Please welcome Scott Edelman to The Qwillery. “And the Trees Were Happy” will be published in GENIUS LOCI: Tales of the Spirit of Place from Ragnarok Publications.
This is the sixth in a series of interviews with many of the authors and the artists involved in GENIUS LOCI. I hope you enjoy meeting them here at The Qwillery as much as I am!
I am a backer of GENIUS LOCI which is edited by Jaym Gates. You may check out the Kickstarter here.
TQ: Welcome to The Qwillery. What are the challenges in writing in the short form as opposed to the novel length? Are you a plotter or a panther?
Scott: I don’t think of short fiction as a challenge, but rather, a choice. And one, I think, not entirely of my own making. It’s a matter of taste -- and my taste rules me, rather than me ruling it.
I come away after having read most novels thinking they’re like bread dough which has been allowed to rise too long, filled with air — and not smelling too good either! There are exceptions, of course — I consider John Crowley’s Little, Big a novel which manages to maintain the precision and poetry of a short story for its entire length, but for the most part, novels seem to go on far too long, leaving me to think … couldn’t you have said the same thing in 8,000 words?
I could go on at novel length about the reasons the short story is the superior form, but at the same time I recognize this is only my opinion, and not empirical fact. I’m well aware that there are other readers who look at short stories and think, “Is that all there is? More, please!” But I’m not one of them.
As for plotting vs. pantsing, it depends on the story, but I lean toward pantsing, because I have no interest in building a bridge once I know what’s on the other side. I write the story primarily to find out what the story is and to learn how I feel about the characters and discover what I want the story to mean, and if I already know ALL those things, there’s no need to write it. And while there have been a few stories which have exploded full-blown in my mind, or for which I’ve plotted out each scene in detail before beginning, those are very rare.
TQ: You've worked as an editor, among other things. How does this affect (or not) your writing?
Scott: It’s affected my writing in two ways. The first can be applied to life outside of writing as well as writing itself — it’s time-saving to be able to learn from the mistakes of others rather than have to make them oneself. John Campbell, who edited Astounding/Analog from 1937 through 1971, once said that he’d read more bad science fiction than anyone in the world. And there’s a lot to be learned there. As you recoil from what shouldn’t have been done, you learn not to do those things yourself. There’s also a skill to be honed from the stories which are “almosts” as you try to figure out _why_ they didn’t succeed. It’s a valuable tool to then turn to one’s own writing.
But the other result is — I knew (or suspected, anyway) that as a working editor, writers would look at the stories I published and if those stories failed, think — who the Hell is he to think he can judge me? I didn’t want to give people the chance to think that. So I worked even harder to make sure any stories I sent out were the absolute best they could be. Which, of course, one should always do anyway. But that added motivation was helpful to me.
TQ: Which question about your writing do you wish someone would ask? Ask it and answer it!
Scott: Sadly, I’m going to fail you here — my interviews have always been so spot-on that I have no burning answer I yearn to give to a question as yet unasked.
TQ: Describe “And the Trees Were Happy”, which will be published in Genius Loci, in 140 characters or less.
Scott: That story you had read to you as a kid, that got your parents all weepy? Here's what happens next -- and now it's YOUR turn to get weepy.
TQ: Tell us something about “And the Trees Were Happy” that will not give away the story.
Scott: I have read this story live in front of audiences three times, and I've gotten so emotional each time at the story’s ending that I’ve had to pause, or apologize, or had my voice crack and tremble. It’s THAT personal and emotional a story to me. I’m looking forward to find out whether others will be equally as moved.
TQ: What was your inspiration for “And the Trees Were Happy”? Have you ever encountered a Genius loci?
Scott: Though I had no idea at first where the story would lead, the setting and protagonist and opening popped into my head the instant I learned of the concept of Jaym’s anthology. That alone was the catalyst I needed, and there was no struggle for an idea. Then it was a matter of living the story with the character until we both came to the inevitable conclusion.
As for personally encountering a genius loci, I believe that all places are haunted, only we are the ones who will the haunting into being. Which — as an aside — is one of the reasons I left New York. There wasn’t a single street I could walk down without memories of all the other times I’d walked there coming to mind. Those past incidents and emotions were always present, always strong, and allowed for no fresh self to be layered over them. So it was time to strike out for a new, blank frontier.
TQ: Give us one of your favorite non-spoilery lines from “And the Trees Were Happy”.
Scott: Let’s go with this —
The weight of them was a living thing, and he wondered ... if he rose, if he reached out his hand to pluck one, if he held it to his lips, touched it to his tongue ... would it be as sweet as memory? Could anything ever be?
TQ: In which genre or genres does “And the Trees Were Happy” fit? In your opinion, are genre classifications still useful?
Scott: I would classify it as a fantasy, but not of the elves and dragons sort, more the Twilight Zone type, and to parse it further, the bittersweet Twilight Zone type.
I recognize that genre classifications are useful to others, but I tend not to heed them, following writers whose voices I like, rather than the genres in which they write. I will follow a favorite author anywhere.
TQ: What's next?
Scott: My other upcoming publication in addition to my Genius Loci story is a 13,000-word zombie tale titled “Becoming Invisible, Becoming Seen,” which will be in the next issue of the quarterly horror magazine Dark Delicacies, currently being printing. Plus there are many written but unsold stories circulating in search of future homes. When they do sell, those who follow my blog will be the first to find out.
TQ: Thank you for joining us at The Qwillery!
About Scott Edelman
Scott Edelman has published more than 85 short stories in magazines such as Postscripts, The Twilight Zone, Absolute Magnitude, The Journal of Pulse-Pounding Narratives, Science Fiction Review and Fantasy Book, and in anthologies such as Why New Yorkers Smoke, The Solaris Book of New Science Fiction: Volume Three, Crossroads: Southern Tales of the Fantastic, Men Writing SF as Women, MetaHorror, Once Upon a Galaxy, Moon Shots, Mars Probes, Forbidden Planets, Summer Chills, and The Mammoth Book of Monsters. His most recent short story was published in the anthology The Monkey’s Other Paw: Revived Classic Stories of Dread and the Dead.
A collection of his horror fiction, These Words Are Haunted came out from Wildside Books in 2001, and a standalone novella The Hunger of Empty Vessels was published in 2009 by Bad Moon Books. He is also the author of the Lambda Award-nominated novel The Gift (Space & Time, 1990) and the collection Suicide Art (Necronomicon, 1992). His collection of zombie fiction, What Will Come After, came in 2010 from PS Publishing, and was a finalist for both the Stoker Award and the Shirley Jackson Memorial Award. His science fiction short fiction has been collected in What We Still Talk About from Fantastic Books.
He has been a Stoker Award finalist five times, both in the category of Short Story and Long Fiction.
Additionally, Edelman worked for the Syfy Channel for more than thirteen years as editor of Science Fiction Weekly, SCI FI Wire, and Blastr. He was the founding editor of Science Fiction Age, which he edited during its entire eight-year run. He also edited SCI FI magazine, previously known as Sci-Fi Entertainment, for more a decade, as well as two other SF media magazines, Sci-Fi Universe and Sci-Fi Flix. He has been a four-time Hugo Award finalist for Best Editor.