Q&A with Dale Bailey

Dale Bailey’s latest short story, “Rules of Biology,” is featured in our July/August issue [on sale now]. In addition to chatting with us here on the blog, he also recorded his new story in podcast form, available here now!


Asimov’s Editor: Happily, you agreed to participate in our podcast series with this story. Our gentle readers can give it a listen here. How did you find the recording process? 

DB: It was interesting. I try to write in the rhythms of spoken language. I once received a rejection letter that said the piece read too much like it had been written to be read aloud—which I took as a compliment, even though it wasn’t meant that way. So in that sense, reading the piece was fine. But I never mastered the actor’s gift of giving each character a different voice.


AE: Do you particularly relate to any of the characters in this story?

DB: Certainly not Esterman, who is a pretty selfish and unpleasant man. But I do like Dee. She’s doesn’t deserve what happens to her (who does?). But she’s stronger than she seems at first, and she claims some happiness for herself, which I like about her.


AE: What is your history with Asimov’s?

DB: Asimov’s and I go way back. I used to scour newsstands for it in the late ’70s and early ’80s and have subscribed for years. Decades I guess. Which is kind of sobering now that I think about it. How did I get this old?


AE: What inspired you to start writing?

DB: My father introduced me to fantasy and science fiction very early. I was reading Tolkien and C.S. Lewis by second grade or so, and from there I went and worked my way steadily through the public library holdings—as I recall they had a lot of Simak and Silverberg and, of course, Stephen King. I supplemented all those with regular infusions of paperback originals from the spinner racks in the local drug stores (remember when spinner racks were a thing?). I read everything from Burroughs to Spinrad and Bradbury, Bradbury most of all. I guess he was the most formative influence.

I also had subscriptions to the big three SF magazines of the day—Analog, Asimov’s, and F&SF. From there, the natural next step was trying my hand at writing my own fiction. The first story I remember was a classic called “The Blue Lion of Mars”—thankfully long lost to time. I was in second grade at the time, and the teacher read it aloud to the class. This made an impression on me. And so I kept writing steadily, until I went to Clarion and sold my first story to F&SF many years ago, back in the summer of 1992.


AE: What other projects are you currently working on?

DB: I subscribe to the steam kettle theory of writing. Talking too much about any particular project tends to take the pressure off the process. So I will speak vaguely and say I am contemplating a series of stories that partakes of both space opera and horror. We’ll see if it comes to anything. I’m also working on a historical novel that mixes in elements of horror and science fiction. And again: we’ll see if it comes to anything. Sometimes they don’t. I do have a novel coming out in October, though: In the Night Wood.


AE: What SFnal prediction would you like to see come true?

DB: Flying cars.


AE: What are you reading right now?

DB: After Tom Wolfe’s death I found myself compelled to go back and revisit some of his stuff. I just finished The Right Stuff, about the American space program in the 1960s, and it was great. And I’m now reading the The Bonfire of the Vanities, which is about Wall Street (and a million other things). They’re both utterly compelling reads. It’s like a masterclass in narrative construction, and pyrotechnic prose. I’m also reading a lot of short fiction, as always, but right now I seem especially drawn to Caitlin R. Kiernan’s work. I’ve especially enjoyed The Dry Salvages and “Houses Under the Sea.” In those pieces—and indeed virtually everything I read by her—the density of her world-building, the breadth of her knowledge, and the beauty of her prose are nearly overwhelming.


AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?

DB: I have a website (dalebailey.com) and I’m on Facebook, but to call me active on social media would be a huge exaggeration. I do occasionally post a picture of my dog . . .



Dale Bailey has a novel, In the Night Wood, coming out from John Joseph Adams’s line at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in October. The book is a dark fantasy that’s contemporary in setting. Naturally, Dale is at work on a new book and penning more disturbing stories.

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