Q&A with Alexandra Renwick

Alexandra Renwick makes her Asimov’s debut with her short story “Because Reasons” [in our current issue]. Here, she discusses her inspirations and writing style, admitting that she’s often struggling with the same “Truths” as her characters.

Asimov’s Editor: What is the story behind “Because Reasons”?

AR: Until asked this question, I don’t think I realized the range of concerns this story’s unconventional narrative structure let me cram in here. Usually characters move in some way—physical, metaphorical, metaphysical, whateverical—from one place to another. There’s an arc, right? But in “Because Reasons” that arc already exists. It unfolds in a series of “Truths” set forth by the narrator, freeing me up to play with a slew of different notions without wondering how they fit into the action. Several close friends of mine died in rapid succession a couple years ago, and I guess I’d been thinking about the things you might never get to say to people who irrevocably disappear from your life. Sometimes very important people.

AE: How did this story germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?

AR: I’ve been craving more adventurous fashion choices in the general populace. Also, I love lists. Lists get my brain all juicy, and this story is basically an epistolary list. With fashion directives. And space colonization.

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

AR: I’m an immersion writer—I relate to everything in my stories! Tin cans! Stray cats! Broken furniture! Detached prosthetic limbs! Wadded-up love letters!

AE: How did the title for this piece come to you? Continue reading “Q&A with Alexandra Renwick”

Q&A with Darrell Schweitzer

Readers’ Award winner and former Asimov’s editorial assistant Darrell Schweitzer is back with his latest poem in our current issue. Here, he details his history with our magazine and offers advice for writers hoping to make it in its pages.

Asimov’s Editors: What is the story behind this piece?

Darrel Schweitzer: This is rather like asking where a writer gets ideas. There are two schools on this question, Poughkeepsie and Schenectady. For some reason upstate New York seems to be so rich in ideas that they are an item of export. But seriously, a poem like this is a science-fictional notion which has been distilled down beyond the level of a short story. The image, or myth, or whatever is best expressed in such a compressed form.

The “story” behind this particular piece is the realization that time-travelers from the future, unless there has been a serious interruption in civilization in the meantime, will not need to come back to learn our history. They will already know it. It will be their past.


AE: What made you think of Asimov’s for this piece?

DS: Asimov’s is the best market for SF poetry. I always send such attempts there first. There is no actual center in American poetry, just a series of isolated readerships, some associated with various schools or magazines, or with academia. Asimov’s reaches quite a large readership, as far as poetry-publishing magazines go. A literary magazine with a circulation of even 10,000 readers would be quite extraordinary. Do all Asimov’s readers read and value the poetry therein? I don’t know. Do all the readers of The New Yorker read the poetry that magazine publishes?


AE: What is your history with Asimov’s?

DS: I was an editorial assistant for the magazine during George Scithers’s editorship, 1977–82. My involvement in later years has hardly been central to the magazine’s history. Some poetry. I won the 2006 Readers’ Award for Best Poem for “Remembering the Future.”

Continue reading “Q&A with Darrell Schweitzer”

Q&A with Todd Dillard

Asimov’s newcomer Todd Dillard chats about his writing process and inspirations—whether for his current manuscript, which he describes as the most difficult project he’s ever worked on, or his debut science fiction poem, which you can find in our current issue.

Asimov’s Editors: What is the story behind this piece?

TD: I have always loved the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series. It’s such a delightful blend of spoof and adventure, fraught with rich scenes and characters and things so bizarre you have to laugh when you read them. I reread the first book over a year ago, during a period when I was dabbling with persona poems, and I kept returning to how genius and aberrant a creature like the Babel Fish is. How did they evolve? If they are the source of so much mayhem, why are they so prolific across the galaxy? More importantly: what is their agency? What do they want? This question serves as the foundation of the poem.


AE: How did the title for this piece come to you?

TD: “Palate of the Babel Fish” is the most useful title I could come up with; it describes the subject, the topic, and scans pleasantly. I like too how close to “ballad” the word “palate” is; if you were to only listen with half an ear, the title almost sounds like “Ballad of the Babel Fish.”


AE: What made you think of Asimov’s for this piece?

TD: I used to run a newsstand, and Asimov’s was one of the few science fiction titles I stocked. It was the first magazine to come to mind when I completed this, my first science fiction poem written as an adult.

Continue reading “Q&A with Todd Dillard”

Q&A with Bill Johnson

Bill Johnson is back with a new Summit novella, “Bury Me in the Rainbow,” in the current issue on sale now. In a chat with us, he reveals how the story came together and teases some of his upcoming projects.

Asimov’s Editors: Bill, some our long-time readers may recognize some of the characters in this story—what is their history in your writing and in Asimov’s?

Bill Johnson: In 1997, I wrote a novelette “We Will Drink A Fish Together.” It was published in Asimov’s and won the Hugo in 1998.

I was born and raised in very rural parts of South Dakota and Iowa (and now live in Chicago), and I’ve always been struck by the difference in attitudes between very rural areas and cities. They are—in many ways—completely alien to each other.

I had just gone back to Dakota for a funeral and when I got back to Chicago I started to write about this difference. I have “real” aliens in the story but the true aliens are the different people, their cultures, and how they interact. It’s not a matter of political differences—many small town people are quite liberal and many city dwellers are very conservative—but in how they view the world, each other, and their different approaches to the same problem.

Fish is, to me, an introduction to the town of Summit and the real problem the town faces: the imminent extermination of their way of life by the flatlanders, the people from big cities who are attracted to their area by the cheap land, unspoiled scenery, and relaxed lifestyle. The same problem faced by residents in many different areas (the Hamptons, much of Michigan, Idaho, etc.). In the case of the people of Summit, however, they do have an option.

Do they leave Earth?

Which is a very complicated decision.

Continue reading “Q&A with Bill Johnson”

Q&A with Mary Robinette Kowal

Mary Robinette Kowal is back in our current issue with her new story “Artisanal Trucking, LLC,” which she says started as a “gee whiz” idea and expanded from there. She also talks past jobs and future books.


For more about her process, see this companion post, but be warned: spoilers reside within.


Asimov’s Editors: What is the story behind this piece?

Mary Robinette Kowal: I was at a conference in a round table discussion talking about automation and privilege. At some point, we were talking about how knitting, which used to be a necessary thing, became automated with knitting machines and now it is a luxury art. It’s expensive to buy wool. It takes time and leisure to make a garment. I said, “I imagine the hipsters of the future will totally do artisanal trucking.” I had more of a point but stopped talking as Story stampeded through my brain.


AE: How did this story germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?

MRK: The conference gave me the “gee whiz” idea. But I wound up developing it as part of a Short Story Intensive that I was teaching. In the class, I always take a gee whiz idea and demonstrate how you can explore it to find a story. I worked through that and liked what I was coming up with. Interestingly, the character’s name, “Dude,” was originally a placeholder in my notes. But I thought it worked for him so I kept it.


AE: What made you think of Asimov’s for this story?

MRK: I always love the SF that Sheila chooses for Asimov’s because it explores an SFnal concept but always centers on character. The story of a dude, his dog, and an AI truck just seemed like a natural fit.


AE: How much or little do current events impact your writing?

MRK: They impact me quite a lot, sometimes by shaping the things I’m thinking about while I’m writing and sometimes by distracting me from writing. I think this happens with most fiction, but science fiction makes it very easy to spot the effects of current events from the Atomic era science fiction to Cyberpunk. I enjoy the fact that our field allows us to extrapolate and imagine futures.

Continue reading “Q&A with Mary Robinette Kowal”

Deeper into Mary Robinette Kowal’s Process (SPOILERS!) for “Artisanal Trucking, LLC”

Mary Robinette Kowal was gracious enough to share her writing and teaching process with us, and in turn you, dear readers! Please take note that if you haven’t read “Artisanal Trucking, LLC” yet, these documents contain SPOILERS.

First, there is an initial brainstorming sheet that she has created to be filled in: Mary’s Plot Process Steps.

Next, turns this sheet into an outline: Mary’s Outline Demo.

Lastly, she begins writing directly atop the outline, adjusting as she goes: Mary’s story sample – Artisinal Trucking.


We hope this helps you better understand her process, and perhaps it may help you sort out your own ideas before you (hopefully!) send them off to us, here at Asimov’s!

Q&A with Sean Monaghan

Sean Monaghan discusses his most recent—and fifth—story in the current issue of Asimov’s while also touching on the fantastic and imaginative worlds he creates for our readers. Read on to learn about his inspiration and influences.


Asimov’s Editors: How did “The Billows of Sarto” germinate? Was there a spark of inspiration, or did it come to you slowly?

Sean Monaghan: I love extreme environments. The Antarctic, the Atacama Desert, lush rainforests, the Grand Canyon. I studied geography and geology and have always been fond of volcanoes, especially collapsed calderas. A few years back I visited Crater Lake National Park in Oregon and loved seeing the tiny volcanic peak sticking up inside the caldera (and also had a flash of memory—when I’d been a little kid, I’d seen a photo and decided that I wanted to go there sometime . . . in the intervening decades I’d forgotten about that. That was cool).

When I came to write “The Billows of Sarto,” I started with the environment, the caldera with its microclimate. Things progressed from there.

AE: Is this story part of a larger universe, or is it stand-alone?

SM: I suspect all of my stories are part of a larger universe, I just haven’t quite figured out how to join them all together. I’m sure Sarto is another world, just an easy starship jump from the planet Kaylee in “The Molenstraat Music Festival” or Ariosto in “Crimson Birds of Small Miracles” (both of which appeared in Asimov’s). I would certainly like to explore more of Sarto; the caldera is just a part of the landscape.


With “The Billows of Sarto” the environment is almost one of the characters, but it’s very much a character story, with an exotic setting, and so Asimov’s felt like a natural home.


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

SM: I guess I do relate to Jack. That quest for answers and for understanding, and looking in unusual (and often wrong) places for those. The moments of uncertainty in dealing with new people, and moments of simply becoming baffled by family. Continue reading “Q&A with Sean Monaghan”