Bewildering Stories Interviews
John Thiel is one of the earliest contributors to Bewildering Stories, with a letter in issue 3. In the early years, we welcomed his stories, poetry and discussions. But John soon established his own webzine, Surprising Stories, and now heads two bureaus in the National Fantasy Fan Federation.
At the publication Ionisphere, he says:
It is my feeling that there should be a closer relationship between science fiction and fantasy fans and the writers and editors and artists who create this form of literature.
The fans are visible supporters of writing of this kind, and have some interchange with the professionals by way of letter columns and now internet forums, and at the conventions as well, but this could always use improvement and especially now when the number of magazines has dwindled.
Possibly contact between fans and pros could re-create an original enthusiasm which could be very useful today, when science fiction has had its influences on cultural life in general, but is not as successful as it once was on the home front.
John was very kind to publish an interview with Don Webb, the Managing Editor of Bewildering Stories. A link to it appears in issue 818. We’re happy to return the favor!
Where do you live, if you don’t mind saying? — Lafayette, Indiana
Where do you think you might like to live either in reality or in your imagination? — Xanadu.
What is your occupation? What do you do in real life? — Social organizer. In real life I mainly go around seeing about things.
What advice would you give to a young person going into your line of work? — Get along as best you can.
Has your occupation influenced your writing? — Yes, what I write about is what I see or experience, sometimes transmuting it into some other interesting context.
What motivated you to become the founder of Surprising Stories? — I was motivated by having the possibilities of the computer network explained to me, then by being persuaded to make use of the PC, then by seeing that there were others, such as Bewildering, doing this, then by acquiring the information that it would be possible and that it wouldn’t cost very much, and thereafter by wanting to be doing something.
Does your webzine have a theme? Is it eclectic? What kinds of submissions do you especially like to receive? — Mostly in founding Surprising Stories I was wanting to be surprising. The theme of Surprising is making one’s way in this modern world, doing things, searching for identity. Though science fiction or fantasy is required for writing to appear there, I would say that a wide variety of sources are involved. I like writing that is philosophical or spiritual.
What current projects do you have? — I am the head of two bureaus in the National Fantasy Fan Federation: the Fan-Pro Coordinating Bureau and the History and Research bureau.
My projects involve communications, instruction, and social arrangements. Lately my biggest project is expansion of the scope and perspective of existing science fiction and fantasy fandom, and the interweaving of various parts of fandom.
Is there anything in particular you’d like to tell authors to do or not do? — Say something new, say it in a pleasing manner, avoid tortuous writing.
What’s your favorite book? What’s the last book that you read and really enjoyed? — I have no one favorite book, but I like books that say a lot. Norman Mailer’s books of essays are books I particularly like. I have recently finished Stephen King’s 11/22/63 and liked it well enough to read all eight hundred and some pages of it.
Who are your favorite authors, and what about their works appeals to you most? — My favorite authors at the present time are the writers of “far out” novels, such as Robert Sawyer, Greg Benford, Paul Melko, Brian Stableford, Paul Levinson, and others. Their innovative viewpoints are what appeals to me most. I like work that is progressive.
If you could be any character (other than one of your own) from a book or movie, who would it be? Why? — Oh, I suppose I might identify with John Carter of Mars. He’s a doer.
If you could invite any other writer to dinner, whom would you ask? Feel free to choose from any time or place. — William Burroughs. He’s finally passed away, and I regret the missed opportunity to invite him to dinner when he was a visitor in Bloomington, Indiana.
How long have you been writing? — I have been writing since I was six years old. My first story, written when I was in kindergarten, was “Lost”, about a lad who went astray from people going on a hike. My second story, written when I was in the first grade, was “The Ghoul of Ghoulash Swamp”, about a person so mean and misanthropic he dwelt in a swamp.
What made you want to start writing? — Going to school made me want to start writing, and they complimented me on what I had written.
Almost every writer is inspired by someone or something else. What inspirations have you found? Where do you get your ideas? — I get my inspirations from people who want me to write something. I write something they’d like to read and see if they do like it. They suggest what I should write about.
In composing a story, which do you think of first: the plot or the characters? — Plot.
What do you consider the strangest thing you’ve ever written? — “Passage Through Time.”
What do you consider the most revealing thing you’ve ever written? — “True Love.”
Most writers have a particular audience in mind, although it may change from one work to the next. Who are your audiences? For whom do you write? — I write for any reader, like the fellow who puts a message in a bottle and casts it in the sea.
What would you like readers to learn or gain from what you write? — I’d like them to gain by thinking over some of the things I have written about.
Where do you write? — I write in my room, mostly.
When do you write: at set times or as the mood moves you? — When I feel like it, or when I’ve thought something I’d like to write down.
Some writers say they have to write a certain amount every day. Do you do set a quota? — No quota is set.
Do you ever have a problem with writer’s block? If so, can you offer other writers tips on how to deal with it? — If I have a “block,” I don’t write anything. Deal with it by doing something else.
Do you use the Internet or the library to check facts? — Internet.
Does anyone else proofread or critique your work? — Not usually. Bewildering Stories has.
Is there anything else you’d like to add? — No, I leave any reader of this interview to guess what I would say next.
Copyright © 2019 by John Thiel