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An Interview with Cat Rambo

Fantasy Magazine was ahead of the curve on one popular trend, steampunk, covering it with several features a couple of years ago. Steampunk has continued to grow in popularity, in part because it blends elements from many speculative fields. What are your thoughts on steampunk and its potential for storytelling?
Steampunk, to me, is a really interesting phenomenon, because (or so it seems to me), it’s a resistance to modern society which somehow, paradoxically, both asserts the importance of the machine AND the importance of creativity. Its main appeal lies in the textures it provides, and it’s more an aesthetic than a literary movement.

There’s an absolutely wonderful story by Barth Anderson, “Clockmaker’s Requiem”, that to me is the ultimate steampunk story because it looks at the contradictions implicit in the idea.

There are some racial issues that come up with steampunk, because it’s been a very white genre in more than one way and Dru Pagliassoti has written an interesting piece about its politics. I’ve got a story coming out with Tor.com, “Clockwork Fairies,” that was inspired by that particular aspect of steampunk.

Despite your editing responsibilities, your success as a writer has continued to grow. You have had many stories accepted recently, including one with Redstone SF. What have you done to balance your responsibilities as an editor with your writing process?
I actually backed off from editing a little bit when I realized it was impacting my writing, and moved from managing editor to fiction editor, which is much more manageable.

For me, the writing comes first and foremost. I could give up editing and not feel too miserable. If I gave up writing, it’d be like cutting off a hand.

I found one of your stories from this past year, “The Mermaids Singing Each to Each”, particularly moving. It was on my shortlist. How did that story come about? What different influences and experiences brought that story together?
That story had its seed in a link a friend, Katherine Sparrow, passed along. There are, in fact, huge floating masses of trash in the ocean today, although not as large as the Lump. I started thinking about the idea of mining those and then ended up combining that with Hemingway’s The Old Man And The Sea. I had been grousing to a friend about “cute” mermaids and my carnivorous ones came out of that. Throw all of that together and Mermaids emerged.

An important aspect of your life has been your participation as an admin and a player in the ArmageddonMUD. Many people in our field, including me, spent many hours in MUD’s and roleplaying games. How did working on the MUD influence your writing style and your editing? How has your role there changed as your writing/editing career has expanded?
The MUD taught me a lot about storytelling. One of Armageddon’s features has been the plotlines constructed by and for the players, some of which run years long and may involve scores of people. Running my own, as well as working with staff members on theirs, was really valuable.

I also spent a lot of time thinking about description as a result of writing for the MUD. I tend to write pretty tight sentences and some of that’s the result of trying to pack as much as possible into a 4-5 line room or object description.

However, although I really enjoyed my time with the game, it wasn’t until I stepped back from the game that I was able to really start focusing on writing. Nowadays I read the discussion boards sometimes, and I’m always happy to meet players and staffers in real life, but for the most part, I can’t afford to get enmeshed in that particular web again.

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1 Tweets that mention An Interview with Cat Rambo | Redstone Science Fiction -- Topsy.com { 07.01.10 at 8:57 am }

[…] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Cat Rambo. Cat Rambo said: Interview up at Redstone Science Fiction – http://redstonesciencefiction.com/2010/06/interview-cat-rambo/ […]

2 Ezra { 07.02.10 at 7:47 am }

She’s so right about retold fairy tales. If I never read another it’ll be just about right. And ersatz fairy tales, e.g. Neil Gaiman–it’s mostly girls who say “squee” who like that sort of thing, I understand.

3 Christopher Miller { 07.04.10 at 2:50 pm }

Fantasy Magazine stands out in my experience for their lightening fast rejections. My first came back in 17 minutes.

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