In this podcast Scott Nicolay interviews Henry Lien, author of the Nebula Award-nominated ‘The Ladies Aquatic Gardening Society’ (Asimov’s, June 2015).
There’s no one quite like Henry Lien in spec-lit today. He has generated major buzz with just six unique stories. His first published story ‘Pearl Rehabilitative Colony for Ungrateful Daughters’, which features “an art form that combines figure skating with kung fu”, made the cover of the December 2013 issue of Asimov’s Science Fiction (Henry even pitched cover artist Alexandra Manukyan) and went on to be a Nebula Award nominee. His latest, critically acclaimed ‘The Ladies’ Aquatic Gardening Society’ (Asimov’s, June 2015), perhaps his most distinctly Weird tale, is about two Gilded Age grandes dames dueling for Newport high society dominance via their increasingly outrageous and environmentally devastating theme gardens. On this episode of The Outer Dark, Henry pulls back the curtain on his creative process starting with the rigorous questions he asks himself before moving forward with an idea (0:03:00), diving into stories as “thought experiments”, putting pressure on his writing and matching concept with format, the importance of humor in “humanizing” and “bridging centuries and miles”, the potential for “wonder in modest concepts” and exploring them to their logical conclusion and how he pushes outside himself to tell stories from the viewpoint of girls and women. A self-described “one-man movie studio”, he also waxes enthusiastic about the joy he gets from indulging his multimedia muse including the “crazy fun” and “intense satisfaction” of handing a story over to an artist, voicing his characters in audio rendition, and even dabbling in writing music to accompany his stories. The madcap conversation touches upon all his stories from the two aforementioned tales (‘Pearl’, 0:14:45) (‘Ladies’, 1:01:30)to the simple, elegant, tragic ‘Supplemental Declaration of Henry Lien’ (Interfictions, Nov. 2015) (0:24:30) and the life-changing experience at its heart that propelled him into writing spec-lit, the poignant dolphin conservation advocacy tale ‘Bilingual’ (F&SF, March 2015) (0:34:55) told unexpectedly all via Twitter, ‘The Shadow You Cast Is Me’ (Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, May 2015) (1:38:30) in which he explores the uncomfortable topic of a dysfunctional marriage, and ‘The Great Leap of Shin’ (Analog, Jan. 2015) (1:50:45). His Clarion West instructors Chuck Palahniuk and George RR Martin receive some heartfelt appreciation, “worlds that can be held in a pocket” are mused upon, and there’s a Karel Čapek interlude (1:17:00), plus ruminations on the rapidly diversifying audience for spec-lit, why Henry is done with short stories for the time-being, his just-completed novel which he says is “the best thing I have written”, why it’s OK to be proud of your stories, why he supports bringing back legal dueling to resolve world conflicts (1:51:30), his own ultimate duels, his ‘Radio SFWA’ recruitment anthem performed at the 2016 Nebula Awards (2:00:00), and his recommended living authors (2:05:20) James Robert Herndon and Lian Hearn.
News From the Weird
(2:13:10) With Arkham Digest columnist and Strange Aeons fiction editor Justin “Steely J” Steele. Reviews of two of the best weird fiction chapbooks of 2015: These Last Embers by Simon Strantzas, from Undertow Publications, and The Visible Filth by Nathan Ballingrud, from This is Horror. Plus Scott and Justin look ahead to 2016, which promises to be another big year in the Weird including another author reveal from the table of contents of the much anticipated Lost Signals anthology (ed. Max Booth III/Perpetual Motion Machine Press).
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Host/Executive Producer: Scott Nicolay
Co-Host, News From the Weird: Justin Steele
Associate Producer/Show Notes: Anya Martin
Logo Design: Nick “The Hat” Gucker
Music: Michael Griffin
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- The Visible Filth by Nathan Ballingrud
- The Elvis Room by Stephen Graham Jones
- Water For Drowning by Ray Cluley
- Chalk by Pat Cadigan
- Roadkill by Joseph D’Lacey