The writers from Altered Fluid are back! Below, five of them tackle a question at the very heart of what they do as writers.
Brief bios of the authors appear after the interview.
Why is speculative fiction important?
PAUL M. BERGER: Because asking “What if?” is the best way to examine where we’re going and where we are. And not just in terms of shiny things that light up, either.
DEVIN POORE: I recently read an interview with Dr. Robert Ballard, the archaeologist of Titanic fame, and he said that he became interested in sea exploration after reading 20,000 Leagues under the Sea. I think someone being inspired to go outside of himself by a story, to follow a path he might never have otherwise, is where the importance lies.
MATTHEW KRESSEL: Speculative fiction can often comment on the world in ways that other fiction can’t. For example, Ursula K. LeGuin often comments on feminism and gender issues in her writing. China Miéville comments about social structures and governance. Science fiction considers the future and all its nasty and beautiful ramifications before it comes to pass. Science fiction in some ways has invented the future. The creator of the cell phone took his idea directly from the Star Trek communicators. We view the world through the window of stories.
SALADIN AHMED: Well, first off I’d rather talk about usefulness or helpfulness, since I think writers pat themselves on the back a bit too often about their capital-I Importance. In any case, I think it’s interesting that most people answering this question are talking about science fiction, per se. I’m pretty strictly a fantasy writer, so my answer might be different. I think fantasy is helpful for almost contradictory reasons. It helps us escape this crummy, depressing world, if only for a short time. But when we return it helps us imagine a less crummy and depressing world.
E. C. MYERS: Speculative Fiction gives us experiences we can’t possibly have in real life, challenges us to think about and question ourselves and our society, and provides us with different perspectives. It can teach us how to relate to others and the world around us, even when the world in the story is on another planet, in our imagined past, or in another universe.
I tend to write YA, and I think fiction in general is even more important to young readers because it can actually shape the way they think while they’re trying to figure out who they are and where they fit into the world–and it’s good to escape from the pressures of reality for a little while. At least, speculative fiction did that for me when I was a kid.
Paul M. Berger’s writing has appeared in Fantasy Magazine, Strange Horizons, Interzone, Escape Pod, and Weird Tales, among other places.
Matthew Kressel’s “The History Within Us” appeared in Clarkesworld and the “The Suffering Gallery” will appear in Beneath Ceaseless Skies. He is the publisher of
Sybil’s Garage and the co-host of the Fantastic Fiction reading series at KGB with Ellen Datlow.
E.(ugene) C. Myers’ fiction has appeared in Sybil’s Garage No. 7 and will appear in a forthcoming issue of Shimmer Magazine. His first young adult novel, Fair Coin, is on submission with publishers.
Devin Poore is an assistant editor and non-fiction contributor to Sybil’s Garage, and a writer of short stories and novels in which the world isn’t quite as it should be.
Jeremy L. C. Jones is a freelance writer, editor, and teacher. He is the staff Interviewer for Clarkesworld Magazine and a frequent contributor to Kobold Quarterly. He teaches at Wofford College and Montessori Academy in Spartanburg, SC. He is also the director of Shared Worlds, a creative writing and world-building camp for teenagers that he and Jeff VanderMeer designed in 2006.