Today: a Q&A with Jennifer Jeanne McArdle, author of the latest IZ Digital story, a Doctor in the Pod, wise words from Paul Kincaid, and a short story competition…
New this week in IZ Digital is the story ‘The Algae is Always Golder on This Side’ by Jennifer Jeanne McArdle, a writer who works in animal conversation.
Jennifer very kindly agreed to answer three questions for the newsletter.
IZ: Your story ‘The Algae is Always Golder on This Side’ opens with the line:
Dr Nacht, a state ecologist, is sent to Shermanville to assess the health of the town’s lake.
How did this story of Dr Nacht visiting this peculiar town and lake develop? And which came first, the scientist character, or the lake?
Jennifer Jeanne McArdle: The lake came first. The town in the story is an amalgamation of small towns in the Hudson Valley and Catskill regions of New York State. I grew up near a small man-made lake in a hamlet called Shenorock and I went to college in the Catskills. Shenorock used to be a vacation community for people from New York City during the 1950s. However, the lake got too polluted to swim in and the houses in the area became year-round homes long before I was born.
Some of the small town political issues mentioned in the story are lifted from my home town or other small towns in NY. Shenorock Lake is home to European Mute Swans. And people are obsessed with them! They have their own paparazzi that constantly monitors the breeding pairs and posts all of their pictures on Facebook.
I have always loved ducks and used to keep pet ones when I was a kid. So I like reading about wild birds. I work for a large conservation organization as a grants officer. A lot of our work is overseas, but we do a fair amount of work with local environmental initiatives, mostly in New York City. I wanted to write about a scientist dealing with local environmental issues and facing pushback. The real research for Dr Nacht is not the lake itself, but the people living around the lake; nowadays conservation and ecology work is focused not just on the biology or chemistry, but also the social science of the community.
IZ: Which writers do you admire most, stylistically? And what great stories have you read recently?
Jennifer Jeanne McArdle: Right before writing this story I’d finished a non-fiction work, Braiding with Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer. She also talks about human and community focused ecology. I try to read a mix of non-fiction and fiction and have been making a concentrated effort to read, read, read more short stories and keep track of that reading to help promote other authors, etc.
Some of the most recent short pieces of fiction I’ve read in during the last month or so that I’ve really enjoyed have included: ‘The King in the Universe Dies Again’ by Kay Vaindal in Dark Matter Magazine, ‘Joolie and Irdl’ by Sandy Parsons in After the Storm Magazine, and ‘The Tide Queen’ in From the Depths, published by Wyldblood Press. I also enjoyed the short-ish non-fiction travelogue ‘Summer in Samarkand’ by Elif Batuman in an older issue of n+1 that I happened to come across. I am currently reading a longer non-fiction book Butts: A Backstory by Heather Radke.
Some of my favourite classic authors from high school and college up until now include Kurt Vonnegut, H.G. Wells, Octavia Butler, Douglas Adams, and Ruth Benedict (a classic anthropologist whose work is out of date in some ways, but her writing is still interesting). I also loved the Animorphs series, Tamora Pierce’s Tortall books, and Garth Nix’s Old Kingdom novels as a kid.
IZ: What are you working on at the moment, and can you give IZ readers any hints about forthcoming stories of yours they can look out for?
Jennifer Jeanne McArdle: I have a couple of short sci-fi pieces slated to come out this year in the first issue of In Another Time Magazine, and one in After the Storm Magazine, a western novelette in an upcoming volume of Soul Scream, and a sci-fi novelette upcoming in an anthology to be released by NewMyths this year or next year. I have plenty of stories out on submission, so maybe I’ll have more!
I will also be co-editing a themed anthology of fiction for the first time this year! As of yet, we haven’t announced the details of the submission call publically, but the announcement should be coming sometime in early June. I’ve worked with this publisher before as a slush reader and proofreader (I promise I’m better at catching other people’s typos and wonky sentences than I am at catching my own), so I’m really looking forward to working with them again and taking a more active role.
Thank you, Jennifer!
Become an IZ Digital member to read Jennifer’s ‘The Algae is Always Golder on This Side’, with beautiful art by Dante Luiz, and forthcoming stories by Neil Williamson, Giselle Leeb, Cécile Cristofari, Andrew Hook, and many others.
Interzone subscribers can read all IZ Digital exclusives for free – taking out a subscription is the best way to support both magazines.
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From the fascinating Dr Nacht in ‘The Algae is Always Golder on This Side’ to the fabulous Dr Una McCormack in a new episode of INTERZONE POD!
Una talked about writing sf, the importance of small press publishing, the finale of Star Trek: Picard, and why you should never throw anything away…
Second Self, Una’s latest novel, is out now in hardback, and she has an essay in Writing the Future: Essays on Crafting Science Fiction, a collection edited by Dan Coxon and Richard V. Hirst coming September 2023 from Dead Ink.
The new issue of Foundation is out and I thoroughly enjoyed Paul Kincaid’s review of Richard Howard’s Space for Peace: Fragments of the Irish Troubles in the Science Fiction of Bob Shaw and James White. Here is a choice quote:
Science fiction, for [Bob Shaw and James White], was a representation of commonality not of division, and both would go on to write stories about divided societies from a perspective of coming together. For both writers the solution to a divided world is coming to understand the viewpoint of the other side, to see them as individuals rather than as a tribe.
Paul also notes that it is ‘refreshing and challenging to look at science fiction writers not in terms of how they use the mechanistic ideas of the genre but rather in how they fit within contemporary experience.’ And on mastodon adds:
I've always wondered why so little sf criticism looks at the work as part of the world. Surely every writer is affected by what is happening around them.
I also wonder why.
You can read Paul’s review of Conquest by Nina Allan in the next issue of Interzone, and IZ Digital has recently published his review of *All These Worlds, Niall Harrison’s weighty (and shiny!) tome of reviews.
And get more review goodness in Foundation from Science Fiction Foundation
Exciting competition news: Iaith yn esblygu / Language Evolves, a group of researchers based in Cardiff, Wales, is running a bilingual short story competition, and the winners and runners-up will be considered for publication in Interzone and IZ Digital.
Here are the details:
We want to encourage writers to be inspired by the field of language evolution. This might include engaging with our questions, imagining situations in the past or the future, speculating on how language might have evolved in a different species, or thinking about the consequences of our methods and practice.
There will be awards for the best Welsh language story and English language story.
The first-prize winners will receive a cash prize of £400.
The winner and runners-up of the English Language will be considered for publication in Interzone and IZ Digital and will receive a 6-issue print subscription to the magazine.
The winner and runners-up of the Welsh Language competition will be considered for publication in Gwyllion magazine.
That’s all for today.
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Gareth Jelley, Editor & Publisher
Interzone & IZ Digital
‘Garak closed his eyes. “I can’t bear to see it,” he said softly. “To see him. All that intelligence, that quality, extinguished…” He shuddered. “And for what? A spy game, of all things! Of all the stupid, ridiculous things he could have done! After all I said, ‘Don’t play the game, Julian, the game eats you.’ ” He shook his head. “He should have stuck to the holodeck. Tuxedos and champagne. There are too many spies in this world already. Too many spies, and all of them wasting their time and squandering their lives.” ’
— Una McCormack, Enigma Tales