Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Author Spotlight: Dale Bailey

Hi Dale, thanks for sitting down and taking the time to speak with us about “The Children of Hamelin!” First off, can you tell us a little about the genesis of this story?

This is always the most difficult question to answer. Stories tend to come to me as titles. From there, it’s a matter of excavating the narrative that goes with the title. I’ve had the title “The Children of Hamelin” rattling around inside my head for years, but it took me a long time to figure out the story that went with it.

How do you think society would recover from such a trauma? Would we survive?

Sure, I think we’d survive, though we’d be irrevocably changed. The story doesn’t take up this question, in part because it begins in the immediate aftermath of the trauma and in part because I wanted to focus on the micro-level. I think many SF stories would take the macro approach: How did the disappearance happen? Who or what is responsible, and why? But in this case, as is often the case with my fiction, I was interested in how the loss would affect people emotionally, how it would change the individual.

If you’re looking at society at large, I think there would be a lot of civil unrest inspired by the destruction of our society’s existing certainties about the way the world works. I imagine millennial cults would develop and that traditional religious belief would see a sharp rise. Secular and scientific voices would likely be drowned out. It would take a novel to develop it properly.

I’m reminded a bit of a recent television show, Awake, which deals with some similar themes: the loss of a loved one and what people do to cope and move on. Why do you think this theme is covered in our stories as often as it seems to be?

I haven’t seen the show, but the fear of personal loss is a primal one. We all fear losing our loved ones, and we all have to grapple with it in some way. I believe that fiction allows us to rehearse and exorcise those fears—catharsis, I suppose.

What advice can you give an aspiring short-story writer?

Read a lot and write a lot. Read everything, fiction in all genres and all kinds of non-fiction. Be a sponge. Listen to the voices in your head.

I also think workshops can be helpful for some people. They’ve certainly helped me at various points in my writing life.

What do you have coming up that we should keep an eye out for?

Stories in Asimov’s, F&SF, and a Datlow/Windling anthology called Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells. A piece in a forthcoming anthology called Zombies vs. Robots: Diplomacy, which was a pulpy lark to write. And, inevitably, a novel in process, but there’s still a long way to go on that one…

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Andrew Liptak

Andrew Liptak

Andrew Liptak is the Weekend Editor for The Verge. He is the co-editor of War Stories: New Military Science Fiction, (Apex Publications, 2014). His writing has also appeared in io9, Gizmodo, Kirkus Reviews, Tor.com, BN Sci-Fi & Fantasy Blog, Clarkesworld and others. He lives in Vermont.