What inspired you to write “The Visited”?
I was participating in the Halloween contest for a writer’s forum I participate in and planned to write a creepy story about a creature that interfered with people’s dreams by sticking fingers in their ears and doing something . . . creepy. It was vague. When I sat down to write the story, my brain informed me that I was instead going to impersonate Cat Valente and prove to the world that good things come of watching too much VH1 when you’re in high school. My brain is very opinionated and very hostile, so I don’t usually argue with it.
Where would you be when the stream cut out?
On the couch in my den. I’d be conducting stealth warfare to lure the cat onto my lap and losing to my roommates, who cheat by cuddling on the cat’s favorite chair with her favorite blanket. Further details are hard to determine, but I will definitely be teasing the indie music snob roomie for deigning to watch the live stream of somebody who is not only mainstream and famous, but not even endearingly foreign. And I’ll probably bore everybody by repeating stories from the time I went to New Orleans by train with little more than a guidebook and two days’ notice. Hopefully the stories will be new to somebody in the room.
Do you think global mega-hits like the ones Manuel Black put out are possible today, considering how fragmented current music tastes have become?
Not quite like Manuel Black, since he had a supernatural assist that made him universally popular, but global mega hits are a thing that still happens. I was in Argentina last November and there were posters for a Lady Gaga “Born this Way” ball all over Buenos Aires. And I was in Iceland when I finally connected the name “Katy Perry” with an actual song, because the cab driver mentioned how much he liked her when she came on the radio. I don’t think the mega-super-star is going anywhere, and that means mega-hits.
Portraying music in fiction can be tricky. Can you share any tips that may help aspiring writers hear the tune between their ears?
Not really—I’m tone deaf and arrhythmic, so I don’t hear the tune between my ears. For this story, I stuck to song titles as much as I could, which are much, much easier than lyrics but make it feel like there’s an actual body of music being referenced. For the lyrics I did include, I put them at the end of the story so that I would, hopefully, already have the reader rolling with the atmosphere and ready to give me some credit. For extra cover, the lyrics are from the years most people thought he wasn’t any good. I have no idea whether those lyrics even can be set to a tune. So I guess my tip is this: Don’t let lack of talent thwart you—lie and trick the reader into thinking you did something you didn’t.
What can we expect from you in the future?
A benevolent dictatorship and fudge. Failing that, I’ve got some other short stories coming up from Strange Horizons, Apex, and Nightmare in the next few months. They reflect on the virtues of cannibalism as a problem solving technique, the likelihood that we’re delusional about our own sentience, and the capacity for teenagers to think repeating their parents’ mistakes will solve problems. Not all in the same story. And you can reliably expect that on future Mondays I’ll be posting the Strange Horizons podcast, which is full of fantastic stories and poems.
Spread the word!