Your short story “Boojum” happens to be one of my favorite science fiction stories written in the last few years, and I’m delighted we’re reprinting it in this issue. Some of our readers might recognize a “Boojum” as a dangerous kind of snark, a fictional animal species invented by Lewis Carroll, or maybe the intercontinental supersonic cruise missile dreamed up in the 1940s (and never completed) for the U.S. Air Force. Was the creation of the Lavinia Whateley influenced by either one of those?
We got the word from Lewis Carroll. The second story set in this universe, “Mongoose,” features monsters called toves, raths, and bandersnatches.
(Sarah: I don’t remember how we thought of crossing Lewis Carroll and H. P. Lovecraft, but since “The Hunting of the Snark” is one of my favorite poems, in retrospect it seems utterly inevitable. Bear: True story: Sarah and I once drove around Madison after a rainstorm looking at an enormous triple rainbow and reciting “The Jabberwock” to one another from memory. The intersection of Lovecraft, Carroll, whimsy, and horror seems inevitable once you’ve hit upon it.)
How did you go about writing this story? Any particular challenges you faced, or was it one of those stories that seemed to write itself down on the page?
This one was remarkably easy—once we’d figured out what they found in the hold of the Josephine Baker (and for two writers deeply familiar with Lovecraft, it wasn’t hard), the rest of the story just rolled itself out like a carpet. It took us a little while to find the right ending, but once we’d hashed that out, it fell into place beautifully.
You’ve co-authored several Norse fantasy books together in addition to this story. Does your co-writing process change at all depending on the genre, or have you found a rhythm now that works no matter what?
Our process is the same: One of us writes until she gets stuck or bored or whomped with another commitment, and then she sends it to the other—who writes until she gets stuck or bored or whomped with another commitment, and sends it back. We try not to go too long on either side without giving it back. As a process, it seems to be very robust.
Any chance one or both of you will return to this world of the Lavinia Whateley again?
We already have! The second story in what we call the Boojum’verse, “Mongoose,” was published in Ellen Datlow’s Lovecraft Unbound anthology, and we’re working on a third story called “The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward.”
Do you have any advice to give out regarding what you’ve learned in writing together?
We apparently co-author the same way Henry Kuttner and C. L. Moore did, only they did it with a typewriter in their shared study and we do it via email. (Sarah: I’d love to try the typewriter version sometime, but it’s hard when one of us lives in Wisconsin and the other in Massachusetts and I don’t think either of us owns a typewriter. Bear: I think that would be awesome.) But it is not the way everybody co-authors, so as usual, the best advice we can offer is the old chestnut: Do whatever works for you.
Are you working on any other joint projects right now?
We’re working on “The Wreck of the Charles Dexter Ward,” but that will probably be produced by Drabblecast before this interview runs. (Hint: go to Drabblecast & listen!) We’re also working on the third Iskryne novel, An Apprentice to Elves, the sequel to A Companion to Wolves and The Tempering of Men. And more projects are likely to sprout.