How did “Beyond the Shore” originate? What inspirations did you draw on?
In stories like this one, particularly when the central conflict is built around a pandemic or climate change, happy endings often come in the form of restoring the status quo—we win by overcoming the new threat and setting things back the way they were.
In reality, this thinking doesn’t work for climate change because “the way things were” is what got us into this mess in the first place. The only way we win now is by embracing radical change: in ourselves, our behaviour and our society. I wanted to write a story that made the metaphor literal.
You’ve got a world afflicted by climate change and a pandemic, and a main character who is resisting change, and rather than becoming the trope of the hero scientist who develops a vaccine that sets the world to rights, he realises too late that the world has moved forward and left him behind. I’m also taking aim at a certain kind of person who scorns each new social change (because it didn’t arise when he was young and therefore it must be wrong), and who believes so wholeheartedly in his own rationality he has trouble comprehending the possibility that he could ever be wrong.
What is your writing process like? Did this story fit the pattern?
I have ADHD, so until recently, my “process” for writing short fiction involved not touching a keyboard for six months and then finding some way to run off and lock myself into a cabin for a several days to do nothing but hammer out stories day and night, forgetting to eat or drink. Rinse and repeat. And yes, this story fit that working pattern. I lack the focus to write in little stolen chunks before work or over lunch, so my approach has always been very feast-or-famine. But attending Clarion West earlier this year showed me I could work with more discipline if a daily structure was imposed upon me. When I got home, I thought about how to create that kind of structure in my everyday life.
I work as a freelance copywriter, a job with a lot of flexibility, so I rearranged my hours to leave the mornings on Tuesday through Friday clear for writing. Four days a week, for four hours at a time, I lock myself in my study and turn out 500-1500 words. It’s working beautifully. Four hours seems to be my productivity sweet spot. When I finish a story, I let it sit for a few days, then give it a preliminary edit—I don’t like to inflict raw first drafts on people—and send it to my crit partners for feedback. Based on that feedback, I make a list of edits, work through them from easiest to hardest, do a final polish, and then start submitting.
What is your writing space like? What do you like to have around for optimal creativity?
My very tolerant partner let me completely take over our tiny spare room as a home office and writing space—along with his fold-down secretary desk, an antique passed down from his great-grandfather. It now incongruously houses my Macbook Air. I make a coffee, pop on noise-cancelling headphones, light a (battery operated!) candle, set a pomodoro timer, and start bullying my brain into action. My secret weapons for optimal creativity are Scrivener, caffeine, and a very good chair. I cannot overstate the importance of the chair. If you’re reading this and you’re only in your twenties, you might think you don’t need to invest in the chair. Trust me: get the chair.
What trends in speculative fiction would you like to see gain popularity in the next few years?
They say it’s all cyclical, so I’m calling it: time to revive post-apocalyptic settings. That’s right: it’s a setting, not a genre. You can set any kind of story after an apocalypse. A murder mystery. A romance. A thriller. A roadtrip buddy comedy. Give me your finest genre-bending post-modern post-apocalyptic novels, please and thank you. Beyond that, I hope the increased diversity of SF/F stays with us and grows (more bisexual characters please; even if you’re not invested in representation, you have to admit we shake up literary love triangles), and I’d like to see the industry move away from its reliance on genre pigeonholing and snappy elevator pitches to take more risks with complex, genre-defying works.
What are you working on lately? Where else can fans look for your work?
My work has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, PodCastle, Reckoning, Aurealis, and more—whenever I publish a short story, I list it on Fordwalker.com. Would that I could point you to my first novel, but it’s currently out on sub. (If you’re in the market to publish a sweeping post-apocalyptic adventure, call my agent!)
Lately I’ve been hard at work on my second novel, a YA SF that is essentially The Goonies in space, but way more queer and antipodean. I’m at that stage of drafting where I emerge from my writing session each morning drunk on Book. Regardless of what I’m supposed to be doing, all I’m thinking about right now is Book. I can functionally carry on a conversation, but underneath it all? Book. I am here, but I am also There. (“There” is Book.)
Spread the word!