F&SF Interviews Dave-o about Witches, Guns, Lawyers, Ohio Militias, etc.

The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction interviewed me about my latest horror story, “Whatever Comes After Calcutta.”F&SFNov-Dec2017small

…when I go to sum up the story in a Big Picture way, I end up saying the same thing that I said about that election:

I totally hear where folks—angry, aggrieved, not-gonna-take-it-anymore folks—are coming from, because I totally agree with them:  They are getting screwed.  We just totally disagree on who is screwing them, or what is a sensible way to address that.

This story is about that, in a fundamental way.

I also tell an anecdote about seeing a homeless guy get ejected from a Coney in the mid-1990s, and make mention of Michigan trespassing laws, the sovereign citizen movement, my neighbors from Chennai, and Dave-o’s patented “magpie and junk drawer” speculative-fiction drafting strategy.

The Nov/Dec issue of F&SF is still on newsstands—but only for a few more days. Nab your copy soon!

Dave-o’s patented “magpie and junk drawer” speculative-fiction drafting strategy @fandsf

If you write fiction long enough, interviewers will start to ask you “Where do you get your ideas?”

Readers love this question (it’s also a dreaded chestnut of con Q&A panels). Writers hate it.  It’s like asking “Where do you get the time to write?” Every one of us gets the same 24 hours each day; doctors spend some of those doctoring; drug addicts spend some of that getting high; writers spend part of one of those hours writing stories.  One person can be any or all of those, and more.

Likewise, we all see/hear/mis-hear/read/misread/imagine all sorts of crazy crap every day.  Those are ideas. That’s where ideas come from.

But that’s maybe a cheap answer, because it takes the question too literally.  I think maybe what folks are asking when they ask “Where do you get your ideas?” is “How do you store/catalogue all the weird shit you see every day so that it’s useful to you later?”

And to that, my answer is this:

My brain locks on to odd shiny things and hordes them.

Most of the fiction I write comes out of a collision: I’ll stumble across some interesting fact or idea or snatch of plot or dialogue, but won’t really have any use for it, and so it just sorta bobs around in my head. Sooner or later, as other shiny ideas catch my notice and get tossed into that cranial junk drawer, several will bang together and stick in some interesting way. When ideas stick together they make a distinctive POP!ing sound. I listen for the pop, then start writing.

This is the essence of the “magpie and junk drawer” approach to research and writing. I stumbled into it as a kid having to do research papers, and it’s served me well ever since. Go forth, apply this in your life, and sin no more.

Amen.

SPOILER ALERT: Today is a *really* good day to read my novella “Expiration Date”

Or, if not today, then certainly by, I dunno, let’s say Tuesday, October 10, around 8am.  No reason.  Just … sayin’

EXPIRATION DATE by David Erik Nelson

I’m not saying the End Is Near or nuthin’… just, well, you know. Whatever. Whatever, right?

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Come Read a Transcription of Dave-o Babbling!

I was interviewed by Lisa Haselton for her Reviews and Interviews blog this past summer.  This was technically part of the publicity for Expiration Date, but mostly ended up being about other things.  I tell a long anecdote about “When I First Knew I Was a Writer” (i.e., “The Most Important Thing I Learned About Writing at 15-years-old”) and “My Most Interesting Writing Quirk”:

What would you say is your interesting writing quirk?

I subvocalize almost constantly. Like, this sentence I’m typing right now, I’m thinking about saying it as I’m typing it. I can feel it on my tongue. It’s the same when I’m reading (and a big part of why I’m such a slow reader). Almost every thought I have is composed as an imagined dialogue with someone. Very little of what I say is spontaneous at all. I guess, for a lot of people, their process of reading/writing as actually fairly divorced from their process of speaking/hearing. For me they’re mashed into a single thing.

A good read, I guess, if you have a deep and persistent interest about what the heck is wrong with me.

Your EXPIRATION DATE is here

The final chapter of my latest novella, Expiration Date, is now available—which means the whole thing is up and ready for you to “binge read” (aka “read.”)  I’m not gonna say that it’s the perfect beach read, but for a certain sort of mind (and a certain sort of beach) it is the perfect beach read.

The good folks at Arbor Teas have also gone out of their way to furnish book group support, and teamed up with the Ann Arbor District Library for special Expiration Date Summer Games badges and prizes.

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EXPIRATION DATE chapter 8 has DROPPED! The End approaches, sheeple! There is only One Chapter LEFT!!!

Hey-hey, all my Best Belovéd:

Just a quick heads-up that Chapter 8 of my novella Expiration Date is now available free online (as are the discussion questions, the Ann Arbor District Library Summer Games points and badges—all that).

This chapter brings us a chemical event, a reunion, a revelation, Bram’s magic chopstick (of limited utility), and something mysterious high in the sky.  Come grab your copy of Chapter 8 now!

And please spread the word: If you know someone who might dig this, drop them a link. Thx!

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The end draws nigh! EXPIRATION DATE chapter 7 is here! #FreeReadFriday

… and, SPOILER ALERT: the *FAKE NEWS!1!!*, “ghost SWATs” and Boltzmann brains have arrived!

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Chapter 7 is here, as is every every previous chapterfree online and downloadable as PDFs, courtesy of the fine folks at Arbor Teas (who’ve also furnished discussion questions for book groups and connected with the Ann Abror District Library for special Summer Games points and badges.

Also, I’ll be doing a little Q&A here once the final chapter of Expiration Date drops, so if you have questions, please feel free to drop me a line.

“There Was a Crooked Man, He Flipped a Crooked House” in the July/August F&SF

It seems I’ve been talking about my novella “There Was a Crooked Man, He Flipped a Crooked House” without being super-duper clear that it’s out on newsstands and availableMagazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/Aug 2017 for download in the July/August issue of The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction.  My bad!  The story is being met with a degree of enthusiasm that I hadn’t really expected, and that’s sorta had me spun.  So, here’s the nitty-gritty:

 

Wanna Buy a Copy?

  • The July/Aug F&SF is now in bookstores throughout the US, including most Barnes & Noble locations. 
  • To buy it online:

Wanna Help Spread the Hype?

  • Tweet (retweet it!): 
  • Facebook post (share it!):
  • Goodreads link (review it!)
  • Nebula Awards: F&SF makes every story they publish available to SFWA members on the password-protected Nebula Forums  If you’re an SFWA member (or know some), feel free to hit them with that link and they can download and read “There Was a Crooked Man, He Flipped a Crooked House” (and tons of other great stories) for free.

Wanna Know About How the Sausage Gets Made?

1,022 Days (or “But I Need to Suffer for My Art!”)

I don’t wanna belabor the point, but this tweet got me thinking:

Part of the reason this story took so long to go from this first longhand page to hitting newsstands was because, over the course of the winter that followed that tweet, I was steadily loosing my mind

Since my adolescence I’ve always had seasonal affect issues, my mood steadily sinking until February—I’m from Michigan; Bob Hicok famously characterizes us as “a people who by February / want to kill the sky for being so gray“—then rebounding with the thaw.  Lots of people are like that, especially here; no big.  But that year the mood never rebounded; it just sank and sank and sank.  I ate more sugar and drank more coffee and skateboarded as much as I could, and soldiered on.  But by summer the hole was too deep.  Once I’d slam a coffee and another coffee, eat some cookies, skate hard, and be OK.  But by July I’d skate so hard I was seeing stars and woozy, and 20 minutes later feel like crap and be desperate to go back to the skatepark.  My speech was getting slow and ponderous, my behavior erratic.  I got in a fight with my wife over something—I can’t even recall what, something our son had done—and lost my temper.  I don’t remember what I said, just that I was in the backyard screaming, my chest collapsing, so angry I was dry-heaving and chanting “I’m sick; I’m sick; I’m sick.”

I didn’t want to be alive any more, but I couldn’t stand the idea of being separate from my children, and the thing running constantly in my head was how I could get careless enough to be killed in an accident where my life insurance would still pay off.  Then my family would be on easy street and not burdened by me; my kids would be able to afford college, my wife would own our house outright, and I wouldn’t have to be me anymore, because I wouldn’t have to be at all.  And being, it had become apparent, was my core problem.

PRO-TIP: If you need to quickly diagnose depression that has become dangerous, just ask them:  “If you could push a button and have never existed at all, would you do it?  No pain, no trauma, no one mourning you, just *poof!* and you never were.”

If the answer is “Yeah, sure,” then that person needs to talk to a doctor very, very soon.

At any rate, by the time I had that screaming fit I had already made an appointment to talk to a doctor—something that I’d kept a secret for reasons I can’t really explain any more, because they make no fucking sense; I’d made that appointment under false pretenses, telling my doctor I’d re-injured my ankle—the whole point is that nothing I was doing then made a lot of sense.

But part of that logic had to do with this poisonous, murderous goddamn myth we have that taking meds for your psychiatric illnesses is somehow “weak” or “unnatural” or damages the purity of your artistic fucking whatever.

I wrote 50,000 words of stories while my brain was collapsing that just aren’t much of anything.  I sat on revisions of my novella “Where There is Nothing, There is God” (which was in Asimov’s in 2016, and was a finalist for the Asimov’s Award) for a goddamn *year.*  I’d sent it around, got feedback from Ann VanderMeer at Tor and C.C. Finlay at F&SF—really good advice, advice that ultimately made it the strong story it was—and then did nothing for a full calendar year.  I wrote “There Was a Crooked Man…”, put it through my writing group, got great feedback, and then just sat on it.

And I have no idea why. 

Or, more to the point, I know precisely why: Because my brain had drifted from doing a fairly crappy job of managing serotonin to not really bothering to manage it at all. 

I started taking 50mg of Sertraline every morning about two years ago (with the ongoing support of a psychiatrist).  It’s cheap, I haven’t suffered major side effects, it’s been really good for my personal relationships, and has spared my wife and children having to plan and attend my funeral—and it’s done fuckall to harm my “art”:

This story, “There Was a Crooked Man…”, saw the better part of its Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction, July/Aug 2017revision after I went on meds.  The last three pieces I’ve sold—Expiration Date, “Whatever Comes After Calcutta” (forthcoming in F&SF) and “In the Sharing Place” (sold to Asimov’s)—were entirely written on anti-depressants.  These latest pieces are among the best work I’ve done, precisely because (*SPOILER ALERT!*) it’s a lot easier to do good work when you aren’t struggling to keep being alive.

If you need help, please get help.  Needing psych meds is no more a moral failing than needing a cast when you break your leg, and seeing a therapist isn’t touchy-feely “snowflake” BS any more than seeing a physical therapist after you wreck your car is touchy-feely bullshit.  Your brain got injured, you need some medicine and therapy to get it back on track; that’s fine.  Go do that thing.  Don’t waste ~300 days that you could spend Getting Things Done or hanging out with your kids or having a beer or reading or playing video games.  Go get well; if that’s not possible (because, the fact is, it often isn’t), at least get better.