How did “He Came From a Place of Openness and Truth” come about?
My partner rarely remembers his dreams, but when he does, they’re these bizarre but surprisingly well-plotted stories. About a year ago, he told me about a dream he had where aliens kidnapped people from earth to clone them; the aliens needed sperm to do so, like in some cheap porno film. I immediately wanted to write a story where I would be challenged to deepen the source material, turn it into something sweeter and truer to life.
I love how sexuality is explored in this story. While some people have a clearer or more binary orientation, it was nice to see space for people who uncover their sexuality in a way that is less bounded by certainty. Was that something you set out to explore when you wrote this story? Were there specific things you wanted to achieve?
I absolutely wanted to explore a less certain view of sexuality, one that was true to my own experience. When I was in high school, a lot of students did see sexuality as this fluid thing, even in the small Texas town where I grew up. But as someone who was attracted to both men and women, I struggled with feeling like I had to be either gay or straight; most of this pressure came from adults with a more closed-off view of sexuality. My parents were fine with me being gay, but they struggled with the idea that I could be attracted to men and women equally. I wanted to depict a teenager who was struggling with that very same pressure to give himself a strict label but who was strong enough to rally against that pressure.
You are a prolific interviewer yourself. What question that you have asked is your favorite and what did you learn from the answer?
I always enjoy asking, for selfish reasons, what people’s favorite short stories are, so I can seek those stories out for myself. But the most memorable answer was one from Ken Liu. I asked him what story of his was his favorite. He talked about a story that took a long time to get accepted, so long that he gave up on writing for a while. When it was accepted, his passion for writing was revived. He said, “It doesn’t matter how many rejections you get, only that you find the one editor, the one reader who connects with what you’re trying to do.” That advice, considering the source, was comforting to me as a writer and made me think differently about the meaning of a rejection. I’m not saying that I’m immune to feeling discouraged by them now, but resubmitting has become much more automatic for me.
Do you have any upcoming projects you’d like to tell us about?
My story “Nostalgia” will appear in the January/February issue of Interzone. I rolled a lot of personal experiences into that one story, though I won’t go into specifics, as that might be incriminating. My first Beneath Ceaseless Skies story comes out this spring, titled “Everything Beneath You.” It’s close to my heart because the writing of it helped pull me out of a particularly bad funk last year. I’ve also just written and edited my first novel (well, first that I don’t consider a lost cause, anyway), so what’s upcoming there is starting the submissions process for that, which is totally new to me. And, as with every spring, my Art & Words Show is open to submissions for the month of March. It’s a fun project, both for me and for the people who participate.
Why do so many bios have cats in them and so few bios have dogs in them?
Two words: Toxoplasma gondii. Let’s see you beat a mind-controlling parasite, dogs.
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