At this year’s Mo*Con, I had a chance to meet and chat with writer, editor and one time reader for Clarkesworld Magazine, Nayad A. Monroe. What struck me at the time was the passion and excitement that poured from her when discussion literary matters. Over the course of the discussion, it became clear to me that this is a lady that knows her shit and has a very clear vision of what she wants to contribute to the literary world.
Then, a couple weeks later, I find out that Alliteration Ink had paired with her on an anthology centered around one of my favorite fixations: the futility and fear associated with a desire to know the future. After all, as a great man once said, that is where you and I are going to spend the rest of our lives.
In an effort to pay the authors what they deserve, Alliteration Ink has started a Kickstarter for What Fates Impose: Tales of Divination. So, I yanked Nayad aside, yammered in her ear for a bit and managed to get some information about the anthology for you, oh my dear minions.
“What fates impose, that men must needs abide; It boots not to resist both wind and tide”
-William Shakespeare, Romeo and Juliet
Horrornews.net: Dispensing with any pleasantries whatsoever, why should we be excited about this anthology?
Nayad A Monroe: I think the authors in the book are a big thing to get excited about. They’re so talented and full of unusual ideas. I found diversity with some of the most interesting people writing speculative stories right now. The book includes stories from well-known and well-regarded authors with a lot of prizes and experience between them, such as Lucy Snyder, Tim Waggoner, Ken Scholes, Cat Rambo, and Maurice Broaddus.
I’ve also included stories from newer writers who are bringing in awards and publishing their stories in major magazines, people who have learned from workshops taught by writers like Neil Gaiman and Tim Powers. Their writing ability comes through into stories that explore a wide range of human motivations: revenge, jealousy, greed, ambition, grief, love, and desperation. Usually people who want to see into the future are not entirely happy in the present.
HNN: What drew you to this subject? Was the Amazing Criswell whispering to you in your dreams?
NAM: There was no whispering as far as I know, but then I don’t always remember my dreams. Well, that’s a creepy thought. Moving on. I was actually trying to write a story about a fake Tarot reader when I started to think about ideas for anthologies to mention to a couple of publishers I knew I was going to see at a convention. The character in my story could psychically “read” objects by touching them, but she didn’t want people to know she had a real power, so she hid behind reading Tarot cards. I couldn’t quite figure out the ending, and I had a deadline coming up, so I set that aside and wrote “Quintuple-A” for Sidekicks!. Despite not finishing the Tarot story (yet), it all worked out because the idea of fortune-telling was on my mind just at the right time to talk about it with Steve Saus, and he decided that he wanted to publish the anthology through Alliteration Ink.
HNN: The Steven C. Gilberts cover art is gorgeous. Evocative and eye-grabbing without being so on the nose as to destroy imagination. Did you have him in mind from the start, or did you struggle in finding the right cover?
NAM: Steven Gilberts had his art on display at Mo*Con, and Steve Saus asked if I thought his style would work well for the cover. I thought that was a great idea. I worked with the artist by pointing out paintings of his that I liked, and showing him examples of elements that I hoped he could include in the cover. My top priority was to have a wheel that evoked the Wheel of Fortune card in Tarot decks. I told Steven G. what kind of color scheme I thought would be good, but made a point of encouraging him to use his own judgment on the details. He came back with a sketch that’s almost exactly what the cover looks like, but without the birds, and I asked him to add crows to the tree. That was both for atmosphere and to tie the cover in Erika Holt’s story, “Murder of Crows.”
After we received the final image, I did the cover design: stretched the top a bit, cropped the bottom, darkened the top and bottom, and added the title and other text, along with the lens flare effect behind the title. I love the way it turned out, and I’m glad the artist is happy with the finished cover, too.
HNN: What is the big thing that you were looking for when going through stories?
NAM: I wanted weirdness. I have read so many short stories, because I spent three years reading submissions for Clarkesworld Magazine, that I’ve seen a lot of ideas before. I knew that all of the people I invited to submit stories could write sentences well, but I was only going to accept their stories if they came up with characters in situations that kept my jaded mind curious about what would happen next. I wanted most of the stories to have a dark, edgy quality, and that’s what I got. Not all of the stories are horrific–some are pure fantasy–but that’s good because I wanted variety in the approaches, too.
HNN: Speaking of Clarkesworld, did your experiences there and the expectations of that magazine affect your approach to this anthology?
NAM: Yes. I learned a lot from Neil Clarke, because whenever he would reject a story I recommended for publication, he would explain what he didn’t like about it. He has great taste. Reading and making recommendations on that many stories, and seeing which ones made it into the magazine, changed my way of thinking about fiction. I also learned that I like horror more than Neil does, so I’m more likely to accept scary stories than he is. Being able to make the decisions about what to include in a book is so satisfying.
HNN: I know it is like picking a favorite child, but was there a story that completely knocked it out of the park for you?
NAM: I have to mention three. There’s “Black Swan Oracle,” by Ferrett Steinmetz, which is psychologically grim, and also plausible assomething that could almost happen in the near future in our world. “The Goggen,” by Tim Waggoner, is so creepy, and it just keeps getting creepier as you discover the real motivations going on with each of the two characters. The other one I have to bring up is the longest story in the book, a new novelette by Ken Scholes about a woman getting pulled into an old and dangerous conspiracy. It’s called “All Our Tangled Dreams in Disarray.” It’s hard for me to stop myself from gushing out spoilers about these stories. I can’t wait to find out what other people think of them.
HNN: You managed to snag a story from Lucy Snyder right before she won a Stoker for Magdala Amigdala, why did you decide to approach her for participation in this project?
NAM: I’ve known Lucy for several years, and I like both her writing and her personality. It was incredibly easy to get a story from her because I just started to describe the book’s theme, and she said she had one that would fit. It’s almost as if she predicted the future. But seriously, I love the twisted stuff Lucy comes up with in her fiction, so I expected that her submission would work out. Her story, “Abandonment Option,” was the first one I accepted for What Fates Impose.
HNN: As I’m sure you know, there are a few of us in the horror community that like it wet, goopy and dripping with greasy, grimy people bits. Then you had to go and mention to me a little something about Andrew Romine’s contribution. Any chance you’d be willing to tease us a bit with what to expect from that one?
NAM: Oh, yes. I can confirm that your needs for wet, goopy, drippy, greasy, icky bits will be fully satisfied by Andrew’s story, “Ain’t Much Different’n Rabbits.” It’s the grossest, grimmest story in the book. It makes me uncomfortable. And I like horror!
Those of you who read my reviews know that I don’t f*ck around. If something sucks, I’ll tell you. If it’s good, then I’ll smack you on the ass and point you to where to get a copy. Given the people involved and the subject matter, I can honestly say that I’m excited about this project. So much so that I dropped sixty bucks on it myself (granted, I get an opportunity to have a recent Stoker winner tell me how much my own writing sucks but that is just a bonus). This is the type of thing that makes me giddy to be in this business.
Stop by. Check it out. Maybe plop a dime or two into their hat and walk away with some nifty swag.
Nayad A. Monroe read over 5,000 submissions for the Hugo Award-winning semiprozine, Clarkesworld Magazine, before she started to work on becoming an anthology editor. Several of her short stories have been published in various anthologies, such as: Space Grunts: Full-Throttle Space Tales #3, Space Tramps: Full-Throttle Space Tales #5, The Crimson Pact: Volume Two, and Sidekicks! She has also contributed an interview with Tim Powers to Writers Workshop of Science Fiction and Fantasy, and her story, “Quintuple-A,” is scheduled to be made into a short film by Wild Hawk Entertainment. She blogs at http://nayadmonroe.blogspot.com/. You can find her making odd remarks on Twitter as @Nayad.
Interview: Nayad A Monroe – Editor (What Fates Impose)