Live from Milford 2021 – Day #2

Jim Anderson The critique sessions are going very well, and one thing I’m always reminded of is how differently people read stories. We go around our circle, and each of us brings to the critique, the conversation something about the story unique to their reading. I know this is something that shouldn’t take me by surprise, but somehow it always does. In part, I think this is because we are largely encountering each others work afresh; even though some of us belong to regular groups and get used to each others style, here we don’t encounter each other all that regularly and it’s wonderful for that, getting a fresh perspective.

Liz Williams It’s wine o’clock! We’ve earned it – everyone’s working really hard and as Jim says, the workshop’s going well under a lowering and sombre Welsh sky. During the morning, people are reading, hiking and in our case taking an hour to drive the 7 miles into Caernarfon because it’s getting a much needed bypass. Really enjoying reading everyone else’s work and the conversations which revolve around writing (and bears. We’re talking about bears now).

Jacey Bedford My piece was up for the first crit yesterday. I’m pleased to say that mostly people liked it, and there were some great comments and good feedback. I spent this morning writing a new chapter. Now I’m sitting here in the library with a wineglass and good company.

Charlotte Forfieh First critique done! Such sweet, sweet relief. Such sweet, sweet feedback: perceptive, constructive and delivered with grace. It’s all good.

Dolly Garland So grateful to be at Milford this year. It’s awesome at all times, but after the COVID year we’ve all had, being here is even better. As always, the beauty of Trigonos is astounding and humbling. The company of lovely people, despite the mental effort required for crits, good food, and lovely surroundings means that this is the break we’ve all been looking forward to from our normal life. I know the week will fly by, and I don’t want it to end.

Pete Sutton I’ve been meaning or trying to come to Milford for years and failing. So when I finally managed to book a place of course COVID happened <shakes fist>. But eventually all good things and all that and I’m finally in Trigonos with a bunch of writers talking writing (and many random other topics) and although I knew I needed this I didn’t know how much. Trigonos is in such a fantastic place and I have already wandered into Mordor (despite warnings to the contrary) and down to the lake (I wish/don’t wish I’d brought my swimming costume.) The critting has already been useful but, until my story is critted, I am still viewing it with a little bit of trepidation…

Sue Oke Well, I’ve attended Milford a few times and have always found the experience great fun, hard work and immensely satisfying. Spending a week with like-minded creative writers is priceless, and in a beautiful setting to boot! And the food… has anyone mentioned the food? I’m in vegan heaven. The first two days have flown by. Tomorrow is my turn to be critiqued, after which I will be happily rewriting 🙂

Posted in fantasy, Milford, reading, science fiction, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Live from Milford 2021- Day 1 #2 – by Jacey Bedford

It’s a Milford thing that we take conversational utterances out of context – just because we can. These are the ones from last night in the library.

The best thing about a question is how it illuminates the questioner.
What do you think about postage stamps?

I felt that about the kids I saw on the train today.
You mean you want to chop them in half?

It’s like my entire three hours of life coaching counts for nothing.

I can’t even say, ‘Hopefully people don’t die,’ in my line of work.

Especially when Angela Lansbury gets her head bitten off.

I just noticed you have the cutest little hands.

Mine’s like a drunken spider on its way to Odd Bins.

Did you say critgasm?
No, I said crit-induced aneurysm

Posted in Milford | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Live from Milford 2021- Day 1 – by Jacey Bedford

At last we’re back in North Wales at the start of another Milford writers’ week. Along with so many other events Milford 2020 was cancelled, so we’re doubly pleased to be here. Our venue, Trigonos in the tiny village of Nantlle, just nine miles south of Caernarfon, has undergone a few changes during lockdown, but mostly things are the same. There are a couple of new comfy sofas in the library (yay!) but no cheese course at dinner (boo). They insist we wear masks in the public areas (sensible) but have a policy of not asking if staff have been vaccinated.

We have all been double-jabbed and we all did a lateral flow test before setting off from home, so we’ll be forming our own bubble of 15 writers for the week.

I’m in Room 8 once again. It’s the smallest room in the house, but it’s big enough, and it has a lovely big bathroom with a walk-in shower. It faces the front of the house, so it doesn’t have a view to the lake and the Nantlle Ridge beyond, but it looks out over the kitchen door and across the (secret) garden. This was the view at 7.45 this morning – a little overcast but dry.

I’m a night owl, so I don’t usually see two 7.45s in a day, but at Trigonos breakfast is 8.00 until 9.00 and it’s as much of a social thing as an eating thing, so my alarm was set for 7.30. Oh, joy!

We spent last night getting to know each other. Milford has a policy of reserving 5 of the 15 places for newcomers, so that we don’t form a clique and anyone gets a chance to come. (Though applicants must have sold at least one story to a recognised market.)

I’m Milford Secretary, so I do the organising, taking bookings, negotiating with Trigonos etc. Liz Williams is the Milford Chair, so she runs the critique sessions.

It’s Sunday morning. We have our first formal crit session this afternoon, starting with my piece. It’s always someone who has been before who is first up for critique. I’ve only brought one piece this year, the start of a new novel called (for now) The Long Long Time of Jornish Marum. I can’t tell you any more because if I did I’d have to shoot you. What I hope to get out of the critiques is whether the novel idea has legs. I’ve only written 7,500 words so far so I’ll decide whether to continue it in its present form – or not – after the assembled writers have kicked it around the field for a bit.

I’ll be posting (or getting other writers to post) something every day this week as a Live from Milford post. Please follow.

Posted in fantasy, Milford, science fiction, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Sherwood Smith answers six questions

Tell us your biography in three sentences or fewer.

Born in Los Angeles, California, studied in Austria for a year, degrees are in German and history. After a brief fling in the film industry, I was a teacher for twenty years, and currently teach writing at Viable Paradise Writers’ Workshop. (Uh, or did until the pandemic put us in hiatus.)

How and when did you begin writing, and what was your first published piece?

I began sneaking paper towels out of the kitchen to make books when I was six years old. During first grade, while they were teaching the other kids the alphabet and phonics, because I already knew how to read I was permitted to draw. I made stories about flying kids who lived on an island without adults, which was highly disapproved of during the You Shall Conform fifties. So I learned early on to make proper stories about kids doing ordinary kid things for Them, and went covert with my own stories, which meant it was decades before I shared what I was passionate about, though I began sending “Them” stories to publishers at age thirteen.

First sale was in the mid-eighties, at first children’s literature, as at that time it was very hard to sell anything that was queer or poly-positive (see above, writing for Them as opposed to writing what I wanted to write). Eventually I did send out what I’d been writing since I was a kid. The adult stories set in that world sold to DAW, bginning with the Inda tetrology.

What’s so special about writing speculative fiction?

I believe spec fic is the oldest form of literature. What we write is always going to mirror our culture and experiences, and is going to be in conversation with everything we’ve read, but in consciously writing spec fic, we can speculate about the world as we’d like it to be, or as we’re afraid it’s going to be. Plus all the cool stuff, sense of wonder, etc. I read broadly in all directions, but spec fic has been and I suspect always will be my favorite.

What life skills and experiences, other than writing, do you bring to your work?

In retrospect, though I’ve had a wide variety of jobs, teaching had the greatest effect—I had to figure out how students process information in order to get concepts across. That led to my reading deeply into what I call “alien minds”—people whose thinking is radically different from mine in every possible way. Evelyn Waugh was one of my alien minds. Lord Byron was another. It’s been harder to get at women, whose lives were generally less published, but Mary Wortley Montagu was one, and Madame de Sevigny another. Anyway I bring this perspective to teaching writing.

Tell us about your most recent publication or current writing project.

In 2015 I got hooked on a Chinese historical TV series, called in English Nirvana in Fire, which is not even remotely a translation of the Chinese title, 琅琊榜; pinyinLángyá Bǎng. This was what I had been craving my entire life: a multi-layered story with ideas, complex characters, roller coaster emotions, tension that just keeps mounting, and utterly unpredictable. In a gorgeous setting. I was hooked so hard I began immersing in Chinese series, literature, history, and I’m trying to learn the language.

I discovered that wuxia, the tales of the outsiders, have been popular in various forms for two thousand years. Often in spite of governmental crackdowns. There are various forms of wuxia now, some more magical—xianxia— and some that deliberately combine elements of mythology and borrow cool bits from different cultures, called xuanhuan.

I’ve discovered how writers, mostly women, are subverting the government’s censorship and ban on homosexuality through BL stories—“Boy love” in the manga/anime world. While I didn’t much like the BL series that have turned up on TV so far, I cheer their enormous popularity—this is revolution without blood and guns.

Inevitably six years of immersion was bound to come out in story form. My pandemic project is the result, an adventure xuanhuan, which I’m running on Patreon.

What’s next?

Finishing up current project, and current series!

Posted in fantasy, Milford, reading, writing | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Writing in a Third Language by Rochita Ruiz

It’s been quite a hectic June-month as alongside my work as an independent creative, I worked on a science fiction story using Dutch as my writing language. When I was asked to do the story, I hesitated a bit as I wasn’t sure if I could do it. But then, I found myself curious. I wanted to know how writing in Dutch would change the way I approached story and in what way would it be different from writing in English.

One of the things I observed was how my process changed. Because I felt that I needed a stronger framework to hang onto while writing this story, I found myself brainstorming and writing down my ideas and thoughts, moving from idea to idea, questioning my choices, disagreeing with myself on solutions before starting on the act of writing. (As I am a pantser, this is a major change in my process.)

I’ve since submitted my work for consideration to the editors and am waiting to hear back from them, but here are some of my observations from that experience:

  1. I write slower in Dutch.
  2. The Van Dale, which is the dutch dictionary, is a good friend, but sometimes the word it suggests is not the right word.
  3. I turn to the Dutch dictionary almost as much as I turn to the English dictionary. But where the rules for English usage are straightforward and have become part of my system, Dutch usage and grammar still have me turned around.
  4. Sometimes a thing you think sounds right is not the right word for what you want to say. Because context affects meaning in Dutch just as context affects meaning in English.
  5. There’s a deliberateness to the language that asks me to pay more attention to how I sequence events and how I introduce characters. Where things can be implied or taken for granted in English, Dutch requires me to be more explicit.
  6. Where gender-neutral pronouns are concerned, the Dutch language is a desert.
  7. It helps when you have a person sitting beside you who is a born Dutch speaker (in my case, it was my eldest son.)

Will I write more stories in Dutch?

Now that I’ve done so, I want to try writing more in Dutch. It was challenging, to be sure, but it was encouraging to realise that I do have enough Dutch to convey what I want to say in story form.

It was also satisfying to be able to share my work with people who haven’t read my English work because English isn’t embedded in their system and that makes it harder to connect with works written in English.

I still don’t know what the editors think of my story, but I loved writing it and I loved learning from the process.

What about you, have you tried writing a story in a third language or fourth language? What was it like for you?

Rochita Ruiz is a Filipinx writer living in The Netherlands where she works as a creative artist with a focus on the written word. She was the Butler scholar for Clarion West in 2009 and was one of the recipients of the Milford BAME bursary. She has led several successful workshops among them the Envisioning Other Futures workshop for the Other Futures Festival and the Collaborative Worldbuilding workshop for the Fiber Festival. She is the founder and leader of the Alternate Munabol writing sessions for BIPOC youngsters. At present, she is developing a programme for the Research Centre for Material Culture with a focus on reimagining and dreaming. Her fiction and non-fiction can be found in various places online and in print.

Posted in Milford, reading, writing | Tagged , , , , , | 1 Comment

Heteronyms by Terry Jackman

“Zombies eat people”, or is that “Zombies, eat people”?

Punctuation is bad enough, but the words….

1 The bandage was wound around the wound.

2 The farm was used to produce several varieties of produce.

3 The rubbish tip was so full they had to refuse any more refuse.

4 We have to polish the Polish furniture.

5 The soldier decided to desert with his dessert out of the desert so he deserved his just desserts.

6 Since there was no time like the present, he thought it was time to present the group present.

7 A bass had been painted on the head of the bass drum.

8 When shot at, the dove dove for the bushes.

9 I do not object to the object.

10 The invalid’s insurance was deemed invalid .

11 There was an almighty row among the oarsmen about how to row.

12 They were too close to the door to close it.

See what I mean?

Terry Jackman began writing nonfiction, more by accident than design, before eventually tackling fiction. These days she runs the BSFA Orbit groups and edits-for-hire between writing and the day job. She also runs the occasional convention workshop, and is strange enough that she actually enjoys moderating panels.

Posted in Milford, reading, writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

A New Writing Companion. Hint—It’s Not a Cat—by Sarah K Ellis

I was in the middle of a story about an A.I. of all things when the invite to test Sudowrite slid into my inbox. Sudowrite is a GPT-3 program, or a “deep-learning neural network” that generates text via algorithm. Think Plotto for the 21st century, just trained on a corpus of hundreds of billions of words.

Initially, I was flip about it. I’d chuckled through Sunspring, the A.I. scripted movie, with its characters who vomited eyeballs and casually mentioned going out “to the skull,” and I was certain mine would be vaping letter openers while brooding under streetlights made of licorice whips. What I experienced both confirmed and blew away those expectations. It was also a bit deflating.

Sudowrite’s test version is uncomplicated and unthreatening: a white text box on a soft rainbow palette with an easily navigable interface. Above the text box are functions for summarizing, A.I. feedback, plus the fun parts, such as Wormhole, which continues your story, What if (self-explanatory), or Describe, offering suggestions for highlighted text. There are also macro functions, such as a “twist” option that spits out ideas for overall plot. I’ve yet to explore many of the latter features, so I’ll just give a rundown on the first two. 

I tested Wormhole with this chapter opener from a work in progress, a book about a magic and old Hollywood cinema.

If you were to take a turn down Sydney Street on a certain Saturday during the first week of August, you might think you’d stepped into the pre-war 1940s. The Orpheum Theater, sided though it was by a surfing shop and a café touting avocado toast, looked as if it had tunneled up from another time. A line of polished limousines curled around the block, depositing their glamorous passengers on a red carpet, bordered by velvet ropes and Klieg lights that swept the twilight as if they were trying to shoo away the last of the day. 

Within seconds, the program spat out five lengthy paragraphs. In the interest of brevity, I’ll stick with the opening lines from the best three, but most, were you not reading carefully, could have passed unnoticed as a continuation of the story.

“There they were, arriving from whence they came, the great of the classic Hollywood era, the gods of the silver screen…”

“The evening’s audience, dressed in ball gowns, tuxedos, and wide-brimmed hats, entered through the old-fashioned glass door and through the lobby…”

“For an hour forty-five minutes, slo-mo cameras would frame the mise-en-scène of an earlier world: women in full skirts and high heels tottered down the red carpet…”

I was gobsmacked and also a bit flattened. None of these were the directions I would have taken—the “whence” and the Hollywood “gods” imagery, for example — but scene and paragraph transitions are two of my major stalling points, and the program glided easily into approaches I hadn’t so much as considered. I didn’t use any of them—the prospect of letting those already flimsy muscles atrophy is terrifying — but as a means of shaking up my approach to a scene, I found the Wormhole function to be enlightening about where I should be looking.

Wormhole didn’t always work this smoothly. Further attempts were a mix of hilarious and psychedelic, and things really go haywire once you add names and job titles. Sudowrite turned several high school aged characters into professors and bedraggled police officers, but watching those paragraphs spool out— and at such speed—was both astonishing and unsettling.

With the Describe feature, you highlight a word or phrase, and watch the program generate samples categorized by sense and metaphor, less cheating than having a context-ready thesaurus on hand. When I read, I’m always jotting down phrases on index cards, and have stacks dedicated to gestures and facial expressions, weather, and the sleek but useless and very uncomfortable furniture aboard spaceships. But being generally disorganized, I have yet to work it into an efficient system. Using the same paragraph, I highlighted “velvet ropes” and got some not so useful results. Sight resulted in “swaying in the breeze”; Sound was the “soft clink of silverware on china,” taste was “chocolate.” I’ve never bitten into a rope before, but if they’re that good, who needs Milk Duds. Metaphorical dropped straight into condescension. “I think you mean ‘Velvet Ropes,’” it told me. “The British indie rock band from the ‘90s.”

But in other instances, Describe was helpful, mostly in that it, again, made me aware of my worst habits. In the A.I. story, I was struggling to describe an old mainframe computer for which “research” had produced pages of technical diagrams neither evocative nor accessible. Sudowrite, in contrast, offered up images of exposed wiring, a glass cabinet covered in finger prints, and melted circuit boards. It was a quick and ironic reminder to zoom out and experience the object as a human being, and more importantly, to leave the specifics for later and keep writing. Another faithful procrastination method, far less efficient than the index cards, is to abandon the blank screen for long and fruitless searches through my bookshelves, where I curse myself for not having some elaborate color-coded Post-it system for descriptions of open air crowd scenes or the parquet floors in Edith Wharton’s ballrooms. Sudowrite was showing me how my own attempts to mechanize my writing process got in the way of the actual writing.

There’s an oft-bandied notion that algorithms won’t replace us: they’re simply alternate versions, churning out ideas we might hit upon years from now or in another life. I find that comforting as a storyteller, but I also wonder about the cost of removing time from the process. Is it right to jump the queue to a “self” whose insights don’t connect to experience?

And then there’s choice.

We have so much of it already. 

As writers, we’re already hoarders — of notebooks and pens, of books, some of which we’ll never get around to reading. Then there are all those ideas, scrawled on said notebooks, receipts, or set down in garbled snatches of speech on our phones. What will it do to have so many more at the press of a button?

Sara Kate Ellis is a Lambda Emerging Writers Fellow and attended the Milford Science Fiction Workshop in 2017. Her recent stories have appeared in Analog, Visions, Fusion Fragment and Space and Time (under Kate Ellis). She is currently an assistant professor at Meiji University in Tokyo, where she lives with her partner and several ornery street cats.

Posted in fantasy, Milford, reading, science fiction, writing | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Writing the Other by Karen Brenchley

I’m very white. I grew up in Idaho and have lived for over thirty years in Silicon Valley, where my co-workers have been white or Asian of some variety (in all this time I’ve had maybe five Black male co-workers, but none of them software engineers). My family has deep roots in Texas, with both sides living on family farms that are still in the family. Thanks to my mother’s Fulbright Scholarship teaching at the National University of Rwanda, I’ve been to Africa and am close to several Rwandans who live in the US. Other than that, my English husband and I are mostly surrounded by a lot of very pale people. So when I set out to write a story, my main character told me he was a Black man.

I’ve certainly written male characters before, but I just couldn’t seem to get into the head of this one. I thought of my childhood, when I spent a lot of time visiting relatives, mostly in Tyler, Texas. I thought of the stories I’d heard from family about Black people they had known, mostly from school. That gave me some ideas, but it really wasn’t enough.

I decided to ask a Black man what it was like to grow up and live in the United States. I felt very nervous about this, especially since the first man I asked said he didn’t feel comfortable talking about it. The second Black man I reached out to, though, was happy to help, though as he spoke I could hear some strain in his voice. This is a big man, a strong man, a smart man — yet as a Black man he is afraid to walk by himself. He said he searches for other Black faces to stand near to. He also told me about being a boy, his relationship with his father, and how he was taught to behave, which struck me strongly as being very similar to my Tyler family. I then spoke to an intelligent Black man in his mid-twenties, who grew up in the US with Rwandan parents, and he also told me that he doesn’t like to be the only Black man around.

I then read “Between the World and Me”, by Ta-Nehisi Coates. I had tried reading it when it came out, and just didn’t understand it, but after speaking with my friends it opened up a whole new world. I understood why my stepsister’s Black classmate had been given the first name “Mister” (so white people would always have to call him Mister). I understood the parallels between Black parents in the eastern US and white parents in the South. I recommend this book very much for any writer.

So I wrote my story about King Jackson, a Black man just out of the Army trying to find work as a data scientist, living in Oakland, California. His life contains pieces of my friends’ lives, my family’s lives in Texas, my life in Silicon Valley, and even something from Michele Obama’s father. You can find out what happens in his life in “A Bayesian Analysis of Wishes”, available in the November-December edition of ParSec magazine, edited by Ian Whates and available from PS Publishing.

Karen Brenchley founded the SF in SF reading series with Terry Bisson, edited her husband’s Lambda Award-winning collection “Bitter Waters”, and has had sf stories appear in various anthologies alone and with her husband, Chaz Brenchley. She is a data product manager in Silicon Valley and has been featured in an article about autonomous vehicles in “The Washing Post”. Her next story to appear will be “A Bayesian Theory of Wishes” in the November-December issue of Ian Whates’ new magazine ParSec. You can find out more about her on her website, Karen

Posted in fantasy, Milford, reading, science fiction, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Kari Sperring Answers Six Questions

Kari Sperring

Tell us your biography in 3 sentences and fewer.
I’m Coventry-Welsh (it’s a thing), but have lived a peripatetic life, moving around England, Wales and, for two years, Ireland so I’m never quite sure where I really come from, or who I am. One version of me is a historian, specialising in the early history of Wales, Ireland, England and Scandinavia; another is writer of literary fantasy. I’m owned by 3 cats.

How and when did you begin writing, and what was your first published piece?
I don’t remember not telling myself stories: I’ve always lived in my imagination, and I started writing stories down as soon as I learnt to write. I spent several years alternating between being a horse, and having adventures saving an imaginary country (my Pippa dolls were all fierce revolutionaries), before moving on to fan fiction (Star Trek, The Three Musketeers, the Arthurian legends) and first attempts at original fiction in my early teens and just went on going. I even chose my direction at university because of the career path of J. R. R. Tolkien. My first publication was non-fiction and academic – “Cynan ab Iago and the killing of Gruffudd ap Llywelyn,” in Cambridge Mediaeval Celtic Studies 10 (1985) and I went on to publish a string of articles and 5 books on early mediaeval history (and one on my beloved Musketeers). I went on writing fiction (including the first 2 drafts of what became my first published novel) and submitted the odd piece, but not often. My first published short story happened as a result of a conversation at a party – “Strong Brown God,” which appeared in the anthology Glorifying Terrorism (ed. Farah Mendlesohn) in 2007.

What’s so special about writing speculative fiction?
My favourite books as a child were all fantasy – Alice in Wonderland,  Narnia, The Weirdstone of Brisingamen, The Lord of the Rings – so to me speculative fiction was always my home territory. Those were the worlds I wanted to inhabit: they seemed to offer far more than the mundanity of school stories or teen romance. They felt magical and wide open, they were filled with wonder. So for me that specialness is the freedom and the imaginativeness that our genre permits.

What life skills and experiences, other than writing, do you bring to your work?
I never know how to answer questions like this, because stories are all around us every day, and everyone sees them differently. But… As an early mediaevalist, I learnt how cultures differ, how they change and adapt, and the varied ways in which they define and present themselves. I also learnt a lot about voice and viewpoint – how no text is free from opinion or bias or underlying message – and how to look for the stories that were not being expressed directly. Being rootless, too, has taught me that we are all strangers and outsiders sometimes and none of us know as much as we think we do.

Tell us about your most recent publication or current writing project
I have a novella due from New Con Press later this year, called Rose Knot. It’s a variation on the Arthurian legends, exploring some of the lesser known and less-written about characters. Told from the point of view of Sir Gareth’s wife Llinos after their marriage, it’s about the consequences of all those magical tests of fidelity that crop up in the stories. It’s linked to an earlier novella, Serpent Rose, which came out in 2019, but does also stand alone.

What’s next?
I’m currently working on a novel about revolution and elemental powers, set in the same world as my two previous books (Living With Ghosts, and The Grass King’s Concubine), which I seem to have been writing forever – I am a very slow writer, sadly – but which is finally in a shape I like. I hope to get it finished by the end of this year.

Posted in fantasy, Milford, reading, writing | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Sarah K Ellis answers six questions

Tell us your biography in three sentences or fewer.

I grew up in Portland Oregon and, minus some years in Olympia and Southern California, have lived in Tokyo for most of my adult life. 

How and when did you begin writing, and what was your first published piece?

I’ve been writing since I was a kid. I majored in film as an undergrad, so I started out writing screenplays, but I didn’t like the format (or the business very much). I’ve since worked as a journalist and a translator and got a late start in fiction after convincing myself to just try. My first published piece was an alien invasion story called “Tfoo” in the queer speculative fiction magazine Collective Fallout. After that, I kept going and didn’t look back.

What’s so special about writing speculative fiction?

It helps me work out the personal; dealing with social anxiety, for example, in a world where self-promotion has become a necessary survival skill. And, to risk a big generalization, I think speculative fiction speaks more to economic survival. So much literary fiction, or what gets celebrated in the U.S., is about people for whom eating and heat or dental care are rarely an issue.

What life skills and experiences, other than writing, do you bring to your work?

Teaching has been a constant character study. You learn so much about the falsehood (and sometimes accuracy) of first impressions. Also, living in Japan’s high-context culture has (I hope) helped me get better at reading the room. So much is implied in both language and gesture, and you have to process the atmosphere before you can really understand what people are saying. To give an example, a few years ago, my partner and I dropped in at a police box to ask about a hiking trail to a hot spring. The cop scratched his head, jabbed his finger at the map, and said, “This is not that.” 

What he meant was, “this is not one of those hot springs attached to a nice hotel where you can rent a nice changing room with towels, and maybe have a beer in the adjoining restaurant after you’re done. This a hole in the ground in the middle of the woods, and you’ll have to slog through brambles and mud and mosquitos to get there. Oh, and you might run into some naked men. You gals okay with that?”

You learn to assemble entire stories based on vague statements or unfinished sentences, which is invaluable. Also, there’s no dearth of understated humor—the Kyoto insult is second to none.  

Tell us about your most recent publication or current writing project.

My story “In-Flight Damage” was in the May/June issue of Analog, and I’ve just finished another called “The Machine Wasn’t in the Mood,” based on the very bad, very good rock trio, The Shaggs. I was struggling with it, so I’m very happy to have it done–or so I hope.

What’s next?

I’m finishing the book I initially workshopped at Milford but got stuck on in the last third. It’s a lot lighter now and much more focused.  

Sara Kate Ellis is a Lambda Emerging Writers Fellow and attended the Milford Science Fiction Workshop in 2017. Her stories have appeared in Andromeda Spaceways, Visions, Fusion Fragment and Space and Time (under Kate Ellis). She is currently an assistant professor at Meiji University in Tokyo, where she lives with her partner and a few ornery street cats. She likes soba.

Posted in fantasy, Milford, reading, science fiction, writing | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment