One of the best things about being a writer is sometimes, by virtue of who you meet and the supportive nature of the writing community, you get a chance to glimpse a book early. I was very lucky to be asked by New Lit Salon Press if I’d be willing to read and maybe offer up a blurb for their science fiction anthology Startling Sci-Fi: New Tales of the Beyond.
I really enjoyed this collection, and so I happily sent in my blurb and review, and then thought it would be fun to chat with some of the authors, the editor, and the illustrator of the collection for a few weeks here for Sunday Shorts.
First up? My official review:
The best science fiction can take you to other worlds without leaving behind the basic human condition; the stories of Startling Sci-Fi do this with an effortlessness that charms.
Prepare to encounter cyborg assisted-living centres, virtual reality drag queens, and love rebooted from stored back-ups of transferred consciousnesses. Explore our world alongside benevolent alien symbiotes – or join the humans who resist them.
No matter what dimension, time, or world you’re visiting, virtual or physical, bloody or calm, character remains king in this collection. Each tale reflects that universal human character in a different way, creating a whole that leaves the reader fully immersed and hard pressed not to read “just one more” before returning to reality.
Startling Sci-Fi manages to be both grounded in the genre and refreshingly unique. Casey Ellis should be very proud – this is a great collection of voices adding worthy stories to the science fiction world. I’ll be hunting for more from these authors, and I hope Ellis gathers more great talent in collections to come.
But don’t just listen to me. Listen to Eve and Adam (I swear I didn’t plan that on purpose, though I did decide to put them in order of their appearance in the collection because otherwise… Well. Yeah.)
Eve Fisher was adopted from an orphanage in Athens, Greece as a child, and hasn’t quit traveling since. She’s lived in almost every state in America, worked almost every kind of job, and managed to visit every national park, monument, state park, giant ball of string and iguana farm west of the Mississippi. In between and during travels, she writes. Eve has been published numerous times in Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine, as well as other publications, including “Space & Time.” Her website is evefishermysteries.wikispaces.com.
Eve Fisher wrote “Embraced,” which is the aforementioned ‘symbiote’ story in my praise above. If you’ve never heard of the ‘Fátima Prophecy’ don’t feel bad, I’d never heard of either, so if you have no idea what it is, here’s a link to wikipedia.
NB: You said your story – which was fantastic, by the way – in Startling Sci-Fi came from the idea of the ‘Fátima Prophecy’ – I’d never heard of that before. Where did you encounter it?
EF: Well, I’d heard about Fátima years ago, reading a book about Marian apparitions which tried to sort out the true from the false. Anyway, what interested me was how “Russia will also turn to God and there will be peace” would happen, because prophecy – in any religion – never happens the way literalists tell you it will. So that was nudging in my brain. And I decided that an invasion would be an invasion – only it would be seen as aliens…
NB: In your story, even though the aliens seem to offer complete emotional peace and happiness to those they ’embrace’, there’s a resistance effort. Would you be on the resistance, or would you be embraced?
EF: I’d be in the resistance at first, because I always start from a basis of skepticism and cynicism, but I’d end up being embraced because I can’t understand how anyone can be so possessive as to give up that much pleasure. (Although I can certainly write about it.)
Adam Sass is a writer of gay-themed, suspenseful sci-fi. In addition to self-publishing a collection of comedic essays, A Look at the Great Gay Tipping Point, he blogs monthly LGBT pop culture op-eds at StayOnFountain.com. He lives in West Hollywood with his nurse husband and dachshund. Keep up with what he’s drinking on his (over)active Twitter @TheAdamSass.
Adam Sass wrote the brilliantly witty “98% Graves,” which had me grinning ear-to-ear and thinking back to all the best drag shows I’d ever seen. It approaches the idea of “wearing a costume and a whole new character” through a unique lens.
NB: Your story in Startling Sci-Fi was freaking fabulous and had the same engrossing tones you get from the best of drag divas – where did the idea come from?
AS: The idea for “98% Graves”—a drag queen reality simulator plugged into the back of a gay bar—came from Twitter. The gays of Twitter will sometimes change their profile pic to some faboo celebrity in lieu of their own face. After awhile, you can forget the real guy you’re actually tweeting with.
I use my own picture but even then, I’m known to reply to people with a GIF, usually of a vampy famous woman. I became obsessed with the idea that Gillian Anderson or Shirley Bassey’s face could express my thoughts to someone online better than my own face could. I think I’m not alone, certainly among gay men, in that respect. That felt like a dimension of gay life that had gone unexplored—the mundane man behind the drags.
NB: If you could use the same technology, who would you “wear”?
AS: Who would I “wear”? First, amazing question. Second, well, the rules of UberDrag are that the diva must be dead in real life, so my answer for that is always Vivien Leigh. But I may be too chicken to carry out her astronomic level of confidence. I’m too peculiar, so I’d probably be a better fit for Little Edie Beale, making loud pronouncements and then shrinking away to the corner.
I’ll be back again to talk about Startling Sci-Fi: New Tales of the Beyond over the next four weeks or so. The book itself launches May 1st, so hopefully I’m teasing and whetting your appetite for some solid sci-fi stories.
Until next week, keep it short!