Horror & Dark Fantasy

Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy 2017

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Nonfiction

Author Spotlight: Alaya Dawn Johnson

“The Score” was originally published in Interfictions 2: An Anthology of Interstitial Writing, edited by Delia Sherman and Christopher Barzak. What’s your definition of “interstitial”?

I think of interstitial writing as writing that falls in between genres. This isn’t a new concept, but what I like about the approach of the Interstitial Arts Foundation, which supported the anthology, is that their definition of “genres” is pleasantly large. The genre valleys might run between mystery and science fiction, but they could also fall between dance and contemporary realism, or music and narrative nonfiction. In the case of “The Score,” I wanted to combine a whole bunch of genres—song lyrics, nonfiction articles, chat transcripts, letters—in a way that emphasized the reader’s involvement in piecing together the narrative of a story. What I like about the concept of interstitiality is that it forces us to grapple with the fact that everything is a genre, and every genre has its own conventions.

How did you approach writing a story with such an experimental structure, with a diverse range of primary sources? Did any of them (emails, blog posts, police reports, transcripts, etc.) present a particular challenge?

I enjoyed the challenge of attempting verisimilitude in so many kinds of writing. I had the most fun with the libertarian blog posts, particularly since I was writing this at the time of Ron Paul’s first presidential run and there was plenty to read for inspiration. The autopsy report was very tricky, since I needed something that conveyed the relevant information without taking too long to get there (not to mention a reasonable medical cause of death). I ended up using Anna Nicole Smith’s autopsy report (on The Smoking Gun) as a model.

Music is an important element of this piece. Did you draw on certain music for inspiration? How did music shape the story?

At this point, I’d say that music has become a theme of my whole career. I love listening to, playing, and reading about music. At the time I was writing this piece, I was listening to a lot of singer/songwriters, and I have always been interested in the role music plays in protest movements. One of the big questions, in my mind, during the protests of the Bush years was the lack of any anthemic protest songs with an impact similar to ones by Buffalo Springfield or Bob Dylan or Marvin Gaye. So the basic impetus for me to write “The Score” was to essentially imagine what an iconic protest singer/songwriter would have looked like during the early Bush years.

The time frame of “The Score” primarily covers a twenty-year period from 2007–2027, and it was first published in 2009. What does this story still have to say about American politics and the world of today, in 2013?

Plenty has changed politically since I wrote “The Score”—the de-escalation of war in Iraq, the rise of drone warfare in many other parts of the world, ongoing issues of government surveillance—but I think the issues brought up in the piece are still relevant now. Particularly the issues of unlawful detention and government response to civil protest. But I always knew that the piece would date itself very quickly, and like other forms of near-future SF, needed to work both as commentary on current events and a snapshot of a time receding into the past.

What are you working on now? What other work do you have out now or have forthcoming?

I’m working on a few projects right now (as usual), but mostly on a series of interlinked novellas about New York in the summer before Pearl Harbor. My forthcoming project (late 2014) is a second YA novel, a contemporary thriller about a Washington, D.C. private school in the midst of a global flu pandemic.

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E.C. Myers

E.C. Myers

E.C. Myers was assembled in the U.S. from Korean and German parts and raised by a single mother and the public library in Yonkers, New York. He is the author of numerous short stories and three young adult books: the Andre Norton Award–winning Fair Coin, Quantum Coin, and The Silence of Six. His next novel, Against All Silence, a thriller about teenage hacktivists investigating a vast conspiracy, is scheduled to appear next spring from Adaptive Books. E.C. currently lives with his wife, son, and three doofy pets in Pennsylvania. You can find traces of him all over the internet, but especially at ecmyers.net and on Twitter @ecmyers.