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Nathan Crowder, welcome and thank you for agreeing to chat with us today. Where are you from?
I was born and raised in cowboy country, spending most of my life in a town in the southwest corner of Colorado where the cornerstone of the economy was tourism and the college. We had a good-sized Latin population, and were close to several reservations, the Navajo Nation being the largest, and that helped shape a lot of my world view. My dad was big into architecture and existential philosophy, and was a librarian for the college. That was pretty influential for me as well. I even wanted to be a librarian for several years as a result.
Tell us your latest news.
I’m almost done with the current edit pass on my Gothic high fantasy novel Of Rooks and Ravens that is due to be released by Razorgirl Press this October. I’ve been developing the world it’s set in for almost 20 years, so I’m really excited to finally be sharing it with the world. It follows a young academic who is forced to flee the only home she’s ever known when an ancient god reawakens. Under the reluctant mentorship of a military history professor (and possible spy), she gets caught up in plans to retake the city of Ravensgate and punish those responsible for its fall.
When and why did you begin writing?
I started writing poetry, shortly followed by short fiction as early as age 11 or 12, and then tried my hand at a novel when I was 13. As for why? I guess it’s because no one told me I couldn’t. I read everything I could get my hands on, and I loved story. There’s no barrier to creating your own story. All it takes is a pencil and paper. It didn’t matter that almost everything I wrote for years was just garbage. You have to suck for a long time before you get good at something. And I’m glad I got it out of the way when I was too young to really care.
When did you first consider yourself a writer?
I liked to think I was a writer even when I was cranking out clunky garbage on a borrowed typewriter at age 18. But I didn’t really own it until someone who wasn’t invested in my feelings read something of mine and said it was good. That was my creative writing teacher in college, Red Bird. He liked two of the stories I wrote for his class well enough I was emboldened to send one into the school’s literary journal where it was published. That was it. That was the moment.
What inspired you to write your first book?
I’d given up trying to write novels, in fact, had taken a long break from writing for a few years, when I suddenly started getting serious about short fiction again. My wife at the time convinced me to try a novel. I’d been running a superhero RPG for friends and had a story I really wanted to tell that didn’t lend itself to the game format—too broken up, too many solo pieces. So I wrote it as an experiment, more or less. Just something for my friends who were involved in the game. And it came out much better than I could have expected. It’s still my longest novel to date. And it spurred all of the Cobalt City fiction that came after.
What would you like my readers to know?
The story and character of Madjack are set within the Cobalt City universe, in which I’ve written several novels and published a handful of anthologies. A few other author friends are also writing fiction in the setting. I’m working on a new Cobalt City novel now and hope to have this draft done this summer for a release by year’s end. And I have a Patreon where I do an original Cobalt City short story every month.
Enjoy an excerpt from "Madjack" by Nathan Crowder
Her father died during the second verse of “River to Home,” right as Omar hit the flourish that served as a preview for his post bridge solo. She felt it like a sudden swelling in her heart, an explosion of emotion that she almost choked on before instinct directed it out, into the audience. By the time they reached the chorus, everyone within thirty feet of the stage was sobbing.
Atlas McVittie, seasoned rock musician that she was at the ripe age of thirty, didn’t drop a note.
The band knew something was wrong. They’d been with her through thick and thin, from the shit clubs and storage unit rehearsal space to the contract with Goblin Records. Eight years of broken promises, collapse, and hopefully a phoenix-like rebirth.
They thundered through the rest of the set and only did one encore, though everyone agreed the crowd deserved two. But Atlas was the lynchpin in the band. She was the one people came to see; the tempestuous daughter of the self-styled glam rock ‘god who fell to earth,’ the Madjack. If Atlas was off, the band was off. It helped that Frankie, their road manager, was waiting in the wings prior to the encore with the phone call confirming what Atlas McVittie already knew.
Atlas was in a daze post-show. The rest of the band had a few drinks in the green room then went off to an after-hours place that Cleveland, the drummer, knew about. Frankie bundled Atlas up under her heavy wool topcoat, the vintage Russian army thing she’d picked up in a flea market when she was still in high school, back when she and Frankie had met. Atlas let herself be herded out the back and into her friend’s toy-like car, shiny and blue like an Easter egg. They drove in silence around the late-night Cobalt City streets, aimlessly, no direction in mind.
When they drifted from the corridors of steel and glass towers in downtown, north towards Moriston, Atlas finally spoke up. “Head up towards Clown Liquor,” she said, impulsively but clearly.
Frankie raised one perfectly plucked eyebrow and shot Atlas a curious look from beneath her spider-like bangs. “Where are we going?”
Frankie said nothing but continued on where Atlas directed, and minutes later they pulled into the lot of a generic Cup-o-Chino coffeehouse where The Olive used to be. Atlas leaned forward in the seat, as if heightened scrutiny would turn back time. Finally, defeated, she sank back in her seat. “Do you remember this place?”
“I remember you,” Frankie said. A wistful smile appeared then vanished. “You had never sung for anyone but me. And I convinced you to do karaoke. First time you sang for strangers.”
“Ever,” Atlas said quietly.
“Ever,” Frankie agreed. “And you never stopped. You started writing music and formed the band within a year.”
“My dad . . .” Atlas started. Her voice caught in her throat, and sadness filled the car like an invisible wave of force.
Frankie gasped, breath stuck in her chest, a sensation like she was drowning in emotion. She gripped Atlas’s arm hard through the coat and the waves of emotion calmed. “Jesus, Atlas.”
“I’m sorry. I thought I knew the limits on the emotion thing, but it’s like the training wheels blew off tonight. I’m finding that what I thought was ten is more like two or three.”
“So that was how you knew?”
“And I saw him,” she started. She replayed the memory, the sun behind her father, Brian McVittie, making a halo of his white hair. His hand stretched down to her, and he was speaking. An indistinct, alien garble. Emphasis, quite possibly, on the alien part. “It’s pretty confusing.”
“Do you want to take some time off? I can shuffle some of the practice gigs. We can bump them back a week or two and no one will mind.”
“I never sang to strangers before singing here,” Atlas said, tear-rimmed eyes wide, reflecting the streetlights. “I was afraid. I was afraid of how I’d measure up to my dad. Afraid to step in his footprints because I didn’t think I’d ever get out of his shadow. And I was afraid that I had his . . . gifts. I was afraid I would be different like him, and I didn’t want to be different. For the longest time, I couldn’t tell if people liked me, liked my music, or if I was making them like it. Sometimes, I still wonder.”
Frankie nodded. They’d had parts of this conversation before. Her dad had been a looming but distant figure in her life, all but absent for the last decade. And Atlas went to Jaipur to see her mom on holidays at best. Atlas had lived virtually on her own since the age of sixteen, overseen by a series of executors and housekeepers until she turned twenty-one, and then left to her own devices after that.
It was hard to make friends when everyone believed your father to be an alien.
And when all was said and done, even Atlas couldn’t be sure if it were true or not.
“Put the shows on hold for a week.” Atlas said. “I’ll tell the band myself. They’ll understand.”
“Of course. Whatever you want to do.”
“I want to see my mom,” Atlas said. “I want to put my father to rest. And I want to get some answers.”
“About the whole alien thing?”
“And why someone killed him,” Atlas said. She closed her eyes. There in the darkness, it replayed on a loop. Her father’s outstretched hand, a garbled, alien language, a halo of hair backlit by the sun. Then a perfect circle punched through the middle of his head followed by blackness.
About the Author:
All other authors in the anthology
Stuart Suffel's body of work includes stories published by Jurassic London, Evil Girlfriend Media, Enchanted Conversation: A Fairy Tale Magazine, Kraxon Magazine, and Aurora Wolf among others. He exists in Ireland, lives in the Twilight Zone, and will work for Chocolate Sambuca Ice cream.
Kelly Link is the author of four short story collections: Get in Trouble, a finalist for the 2016 Pulitzer Prize in Fiction, Pretty Monsters, Magic for Beginners, and Stranger Things Happen. She lives with her husband and daughter in Northampton, Massachusetts.
Seanan McGuire lives and writes in the Pacific Northwest, in a large, creaky house with a questionable past. She shares her home with two enormous blue cats, a querulous calico, the world’s most hostile iguana, and an assortment of other oddities, including more horror movies than any one person has any business owning. It is her life goal to write for the X-Men, and she gets a little closer every day.
Seanan is the author of the October Daye and InCryptid urban fantasy series, both from DAW Books, and the Newsflesh and Parasitology trilogies, both from Orbit (published under the name “Mira Grant”). She writes a distressing amount of short fiction, and has released three collections set in her superhero universe, starring Velma “Velveteen” Martinez and her allies. Seanan usually needs a nap.
Carrie Vaughn is best known for her New York Times bestselling series of novels about a werewolf named Kitty, who hosts a talk radio show for the supernaturally disadvantaged, the fourteenth installment of which is Kitty Saves the World. She's written several other contemporary fantasy and young adult novels, as well as upwards of 80 short stories. She's a contributor to the Wild Cards series of shared world superhero books edited by George R.R. Martin and a graduate of the Odyssey Fantasy Writing Workshop. An Air Force brat, she survived her nomadic childhood and managed to put down roots in Boulder, Colorado.
Cat Rambo lives, writes, and teaches atop a hill in the Pacific Northwest. Her 200+ fiction publications include stories in Asimov’s, Clarkesworld Magazine, and The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction. She is an Endeavour, Nebula, and World Fantasy Award nominee. Her second novel, Hearts of Tabat, appears in early 2017 from Wordfire Press. She is the current President of the Fantasy and Science Fiction Writers of America. For more about her, as well as links to her fiction, see her website.
Lavie Tidhar is the author of the Jerwood Fiction Uncovered Prize winning and Premio Roma nominee A Man Lies Dreaming (2014), the World Fantasy Award winning Osama (2011) and of the critically-acclaimed The Violent Century (2013). His latest novel is Central Station (2016). He is the author of many other novels, novellas and short stories
Kate Marshall lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and several small agents of chaos disguised as a dog, cat, and child. She works as a cover designer and video game writer. Her fiction has appeared in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Crossed Genres, and other venues, and her YA survival thriller I Am Still Alive is forthcoming from Viking.
Chris Large writes regularly for Aurealis Magazine and has had fiction published in Australian speculative fiction magazines and anthologies. He's a single parent who enjoys writing stories for middle-graders and young adults, and about family life in all its forms. He lives in Tasmania, a small island at the bottom of Australia, where everyone rides Kangaroos and says 'G'day mate!' to utter strangers.
Michael Milne is a writer and teacher originally from Canada, who lived in Korea and China, and is now in Switzerland. Not being from anywhere anymore really helps when writing science fiction. His work has been published in The Sockdolager, Imminent Quarterly, and anthologies on Meerkat Press and Gray Whisper.
Adam R. Shannon is a career firefighter/paramedic, as well as a fiction writer, hiker, and cook. His work has been shortlisted for an Aeon award and appeared in Morpheus Tales and the SFFWorld anthology You Are Here: Tales of Cryptographic Wonders. He and his wife live in Virginia, where they care for an affable German Shepherd, occasional foster dogs, a free-range toad, and a colony of snails who live in an old apothecary jar.
Jennifer Pullen received her doctorate from Ohio University and her MFA from Eastern Washington University. She originally hails from Washington State. Her fiction and poetry have appeared or are upcoming in journals including: Going Down Swinging (AU), Cleaver, Off the Coast, Phantom Drift Limited, and Clockhouse.
Stephanie Lai is a Chinese-Australian writer and occasional translator. She has published long meandering thinkpieces in Peril Magazine, the Toast, the Lifted Brow and Overland. Of recent, her short fiction has appeared in the Review of Australian Fiction, Cranky Ladies of History, and the In Your Face Anthology. Despite loathing time travel, her defence of Dr Who companion Perpugilliam Brown can be found in Companion Piece (2015). She is an amateur infrastructure nerd and a professional climate change adaptation educator (she's helping you survive our oncoming climate change dystopia).
Aimee Ogden is a former biologist, science teacher, and software tester. Now she writes stories about sad astronauts and angry princesses. Her poems and short stories have appeared in Asimov's, Fantasy & Science Fiction, Daily Science Fiction, Baen.com, Persistent Visions, and The Sockdolager.
Sarah Pinsker is the author of the 2015 Nebula Award winning novelette "Our Lady of the Open Road." Her novelette "In Joy, Knowing the Abyss Behind" was the 2014 Sturgeon Award winner and a 2013 Nebula finalist. Her fiction has been published in magazines including Asimov's, Strange Horizons, Lightspeed, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Uncanny, among others, and numerous anthologies. Her stories have been translated into Chinese, French, Spanish, Italian, and Galician. She is also a singer/songwriter with three albums on various independent labels and a fourth forthcoming. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland with her wife and dog.
Keith Frady writes weird short stories in a cluttered apartment in Atlanta. His work has appeared in Love Hurts: A Speculative Fiction Anthology, Literally Stories, The Yellow Chair Review, and The Breakroom Stories.
Ziggy Schutz is a young queer writer living on the west coast of Canada. She's been a fan of superheroes almost as long as she's been writing, so she's very excited this is the form her first published work took. When not writing, she can often be found stage managing local musicals and mouthing the words to all the songs. Ziggy can be found at @ziggytschutz, where she's probably ranting about representation in fiction.
Matt Mikalatos is the author of four novels, the most recent of which is Capeville: Death of the Black Vulture, a YA superhero novel.
Patrick Flanagan - For security reasons, Patrick Flanagan writes from one of several undisclosed locations; either—
1) A Top Secret-classified government laboratory which studies genetic aberrations and unexplained phenomena;
2) A sophisticated compound hidden in plain sight behind an electromagnetic cloaking shield;
3) A decaying Victorian mansion, long plagued by reports of terrifying paranormal activity; or
4) The subterranean ruins of a once-proud empire which ruled the Earth before recorded history, and whose inbred descendants linger on in clans of cannibalistic rabble
—all of which are conveniently accessible from exits 106 or 108 of the Garden State Parkway. Our intelligence reports that his paranoid ravings have been previously documented by Grand Mal Press, Evil Jester Press, and Sam's Dot Publishing. In our assessment he should be taken seriously, but not literally. (Note: Do NOT make any sudden movements within a 50' radius.)
Keith Rosson is the author of the novels THE MERCY OF THE TIDE (2017, Meerkat) and SMOKE CITY (2018, Meerkat). His short fiction has appeared in Cream City Review, PANK, Redivider, December, and more. An advocate of both public libraries and non-ironic adulation of the cassette tape, he can be found at keithrosson.com.
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