Every so often, we interview one person from the SFF field. We ask them four questions, and we’re lucky enough to receive four answers back. Four questions for you (4Q4U) begins now:
4Q4U #1, October 2012: Cat Rambo
This month, we’ve asked Cat Rambo, who’s just published an excellent collection of short fiction with Hydra House called Near + Far, to answer some questions for us. Cat Rambo is a first-class writer, editor, and workshop facilitator, specializing in workshops focused on SFF writing, editing, flash fiction, and promotion. A list of her current workshops are here. Take a look and take a class!
Now, on to the questions:
1: In the afternotes for ‘Memories of Moments, Bright as Falling Stars’ from your new collection Near + Far, you wrote, ‘It drives me a little nuts when speculative fiction doesn’t acknowledge issues of class.’ How and why do issues of class influence your writing and reading of speculative fiction?
As far as writing goes, class is something that needs to be taken into account whenever you’re writing about humans. I can imagine aliens having a classless – or more likely, a differently classed – society but even in writing that, you’re choosing to think about class, really. What really bugs me in speculative fiction is when writers don’t question their assumptions, the things they learned as kids which are as likely to be wildly off as they are to be accurate or when they don’t take it into account when positing the convulsions of the future.
2: In the wake of this year’s Readercon, the SFF community has embarked on a conversation about harassment, with a large part of that conversation focusing on how to respond to harassment and how to stop it. In your view, what can or should the community (from SMOFs to fans to editors to con organizers to writers) do to confront this problem?
I think one of the best ways to discourage it is to encourage those being harassed to speak up, and not to try to silence that speech, even with well-intentioned excuses. For men – and certainly there are many of you who don’t do this – don’t discount what women say about someone just because you haven’t felt it yourself. Women usually have radar much more tuned to this than men. Support us if we try to move away from someone or pull back from an interaction with them, even if it seems like we’re being rude.
3: You have a well-deserved place on the World Fantasy Award ballot for your work editing and managing Fantasy. What aspects of being an editor do you enjoy and why? What’s difficult about the job that non-editors might not realize?
That’s very kind of you. I am very excited about going to WFC this year. But onto the question! I really love taking prose and giving it that final polish that rubs off all the excess words and makes it shine. I also loved finding new writers as well as getting a chance to encourage some to keep going. I still run into people at conventions who tell me how encouragingly I rejected them and that makes me feel good.
What’s difficult? It’s hard saying no to people who are earnest and talented and just not quite there yet. It’s also hard to comprehend the sheer amount of material a magazine is wading through. Towards the last days of my time with Fantasy, we were getting 550-600 submissions a month.
4: [From one of Kazka's readers] What is the best piece of advice anyone has given you about establishing a writing career?
Syne Mitchell told my Clarion West class, “Try all sorts of things, find out what works for you, and then do that lots.” I think that’s brilliant. You have to pay attention to your own process, find out when you’re most productive, and then defend that time with tooth and nail if you have to. Find the places, the circumstances, the scented candles or other little rituals that get you in the groove, and then exploit them. Don’t waste time trying to explain or defend them. If they work for you, they work, whether it’s writing with pen and paper in a Denny’s booth every 2 – 4 am or locked in a soundproofed room with Bach blasting in the background. Find your groove and ride it.