An Interview with Steve Lazarowitz


A Creative Edge: Tales of Speculation
Steve Lazarowitz

Sixteen speculative fiction stories from the master.

1. Can you tell us a little about your background, writing career, etc?

While I’ve spent my entire life living in Brooklyn, I am hardly the stereotypical New Yorker. Most of my job experience is in retail electronics and computers, but I’ve also read Tarot Cards in a Tea Room, worked as a bookkeeper for the New York City Housing Authority, as an intern at the Bronx Zoo in a program to teach children about endangered environments and lecturered at the American Museum of Natural History. I fold origami, play role-playing games, enjoy movies, hiking and snorkeling. I’ve also raised some fairly exotic pets. I’ve owned many different types of birds, lizards, snakes, spiders, scorpions, even a giant African millipede. I’ve raised dragonflies from their aquatic larva (most of which the cats got as soon as they started flying) and a colonies of Milkweed Bugs and Giant Madagascan Hissing Cockroaches. I’ve had a 125 gallon coral reef in my dining room.

Though I’ve been writing all my life, my “career” really began in 1997, when I became serious about getting my work out there. As with everything else, I’m self-taught. I bought books, subscribed to magazines, read everything I could. I joined critique groups and started a writing course I never finished. I’m just not a school person. I learn much better on my own. I initally targeted the print market, with rather poor results. I had an article published in Stress, a National Hip Hop Magazine and another that was supposed to be in 69 Flavors of Paranoia, but they went out of business before the issue was published. In fact, I had a story that was supposed to go into another print zine that folded before the first issue came out. Needless to say, I was not a happy camper.

2. You are an electronically published author and have had much success with the anthology A Creative Edge: Tales of Speculation, which was a finalist for Best E-published Anthology, at the Eppies. Why did you chose epublishing and why would you recommend it to other authors?

More and more, Madison Avenue has become like Hollywood. There seems to be a lot of repetitive offerings in my local book store. Just take a look at the covers. Long ago, I decided that I wasn’t just going to write just another fantasy novel. I wanted my books to be different. While most print publishing companies give lip service to originality, they’re really looking to make a quick buck and that means accepting something very similar to something they’ve already made a killing with. I’ve always been a rule breaker and I don’t think that will stop any time soon. While I do have work in print (out of genre), I haven’t had much luck with my stories. Only twice have I received acceptence letters from print zines for my work and both zines went out of business before my story appeared. E-publishing gives you a lot more creative freedom, though at this point, it doesn’t give you the same kind of financial reward. On the other hand, any number of previously successful midlist print authors currently can’t sell their books at all, so I can’t really complain.

Once, Madison Avenue publishing houses were independent entities, run by editors. Today, those same companies are part of huge entertainment conglomerates. Editors no longer choose what they want to accept. Marketing tells them what to buy. The “art” of writing has become a thing of the past. E-publishing, at this point, is filling the same niche that small press fills or independent movies. Is every e-book wonderful? Absolutely not. Are they as polished as books you’ll find at a Barnes and Nobles? Not always. Have I found some wonderful ebooks that are nothing like anything I’ve read in print? Absolutely and that far outweighs the minor inconvenience to me. Not that I’d turn down a lucrative contract from a print publishing company, but I won’t sacrifice my unique voice to obtain it.

3. You are a science fiction and fantasy writer, why did you decide to write in these genres and where do you get your inspiration from?

I don’t like to restrict myself and the real world is just too limiting for me. I like to explore everything possible and often the impossible. What would a world be like where they had yet to discover time? What would the thoughts of a sentient alien tree be like? What if you could return to the past any number of times, until you created the future of your choosing? These are all premises from some of my earlier stories. I’ve gotten inspiration from everywhere. Dreams, conversations with friends, snatches of overheard conversations, newspaper articles, movies, computer games, even an episode of Fragglerock. Sometimes I’ll take a more commonly used science fiction plot and turn it on its ear. Sometimes ideas just seem to come to me out of the ether. I never really know what will happen in a story until its finished.

4. Are you inspired by any particular authors and who is your favorite contemporary author?

The list of authors that inspire me is almost endless and not all of them are print authors. Roger Zelazny and Parke Godwin are two of my favorite print authors, but there are so many more, it would be hard to list them all here. Piers Anthony (particularly his older work), Leigh Bracket, Stephen Goldin, Stephen Donaldson, Jack Chalker, Mike Resnick, Michael Swanwick and many more. In the realm of e-books, I’m a big fan of Patrick Welch, who might just be my favorite e-author, but also E.L. Noel, Kate Saundby, Jonathan Fesmire, Joe Shosty, Atk Butterfly, M.D. Benoit, Jo Popek and Edward Stack.

5. Finally, what are you currently working on and what are your goals for the future?

My current novel, Reflections of a Recovering Servant, is my most ambitious book to date, at least in regard to plotting. It’s a fantasy book gone awry, taking what might be a standard fantasy start and bending it into something quite different.

I keep telling myself I’m going to get the time to finish my SF novel Confronting the Void, about the early days of FTL travel, but I’m not sure I believe it anymore. I’m about two thirds of the way to a third anthology, with some of my favorite stories to date and I’m almost finished with a the first draft of a fantasy trilogy, the first book of which I’ve placed with the Twilight Times Literary agency. I have high hopes for these.

I also want to write a sequel to my book Alaric Swifthand, since I’ve left poor Alaric in a very bad spot and some of his fans have threatened me with bodily harm, if I don’t do something about it. And of course, I’ll continue to write my regular monthly columns Shattered Fragments (The Wandering Troll Ezine) and Sahara Ice (Blue Iris Journal). That should hold me for at least a couple of months.

Read an extract from A Creative Edge: Tales of Speculation:

The Tree

Many light years away, on a world it had never bothered to name, stood a tree. It had lived there for countless eons, alone, yet not alone. It was aware that it was one of a kind, the last of its dying race. Thus it was alone. Part of the Tree was saddened by this and many limbs died in sorrow and were subsequently shed. That was so long ago, the Tree could only barely recall it. For a time, a short time by its own reckoning, it withdrew into itself. When it again emerged, it found a new way to deal with its isolation.

The Tree’s perceptions reached out and found a living world. A world so full of life and death, of movement and stillness, of strength and vulnerability, the tree was enthralled. Over the millennia, it learned not just to appreciate but to communicate with its new friends. And the Tree was content.

Then a new creature entered the Tree’s domain. Many of the older fruit, the philosophers, debated what this meant but that’s what fruit did. The rest of the Tree ignored their ramblings and concentrated on the newcomer.

The creature was like nothing it had encountered before. The Tree emitted waves of friendship that met with no response. It did not doubt the newcomer had some sort of intelligence, but nothing to which it could form a bond. For a time the strange being traveled the world, completely intent upon its mission. The Tree spent much of its resources tracking it, hoping to understand the creature. Unfortunately, a short while later it somehow removed itself from the world in a way the Tree did not understand. The Tree shed a branch in sorrow, but grew yet more in joy for it reveled in the birth of a new mystery.

With the absence of the stranger, life resumed for the Tree. It returned its attention to the world around it and left the pondering to the fruit.

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