Writer Wednesday: Phoebe Barton

Please note: under normal circumstances this would have been posted and promoted on Wednesday Jan 20, 2021. Due to the US Inauguration and the flood of news surrounding it, I decided to push Phoebe’s interview by a day so it wouldn’t get lost. – Carrie Cuinn

Phoebe Barton. Photo courtesy of the author.

Phoebe Barton is a queer trans science fiction writer. Her short fiction has appeared in venues such as AnalogOn Spec, and Kaleidotrope, and she has experience with more than a dozen transit systems across North America and Europe. She serves as an Associate Editor at Escape Pod, is a 2019 graduate of the Clarion West Writers Workshop, and lives with a robot in the sky above Toronto. Connect with her on Twitter at @aphoebebarton or www.phoebebartonsf.com.

Today we’re bringing her in to talk about her latest release, a huge text-based interactive fiction game out now from Choice of Games.

The Luminous Undergroud. Image from Choice of Games. Art by EJ Dela Cruz.

Strange things are going down underground! Build your team, descend beneath the city streets, and face down daemons with magic and science in The Luminous Underground, a 660,000-word interactive, choice-based secondary-world science fantasy novel by Phoebe Barton. Can you and your crew clear out a haunted subway that’s slowly falling apart? Here’s your chance to find out! Grab your gear, build your team, and brave the tunnels – and if you’re good enough, maybe you can prove to everyone that you’re the best daemon hunter in town.

Without context, what’s one of your favorite sentences in the book?

It’s not a sentence so much as a line of dialogue, but it’s one I keep coming back to. I feel like it encapsulates the energy I put into the game, of doing your best but being thwarted by and and taking the heat for forces beyond your control.

“Bells.” McCowan brushes demolition dust and stray bits of wreckage off his coveralls. “I’ll bet we get blamed for this.”

What Earth-like traditions or objects were important to you to include in your story?

While The Luminous Underground is set in a secondary world, a lot of its aspects are imported from Earth for commentary and familiarity – which also makes it easier for me, because the work’s already been done! The Barrington subway is strongly influenced by the Toronto subway system, seeing as how that’s the one I’m most familiar with, but the most personal inclusion from reality is Bradford Street Public School in Chapter 1: it’s not based so much on my old elementary school so much as I used the memories of my old elementary school as a set.

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Writer Wednesday: Sam J. Miller

Sam. J. Miller. Photo courtesy of the author.

Sam J. Miller’s books have been called “must reads” and “bests of the year” by USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, NPR, and O: The Oprah Magazine, among others. He is the Nebula-Award-winning author of Blackfish City, which has been translated into six languages. His short stories have been widely anthologized, including in multiple editions of the Best American series. He lives in New York City, and at samjmiller.com.

Today he drops by the site to talk about his latest novel, The Blade Between

The Blade Between is a ghost story about a damaged gay guy who goes home to try to save the town he hated (and the people he loves) from the destructive plans of corporate interests… but he’s manipulated by dark forces both human and monstrous, and his scheme swiftly spirals into supernatural violence. One reviewer called it “James Baldwin meets Stephen King.”

Without context, what’s one of your favorite sentences in the book?

“Love is harder than hate.” 

What makes this book different from anything else you’ve done?

It’s different from my other work in that it’s a grisly horror story, which I’ve never done before at novel length. But it’s 100000% THE SAME as everything else I’ve done in that it’s about fraught gay love and horrific systemic injustice and monsters and charismatic megafauna. 

The Blade Between is set in your hometown of Hudson, New York. How does your version of it differ from reality?

While I tried to cleave as closely as possible to the actual city I love and hate so much, I couldn’t resist throwing in some ghosts and monsters and murder and mass arson. And whales. Well, the whales are real. Hudson really was a whaling city. As to whether their ghosts still haunt the place, I guess that’s tough to prove one way or another. 

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