Robert Borski has been contributing to our magazine for close to a decade now, and his latest—and shortest—poem “Eclipse 2017” can be found in our current issue [on sale now].
Asimov’s Editors: What is the story behind this piece?
RB: Like almost everyone else in the country on August 21st, 2017, I was watching the solar eclipse, trying not to blind myself in the process, even as, online, a number of my colleagues in the Science Fiction & Fantasy Poetry Association were uploading their impressions, mostly in the form of short poems. Almost immediately, half a dozen ideas came to me and while I shared a few of them (e.g., “Shady deal nixed/ changeling sun returned”), I held back several, intending to submit them for publication. “Eclipse (2017)” was subsequently accepted by Asimov’s a short while later.
AE: Do you particularly relate to this piece?
RB: Even though I’m nearing 70, I still have a rebellious nature, so if you tell me not to fly too close to the Sun or don’t look back, I’m either going to cheat (does it count, if I use a mirror, to see if my wife follows or if my former place of residence is on fire?) or just outright disobey—even if other auspices (like a total eclipse, perhaps) present themselves. So, yes, Icarus and I could be blood brothers.
AE: What made you think of Asimov’s for this story?
RB: Quite a few of my Asimov’s poems have been space-based.
AE: What is your history with Asimov’s?
RB: “Neosaur” was the first of my Asimov’s poems, appearing in July 2010. “Eclipse” is my 18th poem published in the magazine. (It’s also the shortest poem I’ve had published to date anywhere.)
AE: How much or little do current events impact your writing?
RB: I try to keep up with trends and discoveries in the sciences, and not despair over the current Orwellian state of political affairs. Fortunately, there is alcohol for the latter and New Scientist for the former.
AE: How do you deal with writers’ block?
RB: Because I work for a university, I tend to do most of my writing during breaks in the academic calendar, accumulating and archiving ideas as they come to me, then picking a number of these that I hope will bear fruit. Given their high number (I rarely have fewer than 20 to 30 start-off points), if I become stymied or reach a dead end, I just move on to whatever is next in the queue. So far I’ve always run out of time before ideas or inspiration.
AE: How did you break into writing?
RB: Way back in the last century, August Derleth, the Wisconsin publisher and founder of Arkham House, put me in contact with a bunch of other would-be writers living in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area. Kirby McCauley, who was just then starting out as a literary agent, saw some of my writing that was published in a fanzine by my new writing colleagues and offered to represent me. Over the years he probably made as much as twenty-five cents commission off me, but was still able to make a pretty decent go of it with some of his other clients, fellows named Stephen King and George R. R. Martin (whom doubtless you will hear much more about someday). The poetry part of my career, however, would have to wait for over three decades, as I had quite a few items on my literary bucket list to work through first.
AE: What inspired you to start writing?
RB: I love reading and have always had an abundance of imagination. I’m also a profligate liar and writing seemed like a good way to channel my mendacious ways.
AE: What SFnal prediction would you like to see come true?
RB: I’m still hoping to see the genetic ark disembark and gaze in wonder at herds of aurochs, coveys of passenger pigeons, waddles of dodos, and packs of thylacines. I worry, however, about mammoths ever being able to survive in a climate-ravaged world or the social process involved in retro-introduced herd animals, especially if their numbers are small. But even as someone who’s very first beloved book was All About Dinosaurs by Roy Chapman Andrews, I don’t think bringing back dinosaurs is a good idea (unless they’re served with cranberry sauce and sage dressing).
AE: What are you reading right now?
RB: Red Clocks by Leni Zumas, By the Pricking of Her Thumb and The Black Prince by Adam Roberts, and The Poisonwood Bible by Barbara Kingsolver. Also, much looking forward to new works by William Gibson and Marlon James in 2019.
AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?
RB: Read as much as you can and strive for variety.
AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
RB: I have no website and am not particularly diligent about updating my Facebook page, but anyone interested in my poetry or any of my other writing can find a fairly comprehensive bibliography at The Internet Speculative Fiction Database: http://www.isfdb.org/cgi-bin/ea.cgi?12514
If it’s true that a poet’s best work is more likely to emerge when he or she is young, Robert Borski’s best work will never appear since he only began writing and submitting his poetry when he was 56. Undeterred, however, he continues to write and since then has been published over 300 times in such venues as Dreams & Nightmares, Star*Line, and Strange Horizons, garnering along the way 14 Rhysling nominations for best SF poem. A self-described “late-blooming child prodigy,” Robert lives, works, and writes in Stevens Point, Wisconsin. His lone collection of poetry to date, Blood Wallah, remains available from Dark Regions Press.