Joseph A. Lopez

Getting a chance to watch fellow authors grow and improve as writers is inspiring and humbling. It never fails to impress just how dedicated we are to our craft.

That is no exception with today’s featured author. His story, The Memory Monster, explores how memories can be maps to our lives. Once lost, what does that leave us?

Joseph A. Lopez

What inspired you to write a story about a map?

To be honest, what really inspired me was the idea of inclusion in the sffworld.com anthology. I’ve been a fan of the website and a member for a few years now. It has a vibrant community and is run by a dedicated group of admins who love the genre. As discussion forums have gone the way of the dinosaurs, made extinct by rampant social media, sffworld.com has continued to thrive. Previous forum anthologies have been of high quality and I think that’s a testament to the editors, N. E. White and Andrew Leon Hudson, as well as the passionate contributors in the forum community. So I’m honored to be included among such esteemed company regardless of the topic.

Having said that, I think maps have long played a crucial role in speculative fiction. Especially with respect to epic fantasy where a group of companions often go on journeys requiring them to travel long distances. How many times have we read such a story and, in the middle of the text, flipped to the front of the book to use the map as a point of reference? While I find their inclusion to be less common in science fiction (perhaps because the scope of exploration there is often broader and can encompass solar systems or even entire galaxies), obviously the idea of exploration nonetheless plays a large role in many a sci-fi story.

Do you have a special place where you go to recharge your creative muse?

Several, but perhaps the most interesting one is a stairwell! There’s an interesting stain on the floor of this stairwell that takes the shape of a bird. Or at least, that’s what it looks like to me, similarly to how people sometimes spot images in the clouds. This stairwell is remarkably quiet, but for the gentle hum of elevators going up and down on the opposite side of the wall. I can’t recall exactly when it happened, but at some point this stairwell became my “dreaming room” where I could get away from all the noise of a busy city and gather my thoughts. Sometimes that took the form of the personal, or professional, or creative. Often times, those thoughts quickly became intertwined!

Can you tell us about a time when you wished you had a map?

It’s hard to remember a time before cell phones and GPS, isn’t it? I remember an Emilio Estevez movie from 1983 called “Judgement Night” where the story consists of a group of friends getting stranded in a bad neighborhood and having to hide from a gang of drug dealers. These days that premise probably wouldn’t work so well, what with everyone having cell phones with tracking devices and multiple methods of instant communication!

But coupled with this technological convenience comes an over reliance that can handicap us. There have been quite a few instances while traveling across the vastness of California that I’ve lost cell phone or satellite reception. Sometimes this even happens while traveling through the mountains in Los Angeles!

One time in particular, I was driving to a meetup at a “dog mansion” (yes, it’s a mansion for dogs where they hang out and play… these things actually exist in L.A.) and I took a wrong turn. GPS recalculated, but unfortunately we were way up in the mountains and it couldn’t locate any of the roads. A good old fashioned Rand McNally physical map – the type we used for family vacations back in the 1980s – would’ve been useful right about then! Fortunately, I was able to load Google Maps with location turned off and figure out where we were. I got my pooch to the dog mansion in time for him to live a lavish lifestyle for the day.

Your story concentrates on memories as a living map. Where did that idea come from?

I wanted to try a different approach to the traditional inclusion of a map. My short story, The Memory Monster, straddles the line between urban fantasy and horror. It takes place largely in our own reality, or within one person’s representations of that reality. I won’t say more to spoil the story. Nonetheless, the theme of memory should be apparent from the title. I wanted to use maps in both the real and metaphorical sense to guide us on a journey down one man’s memory lane, and use that to explore the larger theme of regret that we may have when reflecting on the totality of our lives.

I want to thank the editors for keeping an open mind and not only accepting stories that went beyond the traditional notion of “maps,” but also encouraging their submission. I hope that readers enjoy The Memory Monster and the anthology as a whole.


Joseph A. Lopez is a practicing attorney in Los Angeles, California. He fell in love with speculative fiction at a young age and has been an avid reader and writer in the genre ever since. His short story “The Memory Monster” included in this anthology is his first published work. Joseph is an active member of the Greater Los Angeles Writers Society (“GLAWS”). Online, he can be found on Facebook.


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Lee Blevins

It’s amazing to find out that writers are people, too. They have lives and often do things as interesting as rocket science, engineering, or stand-up comedy.

Today, our featured author holds that final occupation. But don’t be fooled. His story, The Bronze Man and the Second Son, isn’t funny at all. It is a quiet study of the dangers of reaching beyond the edges of the world.

Let’s meet You Are Here‘s comedian turned writer…

Lee Blevins

What inspired you to write a story about a map?

Growing up, like many fantasy fans, I always loved the maps in the fronts and backs of books. I started drawing my own world maps when I started writing fantasy stories.

Do you have a special place where you go to recharge your creative muse?

My special place is music on my earbuds and cigarettes. No one said it was healthy.

Can you tell us about a time when you wished you had a map?

Anytime I’ve ever had a crush on a girl I had wished I had a map towards realistic expectations.

Your story, The Bronze Man and the Second Son, focuses on the journey of an indigenous person showing a newcomer his world. I found the text contemplative, practical, and haunting. What inspired the setting?

The Bronze Man and the Second Son is inspired by “Nanook of the North” as much as anything else. Or, rather, my hazy memory of “Nanook of the North”.

Lee Blevins lives in Lexington, Kentucky. He’s a stand-up comic and a sit down tragedian. He’s on Twitter @BleeSevens.


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Adam R. Shannon

Discovering new writers is always a joy. The author we are introducing today was no exception. He has a wonderful way of describing the world with such accuracy, you might be mistaken in thinking you’ve been there before – even if he’s describing the world falling apart.

Let’s find out a bit more about…

Adam R. Shannon

Adam’s story focuses on a young man and his father, hunkering down in their home while the world falls apart around them. But they are not alone and things soon go awry, fitting son against father and spurring a new chapter in the boy’s life. The Shape of the World’s Skin is both lyrical and accurate. Very accurate.

What inspired you to write a story about a map?

I grew up in the foothills of the Blue Ridge, and was solo hiking a multi-day trips by around 12. One of my favorite things to do was bring two or three books into the woods, and not go home until I’d finished them. It was on one of those excursions that I wandered away from my camp and got disoriented. I remember the sense of bleak terror that nearly overwhelmed me when I realized I was lost, that only subsided when I was able to locate my camp.
That was my first awareness of the fact that humans have a constant sense of the space they inhabit, a mental map, and when this map is destroyed, we instantly feel helpless and adrift.

Do you have a special place where you go to recharge your creative muse?

Then and now, the woods. Backpacking is a little like writing – there’s tremendous freedom in it, but it also demands a certain fussy obsessiveness.

Can you tell us about a time when you wished you had a map?

I’m a career firefighter. I have an intense memory of the very first time I opened the door of a burning apartment and crawled into utter blackout conditions. We train on building a mental map by feel as we search a structure, so we won’t get trapped if conditions become untenable. But I had never been inside a real fire before, in smoke so thick I couldn’t see a gloved hand held directly in front of my face-piece, and I felt about as competent as a newborn. I would have loved a simple diagram of that apartment.

In your story, The Shape of the World’s Skin, the protagonist has an infatuation for how hikers and other outdoor enthusiasts go about getting lost in the words. What inspired that infatuation?

There are really some dedicated searchers who go out into the backcountry, long after a missing hiker has vanished and been presumed dead, to reconstruct the event and attempt to locate the remains. Tom Mahood’s accounts of searching for people lost in wild places served a formative role in the genesis of this story.


Adam R. Shannon is a career firefighter/paramedic, as well as a fiction writer, hiker, and cook. He and his wife care for a German Shepherd, an array of foster dogs, a free-range toad, and a colony of snails who live in an old apothecary jar.


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Christopher Walker

By its very nature (and presumably because of our name), SFFWorld.com tends to attract authors from all over, well, the world. This year was no exception. When we opened up the submission process, we were delighted to see stories from rural China, Indonesia, and the Middle East. We also got a story from a Brit living in an often overlooked (over here in the States, at least), but historically pivotal, country: Poland.

Allow me to present…

Christopher Walker

Christopher’s story went beyond this world. While steeped in the seemingly cliché trappings of eastern European government repression, The Cell Wall is about perseverance and how a map can lead us home where ever we might end up in this great big universe. It’s funny and surprisingly touching.

What inspired you to write a story about a map?

Travel has long been an obsession with me. I have visited 49 countries so far in my life, though now that I am married and have two young children, my opportunities for exploration have become rather limited. Where I am physically unable to go, I now travel to with my imagination; maps are an indispensable part of the adventure. Poring over satellite imagery, tracing the routes of the major rivers, seeing how cities are put together – all of this is possible with a well-made map. Considering how much my sense of self is fuelled by maps, it was inevitable that one would someday form the heart of one of my stories.

Do you have a special place where you go to recharge your creative muse?

No, not really. I don’t have the luxury of a special place. I live a busy life; I teach English, which is not a particularly lucrative career; I have a family to feed, my wife isn’t working, so I take whatever hours I can at my school. When I need to recharge, I pick up a book and escape into its pages, even if only for five minutes between lessons. When I need to, I can whisk myself off to the world Andres Neuman created in Traveller of the Century, or I can set off for foreign shores with the travel writing of Paul Theroux, Bruce Chatwin, or Geoffrey Moorhouse. These are my special places; I surround myself with books; their spines are always visible and are there to console me with the promise of future pleasures.

Can you tell us about a time when you wished you had a map?

Certainly. The first time I set off on my independent travels was back in 2003, when I bought an InterRail pass and headed off for a month-long tour of Europe. I got off to a bad start, however, thinking that my cheap Parisian hostel would be an easy one to find. Of course, it was anything but. It was hidden off a main road in the Montmartre district, and wasn’t marked on any of the big tourist maps. I spent a good four hours looking for my hotel, growing increasingly desperate. I bought an expensive beer in a local bar so I could quiz the waitress, but she was a fellow Brit just landed and knew nothing; I tried to pay a taxi driver to take me, but he waved me away with a laugh as if I was joking. I found the address, eventually, and saw why it was so funny – it was about 200 metres from the taxi rank. The name of the street is burned into my memory – Square Caulaincourt. Having a good map then would have made such a difference.


Christopher Walker is a writer and English teacher based in the south of Poland. His work appears in the anthologies ‘Circuits & Slippers’ and ‘In Medias Res’, as well as the literary magazines WOLVES and Spinebind. His website is http://www.closelyobserved.com.


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P.J. Richards

 

Authors who frequent the Writing Forum on SFFWorld.com often keep a low profile. They perfer to read the nattering (and sometimes inane) discussions (or are those arguments?) between more boisterous authors. But there are a few who participate by quietly building worlds for us to get lost in.

Allow me to present…

P.J. Richards

P.J.’s story, titled The Road to Pareidolia, is an immersive discovery of patterns. For what are maps if nothing other than the recording of the patterns we see around us? (Go read it, you’ll never look at a leaf the same way again.)

We sat P.J. down for a quick interview to learn what made her write about a map (or wait, I mean, a leaf?).

What inspired you to write a story about maps?

When ‘maps’ was chosen as the theme for the anthology, I wasn’t sure if it would spark a story in me, because I tend to associate maps with epic fantasy which (aside from Tolkien) isn’t really my thing. I challenged myself to draw the subject into the realm of contemporary-mythic and the natural world, where I feel most inspired, and then the image of leaves and the art of being able to look through them to other worlds evolved.

Do you have a special place where you go to recharge your creative muse?

The beautiful hills around my hometown in Somerset, have nature, history and folklore in abundance – everything I want for inspiration.

Can you tell us about a time when you wished you had a map?

I have absolutely no sense of direction, so I really need maps all the time!


P.J. Richards lives in England with her husband, kids, cats, an owl, and all the legends and history of the Westcountry. Can be found in castles shooting a longbow with the medieval group Bowlore, or occasionally as a unicorn at Stonehenge. The rest of her time is spent writing and painting.


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Alec Hutson

One of the little-known perks of editing an anthology is discovering authors.

Another little-known perk is introducing these authors to the world.

Allow me to present…

Alec Hutson

Alec’s story, titled The Map of Secret Desires, focuses on an abused apprentice and how his horrible mentor decides to punish him with a map. (Go read it, it’s funny.)

We sat Alec down for a quick interview to learn what made him write about a map.

What inspired you to write a story about a map?

The prompt! I stumbled across the anthology website, and even though I wasn’t planning on writing anything, an idea wormed its way into my head over the next few days.

Do you have a special place where you go to recharge your creative muse?

A vacation to an exotic destination serves as inspiration. The idea for my upcoming novel leaped out at me while at Angkor Wat in Cambodia.

Can you tell us about a time when you wished you had a map?

Countless times. I live in Asia, and if something goes wrong, it’s quite easy to be stranded somewhere with no ability to communicate with the locals.


Alec Hutson lives in Shanghai, and has been published in Ideomancer Magazine. He has stories coming out in Timeless Tales Magazine, the science fiction anthology The Newcomer, and his first epic fantasy novel, The Crimson Queen, will be published in December 2016. He can be found at authoralechutson.com.


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Critters and You Are Here

When we asked Lindsay Buroker, indie writer extraordinaire, to come on board this magic ship, I offered a mere pittance for her story.

You see, we’re a low-budget operation. Volunteers dedicate their free time to this endeavor and, to be honest, anthologies do not sell like novels. In other words, we put these story collections out at a loss.

Consequently, we’ve never been able to pay market rates to our contributing authors. Still, we can’t just ask someone like Lindsay Buroker to give us a story without some compensation.

We offered $500.00.

alby-in-a-tree-2
Our dog was a pound puppy (now deceased). Without the Human Society, he would have never made it to 17 or our hearts.

Instead of laughing, she asked that we donate the money to the Human Society of the United States.

We did.

Now you can, too.

Right now, we are offering You Are Here – Tales of Cartographic Wonders at a special low price of $2.99. All proceeds earned during this initial offering will be donated to the Human Society.

Order your copy today and make a difference.

(Coming soon to Barnes and Noble and iTunes!)