I am always in awe of authors who explore the darker sides of humanity in interesting ways. As such, I was very excited to talk to Selena Chambers about her work in weirding people out!
What do you love most about speculative fiction? What drew you to writing in the genre?
I love speculative fiction because it allows people to engage with uncomfortable and/or complex subjects in an approachable way. It’s just a fun way to discuss philosophy. I have a more Gothic/Horror bent, and I use those aspects of genre to discuss things people hate to confront, like loss, illness, madness, etc.
What shaped me and my sensibilities to explore such things were the works of Edgar Allan Poe, the Romantics (especially Mary Shelley), the French Symbolists, Surrealists, and Modernists. From the moment I encountered Poe at a young age, I knew I wanted to be in the sandbox and be a writer.
You previously co-edited The Steampunk Bible with Jeff VanderMeer. Why do you find steampunk resonates so well with modern readers?
For me anyway, it’s the same reason I think all speculative fiction is great. Steampunk takes the familiar and revamps it into something brand new. It literally rewrites history to show us how we can have a better future. It brings awareness to lost figures and ignored cultures in history, and explores the tenuous relationship we’ve had with science and technology. It’s Pure Imagination married with the Practical, and I think because it’s all wrapped up in such visceral and fun ribbons, the issues discussed are much more approachable to readers than in other genres.
Your writing is often called ‘weird’ and ‘strange’ – what is it that you hope to elicit in your readers? Why do you enjoy making your readers ill at ease?
I don’t necessarily enjoy making readers ill at ease. To me, the greatest works of art are those that make you feel something—whether its Bojack Horseman or The Great Gatsby—I want to walk away from a show, a book, a painting with something stirring in my soul. My goal, then, in every story I write is to evoke emotion, to create a connection with the reader to the characters, and by the end of it possibly walk away with a sensation you either haven’t felt before or have felt too deeply and need to confront. When someone tells me they had nightmares from reading a story, or were gutted for a few hours, I know I did something right.
And I go through it, too. Some of my stories were really hard for me to write because I had a very emotional connection with the theme or characters.
So maybe the answer is really this: misery loves company.
What would you like to see more of when it comes to gender representation in horror and ‘weird’ fiction?
More spaces occupied with feminine voices without the annotations of male voices.
Tell us what makes your voice unique and why we should be reading your work!
I’m eclectic. I don’t like labels, and I write in a style that mixes the vintage with the fresh. I want to make you think. I want to make you feel. I want to introduce you to the awesome people who were born from my mind and now live fully formed on the page. Most of my characters are women, and I hope within their experiences there’s something that resonates with my sister bluestockings. My characters try to take back the spaces that were denied them, and it’s been really empowering for me to write them, and I hope it’s equally empowering for my readers.
In my collection, CALLS FOR SUBMISSION, you will find a vast array of works that fall under the umbrella of speculative fiction. Victorian tourists take a virtual trip through their (and the Ottoman empire’s) ideal Orient; a teenage girl learns about independence and battle of the bands, all while caring for her mesmerized, dead mother; a failed Beat poet goes over the edge while exploring the long-abandoned Government Lethal Chambers. Whether you like science fiction, horror, steampunk, or are just a lit-nerd like me, I think there is something for everyone here. And what you find you will never forget.
Selena Chambers is a Hugo award and double World Fantasy finalist writer and editor. Her books include The Steampunk Bible (Abrams Image) co-authored with Jeff VanderMeer, and her debut short story collection, Calls for Submission (Pelekinesis). You can find out more about her work and happenings at www.selenachambers.com, on Twitter at @basbleuzombie, or sign up for her newsletter at https://tinyletter.com/BasBleu