Monthly Archives: January 2021

Mold, Leeches, and Speculative Fiction: Interview with Rick Claypool

Welcome back for this week’s author interview! Today I’m thrilled to feature author Rick Claypool. Rick is the author of The Mold Farmer and Leech Girl Lives.

Recently, Rick and I discussed his inspiration as an author as well as his favorite parts of the writing process.

A couple icebreakers to start: when did you decide to become a writer, and who are some of your favorite authors?

I was always making up weird creatures and stories when I was a kid. There was one point when I decided I was going to write a book of short stories based on Alvin Schwartz’s Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark series. I was like 10 and I don’t think I got much further than designing a cover with drippy skulls and things. I started taking writing seriously in college, when my professors turned me on to boundary-pushing writers like Samuel Beckett and Kathy Acker. I wanted to write bleak, hilarious books. Bleak, hilarious, and minimalist. I always sort of have one foot in the like, weird speculative fiction camp and one foot in the offbeat literary camp. There are so many authors I’m excited about right now. Brian Evenson, Aliya Whiteley, Oliver Zarandi, Lincoln Michel. I’ve read everything I can get my hands on by Joy Williams and Sam Pink. I could go on and on.

Congratulations on the recent release of your novella, The Mold Farmer! How did this particular story develop?

Thank you! The initial idea for The Mold Farmer was to tell the story of a character caught up in and utterly exploited and pretty much destroyed by a system that doesn’t care at all about humanity. So, capitalism. But capitalism taken even further than its current extremes, because in the post-apocalyptic world of The Mold Farmer, it is these non-human beings who are in charge. They have no qualms about just completely using people up and throwing them away when they’re finished with them. So, more like Lovecraftian horror capitalism. I mean, there have been political cartoons since the Gilded Age depicting capitalists and corporations as monstrous tentacled things, squids and such. Also, there are parts where the main character really really really has to pee, and these were inspired by a time when I really really really had to pee.

Your debut novel, Leech Girl Lives, was released in 2017. What was the inspiration for it?

Capitalism again! Haha. Ok to be more specific, supply chains. Sorry if this sounds super dull. So many products come from raw materials that are extracted from the earth under incredibly dangerous, exploitative conditions and then assembled under incredibly dangerous, exploitative conditions and then sold to us in a way that completely erases this production process, as if rather than some other country with underpaid workers and lax labor laws, they’ve been handed down from some sort of near-future technological utopia. And I wanted to explore all of this through a weird as hell, pulpy sci-fi page turner. So (spoiler alert!) what Leech Girl Lives does is ask, what if instead of people on one continent enjoying the spoils of people being exploited on another continent, it was people from the future enjoying the spoils of people being exploited in the past?

How has 2020 affected your writing, either in the themes you’re writing about or your productivity overall?

Since March, I haven’t been able to write anything besides the reports I write for my day job. (I’m a research director for Public Citizen, a nonprofit organization dedicated to fighting corporate power.) Because for the most part when I’m not working, I’m parenting. Or panicking. That’s a little bit of an exaggeration. This year has been just so exhausting. I started playing video games again for the first time since I was in my teens. Hollow Knight has been terrible for my productivity. But good for my mental health, I think.

Your work often delves into speculative territory, in particular science fiction with a focus on environmental themes. What draws you to this area of literature?

I like to play around with big ideas. Big ideas and big emotions. And I like making up weird creatures and horrible situations. And the weirder the creatures and the more horrible the situations, the more interesting the story is to me. So I guess science fiction is the category that most lets me get away with doing the stuff I want to do. I get excited every time I find an excuse to add another monster to the story I’m working on. And if I’m interested and having fun writing the story, I think that comes through for readers.

If forced to choose, which is your favorite part of the writing process: developing new ideas, working on a first draft, or polishing up an almost finished project?

Developing new ideas. It’s where the surprises live, and it happens at every stage of the writing process. Specifically my favorite part is working through narrative problems, like when I need to figure out a way to get the characters to do something in a way that’s plausible in the context of the story and honest for the characters and also unexpected. I want my readers to think that anything could happen. So when I have an idea that surprises me in a way that makes me laugh out loud and scribble it down and wonder how the hell I’ll ever pull it off, that’s the best.

What projects are you currently working on?

I’m about 100 pages into this insane novel about these creatures that have been poisoned by magic pollution. They all live in this shitty town on the moon. Three creatures in particular go on a quest in response to a mysterious message from Earth, a cry for help. All my stuff is kind of weird but when it’s finished I think it’ll be the first of my books you could properly categorize as bizarro. What I’m going for is something like Aqua Teen Hunger Force meets Russell Edson. The working title is Super Worm Moon. I’ve hardly been able to work on it at all over the past year, but I think I just came up with the ending like last week.

Where can we find you online?

Oh crap I need to update my website. I’m on Facebook and Twitter, @weirdstrug. I post too much. A lot of it is just mushroom photos. Really cool mushroom photos though! The website is rickclaypool.org.

Big thanks to Rick Claypool for being part of this week’s author interview series!

Happy reading!

New Year, New Literature: Submission Roundup for January 2021

Welcome back for this month’s Submission Roundup! January has a ton of fantastic opportunities, so if you’ve got a story looking for a home, then perhaps one of these markets will be the perfect outlet.

As always, a disclaimer: I’m not a representative for any of these publications; I’m merely spreading the word! Please direct any questions to their respective editors.

And with that, onward with this month’s Submission Roundup!

Submission Roundup

Planet Scumm
Payment: .02/word
Length: 2,000 to 6,000 words
Deadline: January 10th, 2021
What They Want: Guest edited by Hailey Piper, this issue of the magazine is seeking speculative fiction stories specifically from cisgender women, transgender women, transgender men, non-binary people, and genderqueer people.
Find the details here.

Unfettered Hexes: Queer Tales of Insatiable Darkness
Payment: .08/word
Length: up to 6,000 words
Deadline: January 15th, 2021
What They Want: This anthology from Neon Hemlock Press is seeking queer witch stories with a speculative fiction element.
Find the details here.

Electric Spec
Payment: $20/flat
Length: 250 to 7,000 words
Deadline: January 15th, 2021
What They Want: Open to a wide range of speculative fiction.
Find the details here.

Uncanny
Payment: $40/poem
Length: any length
Deadline: January 18th, 2021
What They Want: Open to speculative fiction poetry.
Find the details here.

34 Orchard
Payment: $50/flat
Length: 1,000 to 7,500 words for fiction; any length for poetry
Deadline: January 31st, 2021
What They Want: A new publication that’s seeking dark fiction and poetry that’s intense, unsettling, scary, and/or sad.
Find the details here.

Mythic
Payment: .01/word
Length: 2,000 to 6,000 words
Deadline: January 31st, 2021
What They Want: Open to diverse fantasy and science fiction.
Find the details here.

Diabolical Plots
Payment: .10/word
Length: 3,500 words or less
Deadline: January 31st, 2021
What They Want: Open to a wide range of speculative fiction.
Find the details here.

Triangulation: Habitats
Payment: .03/word for fiction; .25/line for poetry
Length: up to 5,000 words for fiction (3,000 words preferred); up to 100 lines for poetry
Deadline: February 28th, 2021
What They Want: For the latest installment of the Triangulation anthology series, the editors are seeking speculative fiction and poetry that deal with sustainable habitats.
Find the details here.

Happy submitting!

The Horror, the Horror: 2020 Award Eligibility Post

2020 is officially in the rearview mirror. It still seems strange even writing that sentence but here we are. And here I am, once again with a year in review post. As always, it feels strange putting together posts like this, but at the very least, it’s nice to take a look at the year that was, despite its obvious difficulties.

So here we go, once more unto the breach!

Boneset & Feathers (Broken Eye Books, November 2020)
Witches, witchfinders, ghost birds, oh my! My second novel was released in November from Broken Eye Books! It’s been named a top horror book of the year at Library Journal (also, major shout-out to Becky Spratford, Cody Daigle-Orians, and Stephanie Klose for all their hard work putting together this year’s Library Journal picks in the horror genre). Cemetery Dance has said of the book that “[by] the time you hurtle toward the epic conclusion, you will be wowed and left wanting more from this master storyteller and weaver of magic tales” and Sci-Fi and Scary says it’s “[recommended] for fans of coming of age, witches, and more.” So many thanks to Scott Gable at Broken Eye Books for ushering my witches into the world!

In the Rose-Colored House Where They Died (Thunderstorm Books, November 2020)
My second standalone novella made its debut in November as a limited edition hardcover from Thunderstorm Book’s Tempest line, and it sold out immediately. It’s all about a house of possessed girls and the dubious exorcists who come to “cure” them. I will eventually include this one in a collection down the road, but for now, it will just be that mysterious novella of mine that only a handful of people have read (which actually sounds like the start of a story unto itself). So many thanks to Paul Goblirsch and Mary SanGiovanni; it was an absolute joy working with both of them on this book!

The Invention of Ghosts (Nightscape Press, January 2020)
Way back in the long ago world of last January, my very first novelette was released through Nightscape Press’s Charitable Chapbook series! One-third of all proceeds from the book go to the National Aviary. Big thanks to Jennifer and Robert Wilson for releasing this strange, surreal tale of hauntings, toxic friendship, and the occult. This story is one I hold close to my heart, so I’m very glad that it sold out its limited edition paperback run. That being said, the eBook version is still available, so if you haven’t checked it out yet, you can still hang out with me and my ghosts!

The Maid from the Ash: A Life in Pictures” (Weird Whispers, January 2020)
This was the first of my short stories from last year, and a personal favorite overall. Told in a series of museum exhibits, a young girl is whisked away from her remote home “for her own good,” only for everyone to realize too late that she—and everybody else—was better off when she was left alone. This story appeared in the debut issue of Nightscape Press’s Weird Whispers. I know that editors Jennifer and Robert Wilson have some great content planned for future issues, so definitely keep an eye on this magazine!

Lost Girls Don’t Cry” (Places We Fear to Tread, Cemetery Gates, September 2020)
The folklore legend of Crybaby Bridge serves as a backdrop for this tale of sisterly love, loss, and strange girls who’d rather be lost than found. This is a fantastic anthology, and I’m so happy that I got to be part of it. It was a wonderful experience working with Cemetery Gates, and I look forward to all the awesome books they’ve got coming soon.

“The Princes She’s Forgotten” (Survive With Me: A Charity Anthology, November 2020)
In this dark fairy tale, a so-called villainess is slayed again and again on behalf of the kingdom’s princesses, only to realize that she must take back her power on her own if she’s going to make it through another night. All the proceeds from Survive with Me benefit the American Indian College Fund. A great cause, a great editor, and a great table of contents!

I also had four short nonfiction pieces published, including “The H Word: The Horror of Solitude” at Nightmare Magazine as well as three articles at the Tor Nightfire blog: a Women in Horror feature, a Historical Horror spotlight, and a list of female-penned horror that need film adaptations. A definite goal for 2021 is to write more short nonfiction, so fingers crossed that I keep to that goal.

And last but in no way least, for the first time ever, my fiction is now available in translation! “The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary)” was translated in Russian for Darker Magazine and Spanish for Crononauta. Then The Rust Maidens made its debut in Spanish through Dilatando Mentes Editorial and in French through Editions du Chat Noir. This is truly one of the most exciting and delightful things to happen in my writing career. I never thought I’d have translations of my fiction, and it still doesn’t seem real even now.

For the first time ever, my work was also featured in a year’s best anthology, and as it happens, two different year’s best anthologies! “A New Mother’s Guide to Raising an Abomination” appeared in Year’s Best Hardcore Horror: Volume 5, while “The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary)” appear in The Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2020.

As for other good news, there are two tremendous things that happened to me in 2020. First off, in April, I won two Bram Stoker Awards, for Superior Achievement in Short Fiction for “The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary)” and for the brand-new category of Superior Achievement in Short Nonfiction for “Magic, Madness, and Women that Creep: The Power of Individuality in the Work of Charlotte Perkins Gilman.” I’m honestly not sure it’s sunk in even now that I have three Stokers sitting on my shelf. All I can say is thank you so very, very much to everyone who’s read and supported my work; it absolutely means the world to me. Thank you thank you thank you. Seriously.

And finally, the last piece of incredible news from 2020 is that I signed a two-book deal with Saga Press, an imprint of Simon and Schuster. I’ve been completely in love with Saga Press’s books for years, so it is no exaggeration to say that this is an utter dream come true. The first book, Reluctant Immortals, is due out in 2022. This is a spin-off of sorts of both “The Eight People Who Murdered Me (Excerpt from Lucy Westenra’s Diary)” as well as my horror story, “The Woman Out of the Attic,” which was originally published in Haunted House Short Stories from Flame Tree Publishing and reprinted at Pseudopod. The new book will follow Lucy Westenra from Dracula and Bertha Antoinetta Mason from Jane Eyre as they face off with the toxic men from their pasts, all set to a backdrop of 1960s California. It’s basically everything I love all wrapped up in one book, and I can’t wait to share it with everyone.

So that’s it for 2020. What an undeniably challenging year it was, but here’s to hoping that 2021 is at least a little bit kinder to all of us.

Happy reading, and happy New Year!