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Bewildering Stories

Bewildering Stories Interviews

Harry Lang

Associate Editor interview synopsis
Bewildering Stories was first conceived as a way to break the bottleneck of print publishing in science fiction. It soon expanded its scope to include all “speculative” writing, however loosely it may be defined. It has long had a kind of educational mission, to encourage new and aspiring writers. Our Associate Editors’ work for our regular issues is mirrored by that of the Review Board for our Quarterly and Annual Reviews. The Review Editors are our flag-bearers; they ensure that Bewildering Stories holds its own with the best current literature on line and in print. This interview expresses our appreciation to one of our Review Editors.

How did you become involved with Bewildering Stories and when?

My first story to be accepted by anybody appeared in Bewildering Stories in 2005. I really felt like the editors got what I was trying to do and that made a great impression. Since then I’ve felt free to write my own way without too much concern for the idiosyncrasies of editorial preference.

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

Write what you would like to read and treat it seriously. Every piece of writing that you send out into the world must be the absolute best it can be, regardless of the venue.

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

Discussions with the other editors are really fun and instructive. The Review Editors are all smart about things I care about and they’re terrific writers so they have a lot of credibility. I also think Bewildering Stories is probably the best place on the web to find new favorite writers.

My least favorite part is a lack of time. I almost never read the longer works and can’t always give the things I do read the consideration they deserve.

What made you want to start writing?


Where do you get your ideas?

They’re all over the place. Movies, books, people I know, knee-jerk political reactions, sermons, Ideas are hard to avoid.

Where do you write?

Our dining room, which means I’m usually surrounded by noisy people doing all kinds of interactive things.

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

Neither. I have to make the most of cracks and crevices in my schedule. Saturday mornings are usually available if I’m up early enough. That’s probably my most productive time.

Do you ever have a problem with writer’s block?

Nah. I always have a bunch of projects underway. There’s always something that can snag my attention and reel it in.

Who proofreads and critiques your work?

My wife. She’s brilliant and fearless. She will never tell me something is good without knowing what’s good about it and she’ll never hesitate to tell me something doesn’t make sense.

Editor’s note:
An excerpt of Harry Lang’s
“My Name Is Angela”
appears in issue 479.

Do you have a favorite among your works?

Lots of them, for different reasons. If I had to pick one it would probably be a flash called “Chuchundra.”

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

I have a story called “The Spite House.” It concerns an aging retired mariner on the planet Thal, one of my recurring settings. The character is based loosely on my dad. He’s tough, stubborn and thoroughly self-reliant but learns to bend late in life.

What’s your favorite book?

The Bible. The psychology of man’s response to a Being completely beyond his comprehension is endlessly fascinating.

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

Kazuo Ishiguro is a current favorite. His treatment of the treachery of unreliable memory in When We Were Orphans or An Artist of the Floating World is compelling and his sense of tragedy and subtle social outrage in Never Let Me Go is really quite moving.

Science fiction favorites would include Henry Kuttner, Cordwainer Smith and David R. Bunch. In the cases of Smith and Bunch I think their unorthodox use of language greatly expands the expressive potential of their work; it’s not just stylistic decoration.

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

I hate to go for an obvious choice but it would probably be Ray Bradbury. His stories were exactly the right influence at exactly the right time when I was growing up. My son Paul is a fantastic young writer; he has also found some inspiration in Mr. Bradbury’s work. I’d like to thank him.

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

At the Mountains of Madness by H.P. Lovecraft.

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

Sam Weller. His horse sense, loyalty and integrity put us all to shame but he never lets them interfere with a good time.

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

Beats me. How has it ever been used? Understanding and appreciating literature is one of many paths to understanding and appreciating the world but not every horse wants to drink that water.

Culture really is a matter of life or death for a society but people seem to be naturally specialized. The fact that I place such a high value on literature doesn’t mean that others must. I think the best we can do is expose young people to good literature, whether in physical books or some digital format, extol its virtues and relevance and then leave the poor kids alone.

What is your occupation?

I’m a technical designer for Boeing. I design the wiring for the V22 Osprey.

What do you like most and least about it?

The V22 is way cool and technologically transformational. I like contributing to the success of a project that’s confounding its many critics. But it is a job; that means getting up early, sitting in a little gray cube and, worst of all, meetings.

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

Be sure of your passion. If you love something enough to maintain enthusiasm in the midst of routine and tedium you’re probably on the right track.

What do you do in your spare time (aside from reading Bewildering Stories stories)?

Raise kids. We have six and they’ve all been homeschooled; we’re still working on the last two. Also I teach guitar and a writing class for homeschoolers.

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

Prospect Park, Pennsylvania. It’s a tiny suburb of Philadelphia, about ten minutes from Philadelphia International Airport.

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

By a canal on Ray Bradbury’s Mars. Otherwise, I’m pretty happy in Pennsylvania.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Just a little preaching to the choir. Bewildering Stories is really meeting a critical need in the writing community. The opportunity for exposure and top-notch criticism are invaluable to new writers struggling to find their voice and master the nuts and bolts of effective writing. It’s a privilege to be part of it.

Copyright © 2012 by Harry Lang
and Bewildering Stories

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