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Getting Through to RSF: An Interview with Kristen Lee Knapp

At RSF, we’ve tried to give personalized responses to each submission, and, in instances where we are comfortable doing so, we like to offer our thoughts on the stories that we let pass.  I’ve talked to a slew of editors, and pretty much everybody hates writing rejection letters.  Harlan Ellison aside, most folks don’t enjoy doling out bad news and comments that are sure to be taken as insults.

While churning our rejection letters, I’ve ended up corresponding with a few folks, seasoned rejectees all, who have helped me come to enjoy the process.  Each of these is a terribly talented writer, and I’m happy to say that one these folks is published in this month’s RSF.

Kris Knapp has a knack for prose that leapt out of our start-up slushpile.  His “voice” is equal parts laser and barbed wire.  While we didn’t buy his first story (or a series of his others), his quickly became one of my favorite names to see pop up in our in-box.  Part of the reason is that he took rejection with humor, and he responded to our comments with a well-feigned interest and respect.  The main reason that I loved to see his name pop-up, however, is that I just knew he had great stories in him, and I was hoping he’d get around to sending us one….and boy, did he ever.

Fatherhood is a cyberpunk tale that represents a lot of what we like at RSF.  The story is tight, the writing is good, and the science is more than just window-dressing.  It’s stylized without being overwrought, and it has what so many pieces of short-fiction lack….a satisfying conclusion.

We hope that you enjoy “Fatherhood” as much as we did.

We asked Kris a few questions about his writing and his story in this month’s Redstone SF, Fatherhood.

Kris, thanks for taking the time to let our readers know a bit about you and your thoughts.
Hard to believe anyone could be interested in my opinions, let alone write a feature about me, but I’m flattered.

When you aren’t writing cyberpunk, what keeps you busy?
Well, I’ve just started grad school, so I haven’t been reading as much as I like.  I just got my BA in English from the University of North Florida, where I’m currently attending for my MA in European History.  I live in Jacksonville with my girlfriend Kaity. We have two cats, Pilot Major John Blackthorn and Pippa. I’m going to be an uncle in a few months.

European history major, eh?  Sounds like we have a fantasy writer in the making.
It’s true that I love fantasy.  There’s a lot of great stuff to be excited about out there right now.  Some fantasy authors I dig are George R.R. Martin, Patrick Rothfuss, R. Scott Bakker, Brian Ruckley and Peter V. Brett. There’s a revolution going on in fantasy these days, a rejection of the stale regurgitations of Tolkien’s work.  While I’ve tried my hand writing fantasy, I don’t think I’ve done as well with it. If anything, I may have drifted towards writing more sci-fi than fantasy.

What sci-fi do you read?
For some reason, when it comes to sci-fi, I tend to look back. There’s such a huge amount of great stuff from the past few decades. I rarely read anything current. Philip K. Dick, William Gibson, Joe Haldeman and Frank Herbert are a few that occupy my time.

You have been recognized for your poetry, and you’ve written a ton of fiction.  What do you feel are the key factors in producing a quality written work?
Jeez. Sure, there’s the basic steps like reading and writing every day, editing, etc. But beyond that, who knows? A writer could follow all the “steps” for every day of their lives and produce the most boring trash you’ve ever read. And then, someone else could break all the rules or steps or whatever and write something beautiful. All comes down to perspective, I suppose. Quality should probably begin with the writer. Are you, as a writer, happy with your work? To answer the question, though, probably luck and perseverance are what I count on.

Every writer wants to know what a fiction editor is looking for when they read a story. What do you think editors are looking for, and have you made any changes in your work to facilitate sales?
The thing that’s easy to forget as a writer is that editors are individual people with different tastes. Not only that, but different publications target different markets. So don’t take it personally when a young adult sci-fi mag rejects your zombie stripper blood explosion. Seriously though, shop around. I can’t say I’ve never been discouraged by a rejection, but it’s never stopped me from keeping on.  I’m something of a rejection connoisseur.

I don’t think I’ve really changed my writing like that, but I am writing and selling more sci-fi than fantasy.  Maybe my fantasy stuff sucks.  People just seem to enjoy my sci-fi stuff more.

Steampunk has continued to grow in popularity, as cyberpunk and space opera, to some degree, have waned. What is your favorite specfic subgenre, and are your thoughts on its future?
I’d read anything. No, really. I don’t care; I just want a good story. The whole genre thing is kind of silly, once you think about it. There are still those literary snobs who refuse to distinguish science fiction or fantasy at all. It’s all shit to them. If you refuse to read a genre because you think you don’t like it, you’re missing out on something. It’s as simple as that.

This month, we are publishing your excellent story, “Fatherhood”.  How did that story come about?  What different influences and experiences brought that story together?
As stupid as it sounds, I wanted to write a story about a character named Octopus and made it up as I went. At the time, I was reading a lot of Neuromancer and Philip K. Dick, and was also watching Blade Runner. I wanted to tell a good story, hopefully I succeeded.

What other aspects of geekdom are a part of your life?
I used to MUD until I realized it was a colossal waste of time for me. I suppose one has to be a geek to even consider going to graduate school, especially for someththing like history. I usually take part in an annual medieval festival in Florida. I play some Xbox these days, Call of Duty and a few other time-wasters. Lately I’ve been burning through Battlestar Galactica. I’d never watched it until a few weeks ago.

More and more writers are taking to the web to make a name for themselves.  What social media do you use, and what are your thoughts on self-promotion and online publishing?
I use Facebook and I have a Twitter which I rarely update. I also have a blog that I update on the vernal equinox. If you can successfully self-promote, then I say go for it.

Publishing online can be great, and it can suck. I’ve had more than a few publications fold on me just weeks before they were planning to publish my work. There are a lot of ezines out there. I think the trick is to distinguish yourself somehow, either by professionalism, pay rates, organization, commitment, something.

What do you think have been your biggest influences?  What makes their work stand out for you?
Probably Philip K. Dick and R. Scott Bakker, if I were forced to pick two.  Philip K. Dick stands out for how imaginative his work is. Bakker stands out for sheer quality of writing, storytelling, and world-building.

Before we go, please let our readers know what they need to be looking for from you, in addition to your excellent story with in this month’s edition of RSF?
I’ve got a story coming out soon at Liquid Imagination. I’ve got a pair of stories coming out in print anthologies from Residential Aliens and Roll the Bones from Fight On!.

Thanks, again, for the great story, and for proving me right.
Thank you for accepting my story and thank you for your kind words about Fatherhood.


1 Editor’s Note – February 2011 | Redstone Science Fiction { 02.01.11 at 12:58 am }

[…] We get to publish two stories that we think you’ll really like. Both are very personal stories that consider to what sort of future genetic engineering might lead. Like a Hawk in its Gyre by Philip Brewer is a subtle story that draws you into the world of its damaged protagonist, while Fatherhood by Kristen Lee Knapp is an over-the-top cyberpunk story that will send you looking for your mirrorshades. We were also able to talk a little with these authors and find out a little bit more about these guys for you – Philip and Kris. […]

2 Bumblebee { 04.19.11 at 3:26 pm }

I worked and knew Kriss. So I can honestly say he’s a stand up guy and I knew this guy was smart and would go far and beyond. Good luck Kris.