Bewildering Stories Interviews
How did you come in contact with Bewildering Stories?
I’d just finished a story called “The Colorblind Chameleon” and sent it in to BwS among others. Don Webb got back to me almost immediately with excellent advice on how to make the story live up to its full potential. “Chameleon” was pretty good: his advice made it into the best thing I’d written. That was when I knew I’d found a publication that was an asset to both readers and writers.
What do you do in your spare time (aside from reading BwS stories)?
I work on my own stories and essays, practice yoga and kung fu, play the guitar, read and review books, run a writing group, become periodically obsessed with the Seahawks, knit items of clothing, build tiny weapons, do research, and teach psychology to college students... among other things.
Is there anything you’d like to tell BwS authors to do or not do?
Before you submit a piece of writing, ask yourself, “What is this about?” You ought to be able to sum it up in one sentence. Whether you sum up the theme of it or sum up the events, you’d better know what it’s about. If you don’t know, your readers won’t know either. Nabokov was able to sum up even his most complex novels. He did Lolita in one word: “tyranny.”
Once you can sum up your story in a sentence, read it over again. Ask yourself, “Is the point of this clear? Does it convey what I mean?” If not, it’s time to do some editing.
Then, after you do that, go over it again. Is everything consistent? The dialogue and descriptions should all point in some way to whatever it is you are trying to convey. Whatever does not do that should be changed or cut.
What is your favourite part of working as a Review Editor for Bewildering Stories?
The comments made by the other editors are often amusing and always instructive. I don’t just get to see whether or not the others like or dislike a piece, but also their reasons why. That is just as important, if not more so, because these are people who know what they are doing.
Who are some of your favourite characters?
In no particular order: Sebastian Knight, Lisbeth Salander, Beowulf Shaeffer, Odysseus, Agatha Heterodyne, Mad Max, Josef Švejk, Perkus Tooth, Daneel Olivaw, and the Ship Mind with the wonderful name Mistake Not My Current State Of Joshing Gentle Peevishness For The Awesome And Terrible Majesty Of The Towering Seas Of Ire That Are Themselves The Milquetoast Shallows Fringing My Vast Oceans Of Wrath.
What’s the last book that you read and really enjoyed?
The most recent was Quantum Night by Robert J. Sawyer. It is about discoveries in the field of neuroscience and morality during a global crisis. Sawyer builds a foundation in real psychology before introducing his science fiction element, which is both intriguing and disturbing.
Where do you think you might like to live either in reality or in a fictional universe?
I want to live in Iain Banks’ Culture. It is an exuberantly nihilist utopia!
Who are some of your favorite authors? What about their work appeals to you?
- One is Iain Banks, as I mentioned, for the way he reduces mental distance toward a society more like the Culture.
- Another is Vladimir Nabokov for his explorations of interactions between people and the jaw-dropping power of his intellect.
- Richard Brautigan for his vulnerability in trusting that his readers would play with him and help create the story.
- George MacDonald, because he didn’t just write beautiful stories but was also a mentor and editor of sorts. He encouraged a wide range of authors from Lewis Carroll to Mark Twain, both in their writing and in their daily lives.
What is the most revealing thing you’ve ever written?
It is called “The Cult Peripheral,” and it’s the one thing I have ever written that happened to me. The rest are all made up.
Do you listen to music while you write? If so, what?
Yes. I usually require something with bass to it. It could be anything from Beethoven to Rasputina to SubVibe.
Some writers say that they have to write a certain amount every day. Do you do set a quota?
I don’t have a quota of words per day; that would distract me. But I do set a goal of one draft per day when I am working on a short story. That is the ideal. Sometimes life intrudes and it ends up being more like one draft per week.
Do you use the Internet to check facts?
Absolutely. There are few things as good for making the setting relevant and an integral part of the story, not just scenery. I like finding out interesting details about places or objects. I also listen carefully to people who have experience with things like doing taxonomy or tarot or treating a sucking chest wound. You just never know when little experiential details will breathe life into a story. I take notes. People who know me are used to it.
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?
My parents didn’t always understand what I was trying to do, which is an in-joke with my family at this point, but they were always supportive.
Does anyone proofread or critique your work?
I read them out loud to catch any sentences that “sound like an elephant trying to pick up a coconut with its trunk,” as Walter Moers put it. After I have made them as good as I can alone, Don Webb and Charlie Cole look them over and let me know how to make them into something people would want to read.
Have you found any works at BwS you’d recommend to a friend?
I’ve recommended BwS to the various people I know, and I meant it when I did. There’s such a wide range that someone who reads it from week to week will always find something new.
Copyright © 2016 by Ada Fetters