Today I am interviewing Ryan Habermeyer, author of the new short-fiction collection, The Science of Lost Futures.
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DJ: Hi Ryan! Welcome back again for another interview
For readers who aren’t familiar with you or may have missed our previous chat, could you tell us a little about yourself?
Ryan: I’m a professor at Salisbury University. I did the academic route in becoming a writer. MFA from UMass-Amherst and PhD from the University of Missouri. Scholar and fiction writer. As a scholar, my academic interests are in transnational fairy-tales and comparative mythology. I teach courses on folklore, myths, monsters, grotesques, etc. My fiction traverses some of that same territory, exploring that which is weird, bizarre, strange, otherworldly, cryptic, absurd, uncanny, spectral or otherwise inexplicable. A rather mundane personal life story, I’m afraid. Which probably explains why my fiction is so attracted to the surreal.
DJ: What is The Science of Lost Futures about?
Ryan: The book is a series of short stories I wrote over a thirteen-year period. Predominantly what we would call literary fiction, though the stories certainly have porous boundaries with genre fiction. There’s a lot of strangeness in these pages. Townspeople who discover a gigantic severed foot washed ashore on their beach. A woman collapsing inside the black hole growing on her shoulder. A former Nazi adopted as a household pet. I think of my characters on the fringes of experience: confronting circumstances alien and quotidian, absurd and grotesquely heart-wrenching; characters haunted by the pasts they can’t escape and longing for uncertain futures just beyond their grasp. That sounds eloquent, so let’s go with that description.
DJ: What were some of your influences when writing The Science of Lost Futures?
Ryan: There’s a kind of reciprocal influence between what I teach as an academic and what I write. So obviously cross-cultural fairy-tales and mythologies influence my work, albeit in indirect ways. I don’t write revisionist adaptations of oral narratives—like, say, Angela Carter (whose work is wonderful!)—but oral storytelling influences my writing style. It’s more of trying to capture that mood, that affect, that ambience of the folkloric tradition. Often there are allusions to old tales. Like stories within stories. With more contemporary fiction—my tastes tend to skew international. Kafka, Borges, Calvino, Bruno Schulz, Bohumil Hrabal, China Miéville, Nalo Hopkinson. And lots of Russians. I love the Russians. Bulgakov, Nabokov, Ludmila Petrushevskaya. Those writers challenge me, surprise me, provoke me. I suppose my brain has had an orgy with all those writers and my collection is their illegitimate love child.
DJ: What kinds of stories can readers expect in the anthology?
Ryan: I write my stories hoping they rest uneasily between genres. So there are echoes of science fiction, echoes of mystery (I think); elements of domestic realism mingling with fantasy. There are some pretty horrifying things that happen to characters, but not “horror” as a genre, per se. I’ve been told my stories are magical realist, but I like to classify my stories as fabulist, which I think is a more encompassing term as they evoke more antiquated modes of storytelling like I said before. Readers can expect a lot of absurdity, a lot of sudden and fantastical metamorphoses, but also trying to interrogate the reality of these intrusions of fantasy on everyday life. I suppose I’m trying to find the human moments within the absurd, the grotesque, the weird. I want to make you laugh, I want to make you cringe, I want to punch you in the heart. Continue reading