Tuesday 30 May 2023

Micro-interview with Cécile Matthey

We’re delighted to receive a visit from our old friend Cécile Matthey, illustrator of “Live off the Land” in The Future Fire #65.

Illustration © 2023 Cécile Matthey

 TFF: How did you go about illustrating “Live off the Land”?

Cécile Matthey: The main theme of this evocative story is a forest. It is a kind of maze in which visitors get lost and trapped. So I drew a wood of beech trees, with rows of bare straight trunks which seemed to convey the right atmosphere. But I couldn’t resist showing the exit, as discrete lines of light in the background. In the second illustration, I wanted to show the protagonist. Their looks remain quite mysterious, but we are told their eyes are “too green” from the long stay in the forest—a colour which happens to be quite elegant!/p>

TFF: Tell us about an artist whose work you're particularly enjoying at the moment?

CM: I recently saw an exhibition featuring works by a Swiss woman artist, Marion Morel-Pache. She glues natural stones with pieces of wood or metal together to make sculptures she calls “pierr’sonnages” (stone characters). Some of them are incredibly expressive and touching. Her website: www.pierr-sonnages.ch.

TFF: What else are you working on now?

CM: I’ve just finished painting a copy of a Roman lararium for an archaeology festival (see photo). These domestic altars were brightly painted and richly adorned with symbolic elements like crested snakes, eggs, flowers, garlands, etc. Quite a long task, but it was fun to do.

Lararium © 2023 Cécile Matthey

 Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/04/new-issue-202365.html.

Tuesday 23 May 2023

Micro-interview with Samuel Lowd Goldstein

We invited over Samuel Lowd Goldstein, author of “Interstellar Wallflower” in The Future Fire #65 to talk about space travel and human exceptionalism.

TFF: What does “Interstellar Wallflower” mean to you?

Samuel Lowd Goldstein: There is a lot written about first contact, and yet we live in a world populated with beings with whom we have (at best) rudimentary communication. And while we like to make hierarchies of life-forms and their importance, sentient visitors might well make different assessments.

TFF: Would you like to visit another planet?

SLG: Absolutely! My father worked for NASA at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, and I remember watching the landing of Viking in the 70s. It was very evocative seeing the surface of Mars and finding it simultaneously familiar and strange. This has been amplified by subsequent landers and probes. I can spend hours looking at the pictures!

The logistics of visiting another planet are another question.

TFF: Do you see a parallel between your poem and the story “The Pool Noodle Alien Posse” in this issue?

SLG: Yes, and I enjoyed that story very much. It seems to me that "The Pool Noodle Alien Posse" plays with some of the same ideas that "Interstellar Wallflower" does. In "Interstellar Wallflower," I was exploring the idea that extraterrestrials might not share our opinion that we're the most important beings on our planet. We project upon them our perceptions, and find ourselves surprised when they have their own understanding—worse yet, it does not match our own.

"Pool Noodle" also explores (among other things) our expectations of and projections upon extraterrestrial life in sort of the flip-side to that: what if being technologically advanced in some ways doesn't translate to having all the answers? We expect space-faring beings to come and solve all our problems for us, only to find they're not that different from us. They take one look at our mess, and decide it's not for them.


First contact didn’t go well
it went like a junior-high dance.
After emerging from their crystal ships
they didn’t even look in our direction
but went to hang out with the cephalopods
and cetaceans.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/04/new-issue-202365.html.

Tuesday 16 May 2023

Micro-interview with Goran Lowie

We welcome Goran Lowie, author of “All I Ever Wanted to Be” in The Future Fire #65.

TFF: What does “All I Ever Wanted to Be” mean to you?

Goran Lowie: It ended up expressing a few different things that were floating around in my head. It started with escape—a vivid image in my mind of some disillusioned adult who reminisces about being a child, looking at the sea, and longing to be a mermaid. This childish (in a good way) sense of wonder also comes back in other ways (turkey vultures) and is one of the key things I wanted express. However, the harsh reality of such a life was an inevitable inclusion—that disillusionment even becoming a part of this childhood dream, realizing the current world would probably not be a very good place for mermaids to live in. In a sense, it’s a poem I wrote to try and escape reality, but I ended up being unable to avoid it. It’s a darker piece than I intended.

There’s some gender stuff in there, too. While I have never doubted my gender enough to identify as anything but my gender assigned at birth, it has been on my mind sometimes. I don’t feel remotely female at all, but imagining myself as a mermaid is still fun. That’s what I love so much about speculative fiction—it allows you to see the world in other ways, yes, but it also allows you to see yourself in different ways.

TFF: Do you remember the first time you saw the sea? What is the most terrifying thing about it?

GL: As a child, I was deathly afraid of the sea, or any body of water, period. It took me an absurdly above-average time to learn how to swim and I’m still not great at it. I remember when we learned to dive in the kiddy pool and I was always lambasted because I immediately turned around mid-jump in an attempt to grab the walls in desperation. I mostly got over this fear in pools, but it remains in parts.

I have one “core memory” of me, at a very young age, being in the big pool with my much older sister when I slipped from the little floaty thing and went to the bottom. My sister saved me, probably saving my life. I have no idea if this even happened as it did in my memory. I was never able to ask her about it as an adult—she passed away a few years ago at a very young age. She came to mind while writing this poem, too. In a way, it also brings me to that disillusionment: a joyful life (full of joie de vivre) abruptly ended. The ocean, and by extension the world, is no place for a little girl.

TFF: What are you working on next?

GL: I am always working on many different things at once. My poems are often one-and-done. I have a few poems as a work in progress, but usually I just write them as they come to me. I still have some immense Stockholm syndrome with all of my poems getting accepted by magazines, but I’m starting to believe this is something I might be continuing, when the mind-numbing stress and exhaustion from work allows me to. I’m working on more poems, and even have a little idea in mind of themed poems which could potentially become a chapbook, given enough time and poems.

I’ve also recently started a Speculative Poetry Roundup, spotlighting some of my favorite speculative poems being published right now. I have always been a voracious reader, much more so than a creator, and a world opened for me when I discovered speculative poetry. There is so much of it getting published, such great quality and quantity, but it goes unread. I’m hoping to continue this roundup in the future and continue to bring attention to these amazing poems.


I burst into tears
reminded of when all
I ever wanted to be
was a mermaid
among octopi

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/04/new-issue-202365.html.

Tuesday 9 May 2023

Micro-interview with Toby MacNutt

Toby MacNutt, author of “Live off the Land” in The Future Fire #65, joins us this week for a brief chat.

TFF: What does “Live off the Land” mean to you?

Toby MacNutt: I've been thinking a lot about exile, escape, survival, and what it means to be at home in a place. What does it mean to be safe or protected? What is the spirit of a place, or the spirits of people in a place? How do you know when you are ready to leave, or return? How do we recognize one another? All of these things have wandered through this story in one way or another, along with my usual love of textures and intimacy

TFF: Which natural or geographical feature do you feel most affinity for?

TM: I love the land where I live—northern Vermont—and the shape and seasons of it comfort me. I also love the relationship I have built with it, over the most-of-my-lifetime I've been here, learning the worn contours of old mountains and the feel of the stony soil and the sounds of the birds and the growth of the plants and the way they all fit together. I know how to see this place and while I certainly don't know everything there is to know, and figuring out how to move forward in loving relationship to this land as a descendant of settlers will take more than any one of our lifetimes, I understand being here, in my bones, on a level I don't experience in other places. The only place/feature I miss, being here, is a rocky coastline, dark and sharp and blustery and stinging, which has always had a dear place in my heart—but it is at least not too far away

TFF: If you were going to edit an anthology, what genre and theme would you go for?

TM: My dream anthology is a conversation of disabled poets. I wrote about this in an edition of my newsletter (https://tinyletter.com/tobymacnutt/letters/letter-the-second-winter-stories-crafts-foods) last winter in more detail, but it would be structured as a sort of round-robin of responsa, where the poets themselves choose which pieces resonate together, and talk about the relationships they see between them. Every time I get to engage with the work of other disabled poets, something will stand out about the work that I don't see elsewhere, but that resonates with something I wrote, or something another disabled poet wrote, which then ripples to connect to another, and so on—whether it's the way we talk about touch, or sight, or stone, or queerness, or rituals, or shapeshifting, or who knows what else. I want to hear how we value and understand our work in the context of us (even though we are certainly not a homogenous group! the differences are worth discussing too) rather than in nondisabled context, or beyond even narrow-scope themed calls where a lone editor makes all the choices. It would be a complicated project to facilitate (and I very clearly could not do it alone), but how delicious.


Sometimes people walk into my woods. Mostly they walk out again.

I didn’t.

This one has not either.

Reminder: You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/04/new-issue-202365.html.

Tuesday 2 May 2023

Micro-interview with M.L. Clark

This week we are joined by M.L. Clark, author of “The Pool Noodle Alien Posse” in TFF #65.

TFF: What does “The Pool Noodle Alien Posse” mean to you?

M.L. Clark: This story served me in a few ways. Much of my short fiction pushes back on overconfidence in our maturity as a species. For instance, we've learned a lot about ourselves from social media, and from how quickly sincere discourse is overrun by hot takes and self-sabotage. Far from having a united, top-down response to aliens, then, of course we'd leap to our forums and play fast and loose with the event's significance. Similarly, of course we'd be pinning all our hopes for change on grand events like fundraisers, instead of committing to the harder work of transforming the systems destroying everything. We're drawn to spectacle like moths to flame.

But that's just a summary of humanity at scale. In person, in our immediate communities, there's still room to dream differently, and to live with greater sincerity and presence. Not always (as this story notes, some people are so hooked on toxic media they'll let wild conspiracy theories and hatemongers tear them away) but often enough that there's room to imagine a better world close to home.

Which is why my story focuses on a protagonist rarely found in SF, too: an everyday parent of two, doing the best she can in a whole neighbourhood of differently struggling adults, all of whom are learning bit by bit how mutual aid societies can step in amid the collapse of broader systems. I also owe the existence of this story to Margaret Killjoy's collection We Won't Be Here Tomorrow, which does such a wonderful job normalizing the sorts of the messily striving communities we could all be leaning into more today.

TFF: How do see your story in dialogue with the poem “Interstellar Wallflower” in this issue?

MLC: Oh, what a terrific poem. I'm certainly not the first person to imagine a failed first contact, and Samuel Lowd Goldstein's piece reflects a common way of thinking about humanity "failing" an intergalactic test. Every other species is of greater interest to the aliens in that poem, and humanity is left confused, embarrassed, and somewhat lectured at along the way.

There's a danger, though, to suggesting that humanity is any more or less worthy than other species, because humans love to be exceptional in everything we do. If we're awful, well, at least we're the worst, right?

In my piece, the aliens are just going about their own journey through the cosmos. They don't have much to spare, but the crew still tries to toss a figurative "thumbs up" at humanity when they come across our world in the middle of its global benefit concert. At one point, my protagonist wonders at the crew's shock at our reaction: don't they have glib armchair commentators in their species, too?

Although it doesn't get discussed in the piece, it's quite likely these aliens also went away wondering how they might have done first contact better. So it's really a case of miscommunication on all sides —no grand cosmic verdict that humans are The Worst.

That said, stories like "The Pool Noodle Alien Posse" and poems like "Interstellar Wallflower" share an interest in reframing our centrality in cosmic narrative. What better worlds could we build by accepting a more collaborative approach to our fleeting lives?


Jonas switched off the radio to listen to the yard, his arm cutting over mine to reach the sill over the sink. Callie and Bixie were still at play, clear as day through the window to the backyard, and we both knew Bixie would’ve sounded the alarm if something didn’t feel right. But my eldest needed this sometimes. A sense of control, however spuriously manufactured, in a world grown too strange to guarantee a bit of it.

You can comment on any of the writing or art in this issue at http://press.futurefire.net/2023/04/new-issue-202365.html.