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Daniel Marcus

Website: DanielMarcus.com

Daniel Marcus has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and was a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award. His stories have appeared in ZYZZYVA, Asimov's Science Fiction, Fantasy & Science Fiction, and Realms of Fantasy and his non-fiction has been published in Boing-Boing, Wired, and other venues.

Short story collections

Binding Energy (Elastic Press, 2008) 

Reviewed by M. Bobowski

Interview with Daniel Marcus

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Daniel Marcus: These stories were written between 1992 and 2007. Individually, the stories took anywhere from a couple of days to a few years to complete. (One example of the latter is Echo Beach -- I couldn't quite get it right and went through several iterations of the story before finding a home for it).

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

DM: Yes and no. I always assumed that at some point these stories would be collected. Each story, though, stands alone -- there is no deliberate attempt at common theme, subject matter, or even genre. They are all speculative fiction in some sense, but they run pretty much all over the map, from core sf to horror to magic realism.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

DM: These stories represent most of my output during this period. There are a half dozen or so that I did not include. Some were published in mainstream literary magazines and were not appropriate for a genre collection. Others, the publisher and I agreed we would not include in order to preserve a certain feel for the collection.
    Choosing the order of the stories was not easy. Ultimately, I decided to bookend the collection with stories that I felt were particularly strong and echoed themes that recur throughout. (I will leave it to the reader to determine what those themes might be). As for ordering the rest of the stories, I tried to create a rhythm and pace that would keep readers engaged by choosing stories that varied in length, tone, and content. At the end of the day, it was really a matter of developing a feel for the overall structure of the collection.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

DM: Boy, this one has really been around the block, hasn't it? The best definition of "story" I have ever read is by Bonnie Friedman: "A story is a machne inhabited by a God." I can think of no better or more accurate definition.

TSR: Do you have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?

DM: A few of the stories were written by invitation for specific markets (Blue Period is one example). Most have murkier origins. I wil begin usually with scene or character sketch and develop that until something coherent emerges. In the early stage, I am not really thinking about the reader.
    However, as I apply various elements of craft during the revision process, I begin to think very consciously of my audience. There is a bit of sleight of hand in writing fiction, a bit of smoke and mirrors. You are creating an illusion for your reader to experience. It needs to simulate reality in some sense, but not necessarily mimic it. So you have to be selective in what details to include, what to disclose and when about plot and character, how to use imagery to invoke certain emotions and associations. Beyond that, I don't really have a target reader in mind. I think these stories are diverse enough that they would appeal to a wide range of folks.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your
collection, anything at all?

DM: Sure -- what were your most and least favorite stories and why? Just curious.

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

DM: It feels great!

TSR: What are you working on now?

DM: I am currently circulating two novels -- one mainstream and one fantasy -- and I'm working on a screenplay based on the mainstream book. It's called Burn Rate and it's the story of a couple who, unable to conceive, find a surrogate via the Internet. She has some undisclosed history in the form of an unhinged ex-boyfriend. Let's just say some bad things happen to good people.
    I am also gathering preliminary material and ruminating on a far future space opera kind of deal -- lost colonies, inimical alien races, an ancient galactic spanning civilization that's gone post-singularity and left behind a network of wormholes and all sorts of interesting toys. My current challenge is to put all that backstory behind a few compelling character and narrative arcs. I am also doing a little teaching and working on some new short stuff.
    And there's my most important project, which is spending time with my 11 year old son.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

DM: James Salter, Last Night. I love Salter's work and I am surprised that he has not achieved more widespread recognition. His stories are perfect, troubling, and strange.
    Gene Wolfe, Strange Travelers.Gene Wolfe has been descibed as "the most important author in the SF field." This collection of relatively recent work showcases a mature artist at the top of his form.
    Benjamin Percy, Refresh Refresh. I was wandering around my local bookstore, Black Oak, and stumbled across this book. I hadn't heard of the author, but I picked up the book and started reading right there in the store. Twenty minutes later, my wife called me from the restaurant where I was supposed to meet her -- I barely heard the phone. These stories straddle mainstream and genre without effort or pretense. They are beautifully written, emotionally powerful, complex and direct at the same time. What a find. I've got my eye open for more from this author.