when it went on auction in 1960 and was considered largely worthless; I find this little piece of art history absolutely outrageous. (The painting is currently at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, on loan while repairs are made to Museo de Arte de Ponce, which sustained damages in the 2020 earthquake. If you are nearby, go see it for me!)

TFF: What are you working on next?

ABK: I'm writing a contemporary romance novel! It contains zero dolls, but does have an adorable Pomeranian.


Extract:
My wife (f42) and I (f43) have been married for 15 years. We have two kids (f13, f11) and live in a very small apartment. She is a painter and keeps a small studio space about ten minutes away by car. These two rents are the absolute maximum our budget allows, so the girls share a bedroom and we all generally live on top of one another. Prior to the pandemic everyone’s schedules overlapped in such a way that it wasn’t too crowded most of the time, but this last year has been very challenging. I don’t think we’re special in this regard and I know it’s been difficult for everyone, but there is one issue I am having that I believe is unique, and that’s what I need your help with.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the stories or illustrations in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2022/10/new-issue-202263.html

Thursday, 10 November 2022

Micro-interview with Adriana C. Grigore

We invited Adriana C. Grigore, author of “Seams of Iron” in The Future Fire #63, to answer a few short questions.


Illustration © 2022 Katharine A. Viola

TFF: What does “Seams of Iron” mean to you?

Adriana C. Grigore: I have some distinct memories of my grandmother reading H.C. Andersen’s The Wild Swans to me when I was little and of me being a little too enthralled by all the nettles in it each time. Lately I’ve become aware I have this fascination with curses; not just with their nature, and certainly not with how they’re broken, but with how characters manage to live in spite of them and how their lives change to accommodate them. I could make a joke and say this is me projecting my chronic pain on every character I touch, but I wouldn’t really be joking that much. Erin’s story was many things, but at the end of the day it was a way of showing that no matter how many things you carry with you, you can eventually find a place that is just the right shape for you.

TFF: Is there one of your ancestors that you would particularly like to meet? What would you ask them?

ACG: Infrequent record-keeping in rural areas around here means that once I look back more than three or so generations, it’s hard to find out much about my family, so I am not particularly picky about which ancestor I’d like to meet, as long as I would meet one. I would probably ask them something like, So what stories did your parents scare you with when you were little?

TFF: What are you working on next?

ACG: I’m currently drafting a fantasy novel about curses (as I was saying), bone magic, and various tidbits of Romanian folklore, but I have also been nursing a few darker short story ideas that I’d like to delve into very soon.


Extract:
When Erin first found the witch’s hut, it was past dusk, and birds were slicing the last spill of sunlight from the horizon, letting it fall like ribbons into the wild, rippling sea. The wind was so strong that the wood of the walls creaked, as if the hut was of half a mind to just let itself be taken away, broken and splashed into the air, like a dry image of a shipwreck. The thistle and chamomile and hyssop that lay around the garden fence were blown back from the cliffside, nearly doubled down to the earth, then shaken around, when the wind turned.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the stories or illustrations in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2022/10/new-issue-202263.html

Monday, 7 November 2022

Micro-interview with Shelly Jones

We welcome Shelly Jones, author of “A Sea Change” in The Future Fire #63, to join us for a few words.


TFF: What does “A Sea Change” mean to you?

Shelly Jones: I originally wrote “A Sea Change” for the Boundaries themed issue of Myriad. I liked the concept of Boundaries and, because my spouse is a math professor, I wanted to incorporate the mathematical notion of boundaries in the piece. After some initial research and many after-dinner conversations about math, I knew I wanted to write about hyperbolic crochet. I love to knit and crochet and I was drawn to the idea of interweaving math and fiber arts and climate change. In “A Sea Change” I hoped to explore how relationships evolve, how love is not always picture perfect, and how we hold on to one another, even if we don't always understand what we need.

TFF: Do you ever switch off, step away from the machine?

SJ: I do, but I should do so more. I try to hike or take long walks in my small town, and these allow me to unplug, give myself permission to not answer an email that just landed in my inbox. These walks also let my brain think in a different way, stepping into a different rhythm of birdsong and wind instead of keyboard clacking and discord dinging. I usually bring a tiny notebook and pen in case a phrase or idea sprouts and I want to capture it right away, afraid I'll lose it by the time I've returned home.

TFF: What are you working on next?

SJ: I always have a few different works in progress that I'm poking at, some with more fervor than others. At the moment, one of the (many) tabs I have open is a sci-fi short story set during the Cold War. Like many of my stories, it deals with loss and a woman making her own path (in this case: to the moon).


Extract:
Like many obsessions, yours started as a distraction, a way to keep your mind off the pain. The doctor said crocheting would be good for your arthritis, the gentle movement keeping your fingers limber. As we drove home from the appointment, we stopped at a craft store, despite our lingering doubts.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the stories or illustrations in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2022/10/new-issue-202263.html

Thursday, 3 November 2022

Micro-interview with Katharine A. Viola

We’re delighted to have Katharine A. Viola, illustrator of “Seams of Iron” in the Future Fire #63, over to answer a few questions.

Illustration © 2022 Katharine A. Viola

TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Seams of Iron”?

Katharine A. Viola: There are many beautifully written descriptions in this story, but what really stood out to me was the magic involving the plants, such as nettle, being spun into a thread. Immediately I had ideas about how I wanted to create this image. Additionally, at the end, the snapping of the feather, was really special and I felt it was necessary to include.

TFF: Who or what is your favourite monster?

KV: I love a monster whose back story wasn't always evil; a creature so sad and desperate they felt they had to resort to evil, even though life always presented a choice. Kind of like Darth Vader… so sad, and often relatable.

TFF: Is there a difference for you between creating artwork to order, and composing purely from your own imagination?

KV: Absolutely! I can't stress that enough. While I love to create for other people; something different happens when you create for yourself; a piece of you goes into the work and it will forever be an extension of who you are.


Reminder: You can comment on any of the stories or illustrations in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2022/10/new-issue-202263.html

Monday, 31 October 2022

Micro-interview with Jennifer Hudak

We welcome Jennifer Hudak, author of “Spindle House” in The Future Fire #63, for this tiny interview.


Illustration © 2022 Eric Asaris
TFF: What does “Spindle House” mean to you?

Jennifer Hudak: As women age, we often lose societal power, but that doesn't mean our power is gone; it’s just hidden. In “Spindle House,” I explore what power might look like as we age, and how we might wield that power as a community.

TFF: Who is your favourite kick-ass woman from history?

JH: I have a real soft spot for Susan B. Anthony, who lived in my town. She devoted her life to the Women’s Suffrage movement and, alongside Frederick Douglass, became an abolition activist. While she died before women got the right to vote, it’s a local tradition for women to make a pilgrimage to her grave on voting day, and put their “I voted” sticker on her headstone.

TFF: What are you working on next?

JH: I’m currently revising my first novel. It’s a portal fantasy in which a 45-year old woman, her 13-year old daughter, and her 70-year old mother all travel to a portal universe together.


Extract:
Only the crones can hear Spindle House’s call. They alone recognize the whispering of its windows and the keening of its attic, and the ones who follow the call all the way to the front door are allowed admittance. Once ushered inside, the crones do not impose their will on the House, don’t tear down the sagging porch or reupholster the sitting room chairs. They know enough to leave the cobwebs intact, and the House loves them for it. For the crones are no mere inhabitants, and the House is no object to be owned. They are, all of them, peers. They are confidants. They are a coven.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the stories or illustrations in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2022/10/new-issue-202263.html

Thursday, 27 October 2022

How to Break a Curse

How To Break A Curse

Guest post by Tenacity Plys

If you’ve ever tweeted about feeling like a changeling, you’re probably neurodivergent. That was one of the signs for me: that ugly duckling feeling of being so fundamentally different from the other kids in your grade you could be a separate species. Basically, if the popular kids treated you like you weren’t human in middle school, you might have been considered inhuman in the Middle Ages as well—you would have been a changeling.

While changelings were babies disowned by their parents as too strange to be human, that narrative is complicated by the fact that neurodivergence is genetic. While some members of a family might be noticeably different enough to be diagnosed, some people fly under the radar their whole lives. Thinking back on family stories I’ve heard over the years, I realized I’d never know how many people in my family were like me. They didn’t even know it themselves!

With that in mind, when I sat down to write about neurodivergence and the changeling myth, I didn’t just want to write about one changeling. I wanted to write about generations of them. The book that resulted is called Family Curse, but neurodivergence isn’t the curse—curses work better as a metaphor for generational trauma. The neurodivergence of the characters isn’t a metaphor for anything, actually; I just think it’s cool.

Like every story, Family Curse is about what people in the present will do with what they inherit from the past. The autobiographical level of my work is usually an exegesis of some aspect of my personal past that can illuminate my way forward (even if it takes me years to see what my subconscious was trying to tell me when I wrote it, lol). In a larger sense, the past can mean our inheritance from the last generation, our society’s institutions, or something else, depending on who’s telling the story and who’s listening. Curses trouble the passage from past to future.

In curse narratives, the past makes war on the present, dragging characters back in time to repeat cycles of violence. The Oresteia visualizes a curse as a flock of Furies stalking the palace at Mycenae; these bird-women represent lust for revenge, which is the fatal flaw of Atreus, then Agamemnon, then Clytemnestra, then Orestes and Electra. It’s like the House of Atreus has a vendetta against itself, and tellingly, no revenge killing can resolve it. Orestes finally breaks it by… *checks notes* …inventing Athenian democracy? As an ending it sounds weird, but this abrupt left turn is a lesson: turning to justice rather than revenge is what quiets the Furies and their endless clamoring for more blood. In other words, that’s how a curse can be broken.

Since the Atreus curse always appears in the form of one family member killing another because they believe it will give them justice for past wrongs, I would argue that’s literally all their curse is—no bird-women needed. A classics professor in The Secret History speculates that what the ancients called fate is actually another word for what we call psychology; characters in Greek drama have free will despite the fact that their “fatal” flaws make their actions look deterministic. In this way, one act of violence centuries ago can echo down the generations, even when memory of the actual event is lost.

When we don’t even remember the origin of a family curse, how do we make sense of ourselves, let alone find a path to healing? If a missing piece of my familial puzzle came to me at 28, how many more are left to find? I wrote my book as a replacement for the fragments of history I can never get back—not just for my biological family, but the people like me through the centuries whose stories will never be told. If I’m lucky, this (and therapy) will get the Furies to leave me alone.


You can pick up Tenacity Plys’s novella Family Curse - Field Notebooks 1880–2020 as a print chapbook or e-book from Bottlecap Press at https://bottlecap.press/collections/on-sale-now/products/curse.

Monday, 24 October 2022

Micro-interview with Joyce Chng

We invited over Joyce Chng, author of “Treacle Blood” in The Future Fire #63, to answer a few questions.


Illustration © 2022, L.E. Badillo
TFF: What does “Treacle Blood” mean to you?

Joyce Chng: I wrote "Treacle Blood" in year one (or two?) of the pandemic, I think—and writing it brought out all the emotions I'd felt about viruses, performativity, and baring one's soul to an audience who may or may not care. As writers and artists, why do we keep baring our souls (and our metaphorical veins) to audiences who only take and have never given back. In the story, the protagonist/MC keeps on performing even though it saps her physical and mental strength, simply because there is a need. She needs to perform.

TFF: If you had to invite the protagonist of your current work-in-progress to dinner, what would you cook for them?

JC: My current work-in-progress (amongst many) is a YA cosy murder mystery set in the same world of Fire Heart, a YA novel about coming-of-age, swords and swordmaking. The protagonist in this WIP is a young woman apprentice priestess. So, the meal will be simple: home-made rye bread and morani stew (which roughly translates to chicken stew in our world).

TFF: What is your favourite library?

JC: I might sound biased here, but the Singapore National Library (main branch) is my favourite. It's a huge modern building housing more than four levels of books as well as space for performance arts. It has its own cafe as well.


Extract:

“You don’t have to cut open your veins,” the old woman warned me, “just to let them feed on you.”

Reminder: You can comment on any of the stories or illustrations in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2022/10/new-issue-202263.html