What was it that attracted you to the Slice Girls anthology?
I’m a big fan of a punny title.
How did you feel writing a story about a violent woman?
I didn’t set out to write a story about a violent woman. The kernel of this piece was actually the opposite: violent men, or at least the perception of male violence. At the time I wrote this I commuted by train in Chicago, and learned that on my walk home I was not allowed to take the shortcut through the alley—one night a man in front of me held up something that glinted knife-like in the light and told me to “piss off,” which of course I did. On walks home, especially winter walks home in the dark, I became hyper aware of men sharing the sidewalks with me, men who were, most likely, also just heading home. But what if they weren’t? What if I wasn’t?
Please give the readers a brief summary of the story you wrote for the collection?
Duane is a serial killer who hunts his prey on Chicago’s El, following women home at night to kill them with piano wire. He whistles as he walks behind them, enjoying their fear. But one night his prey invites him inside. Instead of killing her, he ends up at her mercy.
How do you feel about the way women are usually portrayed in horror?
I think women’s roles in horror are expanding. Whereas we used to be either victims or plucky survivors, now there’s room for us to be the bad gals.
Do you think the way female characters are portrayed in horror reflects the way society views women?
Horror is a great mirror to hold up to society’s anxieties. Both the evildoers and those who are punished in fiction say something about our cultures. What do we fear? What do we want to excise? I think it’s very telling that there was once an almost unbreakable trope that a woman could only survive a horror story if she was a virgin. The transgressive act of having premarital sex was punishable by death. But I also think it’s instructive to look at the motivations of villains. Does it seem like female villains most often turn bad because of some trauma in their pasts, usually perpetrated by a man? This still denyies female villains their agency, pointing it all back to a male root cause.
Would you call yourself a feminist, if not how do you view the status of women?
I’m absolutely a feminist.
Slice Girls includes the subheading Feminazi Splattergoth. What are your thoughts about the term Feminazi?
I think “feminazi” is a horrible term. Any playful variation on “Nazi” takes a little piece of seriousness away from what that actually meant, and I think we’re really seeing what that leads to in 2020. Folks have thrown “Nazi” around so much that we’ve lost the language to describe the actual atrocities we see brewing all around us. Do I think that feminists are in any way similar to genocidal mass murderers? It’s ludicrous to make that connection, and dangerous.
Have any of your other stories been published? If so tell us about them and where readers can find them.
I’ve had a couple dozen stories published. My 18 favorite of them have been collected into a book, Living Forever & Other Terrible Ideas, published by Fairwood Press in November 2020 (https://www.fairwoodpress.com/catalog/item/7650566/10435638.htm). The loose theme of the collection is, of course, the downsides of cheating death. It features zombie tourists, clones, frozen heads, reincarnated lawn flamingos, murderous garden gnomes, wish-granting fish, flying tigers, foul-mouthed fairies, rogue robots, vengeful trees, medical dreams, interstellar squirrels, murderous teddy bears, magic-helmet-wearing rollergirls, rampaging aliens, a dash of eldritch horror, and a sprinkle of ghosts.
What are you writing at the moment?
I’m working on a novel with co-writer Andy Romine about middle-class secret lizard people. Their rich relatives may control global finance and government, but in Lake Lucid, the Payne family’s biggest challenge is keeping their homegrown skinsuits in good enough shape to blend in—until the evil lizards find them.
I’m also always working on a short story or two. Right now those tend to be set in what I think of as my Reincarnation Universe, and the current work in progress follows Ennesta, a shape-shifter, as she searches for her mythical home planet.
Do you prefer short stories or novels? Which form is more challenging to write?
Short stories and novels have their own challenges, which is why I usually work on both at the same time. I’m really not that great at either of them, as my natural length tends to be somewhere between story and novel length! Short stories certainly provide more instant gratification. It’s nice to finish something, and novels take (optimistically) months or (more often) years for me to complete. It’s also easier to sell a short story than a novel; publishers are much more likely to take a chance on something 5,000 words long than 100,000. As a reader, however, I strongly prefer novella or longer works. My attention span is too short for short stories—by the time I’ve invested in a world and its characters they are gone, and I have to start all over again.
What is your favourite short story by another author?
Probably something from Ted Chiang’s first collection, Stories of Your Life & Others. The title story was so great they made a movie out of it (Arrival), which is also great. Other standouts include “Tower of Babylon” and “Hell Is the Absence of God.”
Bio: Emily C. Skaftun’s tales of flying tigers, space squids, and evil garden gnomes have appeared in Clarkesworld, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Asimov’s, Daily Science Fiction, Strange Horizons, and more. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and attended the Clarion West Writers Workshop in 2009. Emily lives north of Seattle with a mad scientist and their Cat, Astrophe. She is the former editor of a Norwegian newspaper and practices bokmål by translating comic strips. She’s co-founded two online magazines, edited a tie-in anthology, and judged a Scandinavian haiku contest (haikuff-da!) An avid traveler, Emily has cuddled a crocodile in Cuba, attended Elf School in Reykjavík, swam in a Yucatán cenote, and flown over an active volcano. Emily doesn't want to live forever, but wouldn't object to being reincarnated on a sunny, wise planet.