How did “Crystalline” originate? What inspirations did you draw on?
Well, I’m a dad. I like to think I’m a nice dad. And, possibly as a result, I write a lot of science fiction with nice dad protagonists. For this story, I wanted to challenge myself to go in the opposite direction and write the villainous origin story of a not-very-nice dad. So, I basically fought my best instincts as a parent, and explored a much more selfish point of view. Like most of my short stories, this is just a jumping off point. I’d love to write more about what happens in this cave with these people.
What is your writing process like? Did this story fit the pattern?
This story had been kicking around in my head for a few years, so it came relatively according to plan. It was a bit challenging to write such an unlikable character. I had to spend a lot of time adjusting just how much of a jerk he should be. In the end, “Crystalline” got to a rough draft stage after the usual amount of fiddling around until the whole thing felt right.
What is your writing space like? What do you like to have around for optimal creativity?
I have an Addam’s Family-style Victorian style office in my home, equipped with a couple of cats to bother me every five or six minutes. I used to think it was the perfect place to write. But the quarantine years proved me wrong. At home alone, I discovered that I actually do my best writing with lots of other humans all around me (but not talking to me, oh god, no). When my local coffee shop finally opened back up, it felt like breathing again. Thank you, kind strangers, for existing, and again, for not talking to me while I write.
Other than writing, do you have any other creative pursuits? What do you do to relax?
It took years and years, but the Pacific Northwest has slowly infected me with a —gulp—love of the outdoors. I could only struggle against my embodiment as a human being for so long, I suppose. And as much as I’d like to be a brain in an aquarium, processing information, divorced from the material world—I really do like the smell of trees. Hiking around the misty, mossy, probably werewolf-infested Oregon wilderness has become my go-to relaxing hobby.
What are you working on lately? Where else can fans look for your work?
For the last couple of years, I’ve been exploring the new frontier of writing screenplays and television. It turns out those projects take a long time, and they often bite the dust before they see the light of day. One exciting project that isn’t dead yet is a film adaptation of my short story “The Blue Afternoon that Lasted Forever” at Paramount Pictures. In the literary world, while I don’t have a new novel on the way, I do have another new short story (called “Ocasta”) coming out in the superb, Nisi Shawl-edited anthology, New Suns 2: Original Speculative Fiction by People of Color (Solaris, March 2023).
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