Can you tell us about what led you to write “The Bolt Tightener”?
I was taking a class with Stephen Graham Jones where we read Jeff and Ann Vandermeer’s new collection The Weird cover to cover. So my head was full of all these stories by authors like H.P. Lovecraft and Francis Stevens and Jean Ray, so many of whom use oceanic imagery and sea monsters to express cosmic horror. While I was taking that class I had a nightmare that I was hired to tighten bolts on a strange moat, and I had to contend with a spiny octopus that lived near my floating desk. The dream stuck with me, so I scrapped the floating desk and shaped it into a story.
Why do you think Chaun’s predecessor couldn’t or wouldn’t kill the octopus?
Maybe he was just tougher. More willing to make sacrifices. Chaun thinks he’s willing to make sacrifices for his family, but he’s not, really. He has a limit. I suspect his predecessor also knew something about what was outside the seawall. The pictures from the city’s museum imply that there are tales about the past that have fallen away. His predecessor grew up in a time when those tales were still told. Chaun’s generation has ignored or forgotten them.
It seems clear that this world is different from ours. Can you tell us more about the setting, and why you chose to use that setting for this story? Do you have other stories set in the same or similar places?
Most of what I write these days is set in our contemporary world, though I occasionally toy with fantasy worlds and dystopias. For some reason I think of Chaun’s world as a far future Asian island. The last holdout after everything else has been taken over by monsters.
What do you think led Chaun to this job?
The pressure of his new baby caused him to rethink his life. There aren’t a whole lot of opportunities in a city that is shut off from the rest of the world, and he’d been working some easy, meaningless jobs. He was trying to grow up and be responsible. Too bad he destroyed the world instead.
What’s next for you, writing-wise?
I’m fortunate to be part of one of the only MFA programs that actively supports speculative writing. I will be starting my thesis soon. If things go well, maybe you can look for me on the shelves in a few years. Until then, more short stories.