Science Fiction & Fantasy

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Author Spotlight: Kelsey Ann Barrett

Your story, “My Teacher, My Enemy,” features strong, horrific violence. What was the inspiration?

This story arose out of my interest in the Algonquin myth of the Windigo. I’ve heard different versions, but the basic idea is that people who resort to cannibalism become these amazing super-powered but cursed creatures. The idea of losing your humanity through the acquisition of greater-than-human power is a fascinating idea, especially when I began coupling it with other cannibalistic mythos, such as the old “eat your enemy’s heart to gain his strength” trope. I played with the idea for a while and gave it my own spin by leaning away from cannibalism and creating this idea of fashioning a sort of organic armor from the bodies of slain opponents. Then I constructed a world where such actions were not only accepted but desirable; I wanted it to be striking when the main character questioned her societal norms, despite how extreme and terrible they obviously are to us.

You’ve created quite a world, here—do you, or will you, make use of it in other stories?

I worked really hard on the world of “My Teacher, My Enemy,” and struggled with it at times; I needed a vehicle for this society that I had developed, and I didn’t want it to feel too fantastic, too far from a plausible reality. I don’t currently have any other plans for it, but you never know! I’d be happy to play in this sandbox again, and I love it when other authors establish canons like that.

What drew you to this subject?

I’ve always been more of a fantasy nut who dabbles some in science fiction, but horror has started to creep into a lot of my work lately. The more I write, the more I find value in themes that might make readers (and myself) uncomfortable. I think when a story challenges you like that, you take something very strong away from it, whether the author intends a specific lesson, or is simply trying for an engaging tale.

Was this a difficult story to write?

It was! I wanted it to feel as real as possible, and since I got so descriptive with the skinning process, I wanted to make it as accurate as I could. If it wasn’t correct, I felt that it would become ridiculous. But how do you research something like that? I looked up a little human anatomy, and then I did a lot of reading on deer hunting and skinning, which was interesting because I researched and wrote most of “My Teacher, My Enemy” in a coffee shop. I kept wondering if someone was looking over my shoulder and getting ready to call the cops!

What else do you have coming down the pipeline?

I’m doing a lot of reading in horror right now, since my interest in it is relatively new. I’ve got a couple drafts in the works at the moment, in different genres, but all with a horror element to them. It’s exciting to stretch my writing muscles in a new way.

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Theodore Quester

Editorial Assistant

Theodore QuesterTheodore Quester spent three years after college in Europe and now speaks seven languages; he spends his days teaching two of them to high school students. He is obsessed with all things coffee–roasting, grinding, pulling espresso–and with food, especially organic and locally grown. He earned his geek street credentials decades ago, publishing an article in 2600 magazine as a young teenager, then writing reviews for SF Eye and interning at Omni magazine. In his spare time, he swims, bikes, runs, and reads a little bit of everything; when inspired, he writes fiction, mostly for children and young adults.