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Bewildering Stories

Bewildering Stories Interviews

Tim Simmons

Associate Editor interview synopsis
Bewildering Stories is a big operation, as our Information page shows. Our Associate Editors are an elite group. Their critiques of submissions not only make Bewildering Stories possible, they are essential to making it the best it can be. The Associate Editors necessarily work anonymously, “behind the scenes.” Now we express our appreciation to them with a series of personal interviews.

How did you become involved with Bewildering Stories and when?

I think I was looking for places to submit my stories to (yeah I know, grammar Nazis everywhere) and I just submitted a few and then they started letting me read stories for free. They kept sending me stories saying “Here’s another great one! Read it and tell us what you think!”

What are your favorite and least favorite parts of working as an Editor for Bewildering Stories?

Favorite part: I get to read things written by total strangers and pretend I know what I’m doing. Least favorite part: I guess not doing it full-time or enough to really get to know any of the authors. I admit that I rarely read Bewildering Stories stories that are not sent to me for editing/feedback. I’ve just been busy piddling with other stuff.

Is there anything you’d like to tell Bewildering Stories authors to do or not do?

Yes, please do yourself a favor. When you are finished writing your story, reread it! But don’t just reread it. Reread it with an eye toward catching problems and improving the story. This may be at the macro or micro level, almost always both. A small punctuation problem here, a huge gaping plot hole there, or systemic errors that reflect a need to bone up on how a particular construct should be used.

If you don’t care enough about your own story to do a rewrite, why should anyone else care? Start by getting the story finished. Then go back and fine-tune it and polish it. Find places where you can delete your old clichés and replace them with something better and not so well-worn.

And lastly, don’t think your story is gold and precious. You are just one of billions of other people. No one “really” cares about your personal life and so writing your biography into a story will matter only to you.

Learn to CRAFT a good story by rewriting, excising, chopping, mashing, crunching, burning and otherwise destroying your “precious” artwork until it is actually a good story that has all the characteristics of a good tale TOLD in an interesting way. Get away from it for a while. Go back into it later with an eye toward butchering it if necessary to improve it.

What do you do in real life?

I breathe, eat, sit, stand, and all the usual stuff. Mostly I sit in a chair staring at an LCD monitor.

What is your occupation?

The things I’ve done to stay alive in the past vary from shoving greyhounds into a starting box to writing computer programs for FedEx billing systems to selling musical merchandise to installing phones to playing and teaching guitar to painting portraits to composing musical scores for videos to teaching computer science at college to voice over for computer games.

I’ve been doing voice-over since the beginning of 2008. I’ve voiced a few top games like Star Wars Online, Torchlight, Anything With An Engine, Majesty II, Heroes of Newerth, and many more.

What do you like most and least about it?

Regarding voice-over and working from home, I’m always at home. Never have to drive. Never have to put on the monkey suit or be somewhere at 8 a.m. Never have a boss to answer to except myself (clients can be bossy but a client cannot fire you from voice-over). What do I like least? The income is not steady but that’s about it.

What advice would you give to a young person going into your line of work?

Um, get on Google and search for good advice. :) Or wave a lot of green pieces of paper under my nose and I’ll tell ya everything I know!

What do you do in your spare time aside from review reading for Bewildering Stories?

I like to research the origins of Christianity. I’ve done tons of videos on YouTube about that topic and my latest series has been very well-received. Well-received by the atheist community, anyway.

What’s your favorite book?

I’m actually not a read-aholic and haven’t read many novels or classic literature and combine that with the fact I don’t really have a favorite this or that... I can’t really say. I started to read The Lord of the Rings and quickly became bored of the rings. The intro backstory was in my opinion the worst way he could’ve started the book: a long, drawn out, boring back story with little action.

Who are your favorite authors, and what about their works appeals to you most?

Again, I have not read much along the lines of fiction greats and classics. I like horror, sci-fi and fantasy mostly. I’m not a big fan of any particular author, but then... I’ve probably read 10 to the minus 30 percent of all books ever written. A decimal point with 30 zeroes behind it is a pretty pathetic showing.

I guess my favorite authors are ones who craft a great story start to finish that makes me believe it all the way without ever losing my interest by way of some goofy contrivance or obvious plot hole. I do like Ray Bradbury, Robert Bloch, some Lovecraft (I say “some” because you can overdose on H.P. very quickly), Samuel Clemens, and I could list pages more but like I said, I just like a well-crafted tale all around no matter who wrote it.

But I suppose I’m more of a plot person than a character or settings person. I need to feel that this story is GOING somewhere and isn’t just some high school homework assignment to learn how to depict characters interacting with other characters for no apparent reason.

If you could invite any other writer to dinner, whom would you ask and why?

The Apostle Paul. Boy, do I have some questions to ask.

What’s the last book that you read and really enjoyed?

Well, I’ll list a few I enjoyed over the last few years which won’t be many because I don’t read that much. The Homeric Epics and the Gospel of Mark — This book, by Dennis R. MacDonald, is going to alter how many people view the gospel of Mark. It is a great piece of scholarship and detective work. I include some of his book in my latest YT series called “Excavating The Empty Tomb.”

Bart Ehrman’s Misquoting Jesus is an excellent look at the formation of the Bible canon and the various types of alterations made to the manuscripts along the way.

A short story by Brian Evenson called “Body” was quite good. It’s about how a person can be led to believe anything given enough physical torture and brainwashing. There are frightening parallels to the Roman and Spanish inquisitions in which the Catholic churches of Rome and Spain were torturing and murdering innocent people simply because they didn’t believe exactly what the church dictated as proper belief. This same mindset also led to the famous witch hunts near the end of the Inquisition.

If you could be any character — other than one of your own from a book or movie — who would it be? Why?

Oh, who doesn’t want to be a hero, saving humanity from whatever is labeled as “evil”? Of course, Neo from The Matrix is great as he is based on another famous hero who himself is based upon a much older set of heroes and so on.

But you know, being Odysseus wouldn’t be half bad: travel the Mediterranean, fight monsters, have sex with godesses and finally make it home. But one could question his morality. I mean, he had a wife at home waiting for him for something like 16 years.

But hey, you don’t get to be entertained by goddesses just every day. Hmmmm, hard choice. No cell phones back then. “Yeah, honey? Um.... well, see... I was just wondering... But honey, she’s a goddess!” How many guys get this opportunity? Damn few, I’ll bet!

How do you think literature might be used in education, especially in the age of the Internet?

Writing will never go away (even though audio and video will supplant it to a degree) IMO but the forms will change and evolve over time. Paper will die off eventually. But it’s really just a form of communicating some idea from one person to another so of course it’s always useful in teaching.

Do you write yourself? What kind of stuff?

I seem to like dabbling in stuff that has a sort of Twilight Zone feel, mysterious stuff with the obligatory plot twist ending. I think I write in a kind of parochial, down-home way sometimes. It’s probably my Mid-South Mississippi upbringing.

I tend not to write about big cities and themes involving them. My stories would never have an airport scene. I hate flying and know nothing about the lifestyles of the monkey-suit wearers and really don’t care to know.

How long have you been writing?

I started dabbling with short stories in the late ’90s and really never had time to write because I worked a job and had other problems and hobbies, etc. But I dabbled nonetheless.

Then I was laid off work at Hilton Hotels in late 2007 and in the following eight weeks I wrote eight short stories. I have no idea how I managed to pull that off, but they were not trivial or flash fiction. Some of them were 15 to 20 pages long. If only I could do that consistently... But that’s life.

What made you want to start writing?

It’s creative, and I like creating things. And I suppose I wanted to write some fiction because I enjoyed it from the consumer end and wanted to be the producer for a change.

Some authors have said that their parents were supportive of their efforts when young, and some have said they had to sneak around and hide. What was the case with you?

Tim Simmons
My mom and dad were not supportive of my creative endeavors (mostly my mom) because they were born in the 1930s on farms and had no idea that you could actually earn a living doing something besides being a policeman, fireman, doctor or lawyer. So, no, I got no support or encouragement for any of my creative abilities. To this day there is still a kind of resentment there but then I suppose people do only what they must do.

I feel most of my life was wasted because my folks had no idea I was a creative type instead of a burly truck driver good ole boy type. There is nothing worse a parent can do than crush a child’s dreams either willfully or unintentionally. I think that’s a scar that never truly heals.

Where do you get your ideas?

I walk around in my backyard in circles with a handheld tape recorder and talk. I blab stupid stuff into it until I think I have some idea that doesn’t suck too badly and then I just jot that down in a Word doc called (wait for it....) ideas.doc. But don’t copy me. I just do this in spurts and have no real methods for any of it. That’s probably why I take way too long to finish a story.

Where do you write?

In the “studio,” which is a room in my house devoted for whatever I want (it’s soundproofed somewhat so I do voice over, music, writing, etc.) I have no distractions really as I have no one here but myself. I did have a dog but he’s gone on to be with the Lord. Well, if anyone did, it’d be him.

When do you write: at set times or as the mood moves you?

Whenever the mood hits, which is not how professionals SHOULD write but then, lucky for me, I don’t rely on writing as my income.

Some writers say that they have to write a certain number of words every day. Do you ever have a problem with writer’s block?

Um, not often. It is hard sometimes to start because you have this “blank canvas” phenomenon where you just know the first sentence is going to suck no matter what you write, and it’s going to ruin that perfectly white piece of paper. BUT, if you’ll reprogram your brain to believe that a blank sheet or canvas is an unhappy sheet or canvas, that what they REALLY want is to be covered with words or paint, to become something more than just the physical substrate they are, well, then, you need to start slopping some words down and remember that since it’s digital now, there’s nothing lost but time if you don’t like it.

In general, you make the best time going large to small. No good sculptor begins to render the pores of the skin before sculpting the main topologies of the head or whatever is being rendered. If you spend time on those details only to later realize the main curve is wrong... those details can be lost or at least have to be redone to some extent. Get the story in at a kind of outline level then go in and fine tune, embellish. I think that is the speediest unless you are just one of those writers like maybe Ray Bradbury who can pound out a “Fahrenheit 451” on a manual typewriter in a few weeks.

Who proofreads and critiques your work?

Me, I guess.

Do you have a favorite among your works?

Actually, no. It’s as I said, I don’t have a “favorite” of anything. When I was a teenager and younger, I did: my favorite color, my favorite band, ad nauseam. Now, I don’t try to rate things like that. I just think of someone and go, “Yeah, they’re great.” I don’t think, “YEAH, they’re the greatest!”

So, back to the question... I can list several short stories of mine that I like and think are quite good. My stuff tends to lean away from the very mature-minded to somewhere between children’s stories and not quite mature, in the sense of like a guy in a suit, if you get my drift. Yeah, what’s with my aversion to suits???

  1. Sometimes They Get Away
  2. Red Destroyer
  3. What Grandma Done
  4. Respect the Bones
  5. Faith Awakening
  6. Keeper of the Morning
  7. PL-7
  8. The Laugh

Did you notice that my titles almost never start with “The”? :)

Do you have a favorite character? If so, who is it, and what makes it your favorite?

Actually, no, hehe. But I think my stories are kind of weak on character. They are more plot-driven and I could stand to try making my characters more epic and memorable.

Who drives a story: you or your characters?

I’d say all of the above. It can be a feedback loop where something I write spurs on another thing and then I think of what that character might do but I guess ultimately it’s me in the end trying to draw from memories and just rehash stuff in some interesting way that gives some sense of resolution at the end.

What do you consider the strangest thing you’ve ever written?

I wrote something abstract once called “Murky Witness”. It’s horrible. It’s a complete waste of anyone’s time should they be so foolish as to read it. There is no face-value meaning and no underlying meaning. I did it as kind of an experiment.

I wrote another one called “Labor In Vain” about a guy sitting on a public toilet taking a dump when all of a sudden someone in house shoes shuffles up to the front of his stall door. He recognizes those house shoes. The door busts in on him and it’s his mother standing there! She’s in one of those house robes and she’s aiming a crossbow at him... Well, it’s weird. Not great, but weird.

Almost every writer is inspired by someone or something else. What inspirations have you found?

I think some of the best inspirations can be found in other people who read your stuff and give you feedback, preferably, a writer who is better than you. It can go a long way toward feeling like you can do it. I think anyone can improve and anyone can learn. Very few people simply suck after a long attempt at something.

Where do you live, if you don’t mind saying?

In a barren wasteland devoid of all culture. You don’t want to be where I am.

Where do you think you might like to live, either in reality or in your imagination?

Anywhere but here! Well, on the west coast of SOMEWHERE. The west coast has the cleanest air and the coastlines are moderately temperate. I like the ocean.

Is there anything else you’d like to share with us?

Yes, my credit card number. It’s VISA 4008 2401 0532 5064 exp N/A Okay, I lied. That’s not really my credit card number, hehe (as if they didn’t know). No, I suppose I have nothing of interest I could share. Oh wait, I do. A bit of encouragement to all who would set about to create something: never be afraid to excel. Everyone can learn and everyone can improve. Make yourself happy and you’ve succeeded, no matter what.

Copyright © 2012 by Tim Simmons
and Bewildering Stories

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