lex Shvartsman is a science fiction writer from Brooklyn, whose work has appeared in publications like Nature, Analog, Fireside, and more. His story “Icarus Falls” appears in our anthology, AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss & Grief and explores a relationship between mother and daughter at the end of life, when memory is not as reliable as we might think. This all takes place against a speculative fiction backdrop. I talked to Alex about his work and what attracted him to the book. You can see Alex reading “Icarus Falls” at WORD UP Community Bookshop on October 12, 2018 for our event, Embracing Grief: An Evening of Personal Narratives.
Can you introduce yourself as well as your contribution to AFTERMATH?
I’m a writer, anthologist, translator, and game designer, from Brooklyn, NY. Over 100 of my short stories appeared or are forthcoming in various science fiction/fantasy publications such as Nature, Analog, Fireside, Intergalactic Medicine Show, and others. I won the WSFA award in 2014 and was a two-time nominee for the Canopus award. I’ve edited over a dozen anthologies, including the annual series of humorous SF/F, Unidentified Funny Objects. In my (virtually non-existent) free time, I translate short stories from Russian. My website is www.alexshvartsman.com.
“Icarus Falls” was originally published in Daily Science Fiction. This tale has a fun origin story: I was driving home from a science fiction convention and got stuck in a huge traffic jam. It took me two hours longer than it should have to get home—but, trapped in the car, I came up with this story and outlined it in great detail in my head. Even though I was exhausted after nearly six hours on the road, I typed up the first draft as soon as I got home.
What attracted you to the theme of the book?
Loss and grief are such universal constants, it is almost impossible for a writer to avoid touching upon those subjects in their work. When I fist encountered the submissions call for this anthology, my immediate reaction was to wonder whether this ostensibly literary collection would be interested in the speculative exploration of this theme. I also was excited to see a new publishing project initiated in my home town of Brooklyn.
What are you hoping to convey to readers with your story?
This story came together from several different elements and concepts that fascinated me. First, I wanted to write from the perspective of a character who is losing his or her memory. It was, in part, inspired by a brilliant flash piece called “Don’t Look Down” by Anatoly Belilovsky, also published by Daily Science Fiction. Second, I wanted to tell a story where two characters are lying to each other, but doing so for altruistic reasons. And finally, I liked the idea of a keepsake box (so much so, I also used it in another story written within a few months of this one.)
Talk about some of your favorite projects you’ve been involved with.
I’m a lifelong science fiction fan who only began writing in 2010. Until then, I never even met a real-life science fiction writer. The ability to meet and work with authors whose books I’ve been reading for decades has been immensely satisfying. My favorite remains the annual series of humor anthologies I edit. Unidentified Funny Objects is in its seventh year now, and has allowed me to publish fiction by giants in the field, from George R. R. Martin and Neil Gaiman to Esther Friesner and Piers Anthony, as well as work with many up-and-coming authors who, decades from now, may become as revered as some of the above-mentioned headliners.
What’s next on the horizon?
You can find Alex’s story “Icarus Falls” in our anthology, AFTERMATH: Explorations of Loss & Grief, out now. We hope you’ll join us for Embracing Grief: An Evening of Personal Narratives this Friday October 12, at WORD UP Community Bookshop! For more information and to RSVP, visit the Facebook event: https://www.facebook.com/events/732319793776712/.