Our first interview is with Alex Shvartsman, author of Putting It All Together, which appeared in our first volume. Alex is a writer, editor, and game designer living in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and son. Check out his recently released short story collection, Explaining Cthulhu to Grandma and Other Stories, and find out more on his website.
freeze frame fiction: What inspired you to write this piece, or where did the idea come from?
Alex Shvartsman: There have been so many stories of building virtual worlds, I liked the idea of cobbling together the real world from inside of a simulation. I enjoy writing about the singularity, and the concept of people trying to re-create some version of the ‘real’ world from memory really appealed to me.
fff: When writing flash fiction, do you plan the story out, or just write and see what happens? How about with longer works (short stories)?
AS: Flash fiction stories fit inside of your head, whereas the longer works occasionally need planning. No matter what length story I am writing, I have a couple of rules: before I type word one, I must know how the story begins, and how it ends. If I don’t have the ending planned out, I don’t set out to write the story. Which isn’t to say that the ending might not ultimately change, because something better comes along, but there has to be a specific conclusion and I write each scene with reaching that conclusion in mind. The world gets flashed out along the way as I discover interesting bits and characters and asides as I write.
fff: I know that you have a crazy amount of publications to your name—over 60, according to your website. How long have you been submitting fiction to magazines and anthologies? How many rejections have you amassed, ballpark figure?
AS: I should probably update the website as I’m now approaching 80 original short stories sold! I started writing in the spring of 2010 and received my first acceptance about six months later. I’m an aggressive submitter and I don’t give up easily on my work–some stories have sold after 20+ submissions while others found a home on the first outing–but I tend to sell pretty much everything I write. It’s not all laurels and roses: I collect massive amounts of rejections along the way! I post a round-up of my sales, rejections and other numbers on my blog at the end of each year. Ballpark, I’d say I’ve collected close to 600 rejections since 2010, and about 200 acceptances (including reprints, podcasts, translations, etc.).
fff: As a seasoned veteran, what advice can you give to those just starting out with the submission process or with only a few publications to their names?
AS: Research the markets. Read a few issues of each publication you submit to regularly so that you have a firm grasp of the kind of material they’re after. Don’t become discouraged by rejection: it stings, but it’s the normal part of the process. The editors and slush readers aren’t the enemy–they’re rooting for you to succeed! Don’t ever submit to non-paying markets.
fff: What is it you love about science fiction?
AS: I love the versatility of the genre. It may not be the right fit for every tale, but its ability to transport the reader to places and situations they never imagined possible is incredibly powerful.
fff: Who are some of your favorite authors—short fiction writers and novelists?
AS: When it comes to flash fiction, my favorite author (and one who should be required reading for anyone attempting to write in this format) is Fredric Brown. He was brilliant and isn’t nearly as well-recognized for his accomplishments within genre as other great authors. Otherwise my tastes are quite varied: from Neal Stephenson to Simon R. Green, from Mike Resnick to Joan Vinge, from Ken Liu to Ken Liu (he gets mentioned twice, because he’s awesome as both short story writer and a novelist). There are always more new favorites: over the course of the last year or so I discovered works by Xia Jia and Tatiana Ivanova, both of whom possess unique and very different voices.
Want to read Alex’s story? Considering purchasing our volume i ebook.