I’m here with Dustin Steinacker, my fellow Writers of the Future writer-winner from Orem, Utah. He very graciously volunteered to answer the following questions:
Tell me about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your background?
I was raised in Elk Ridge, Utah, in the foothills of Loafer Mountain. The town I grew up in (and where my parents still live) has probably quintupled in size since we moved in, and the further north you go to find an available lot the more you’re trading wasps and earwigs for actual bears and mountain lions. I now live in Orem, Utah, smack-dab between two major colleges, and even in the “city” you might see a deer or a bobcat if you get up early enough. So the more things change, the more they stay the same. (Does this sound like I’m dictating my memoirs from the retirement home?)
Writing kind of took me by surprise. I’d dabbled with writing fiction (and always read it) but never took it seriously as something I could actually do until that one sleepless night where a story idea I just had to get down on paper gripped me, and I got up at about 3 am to write. It was a navel-gazey, description-sparse and exposition-heavy piece that would have needed a good half-dozen edits before it would have been fit for anybody else to read, but it was terrific fun to write. My first drafts are still very similar.
What kinds of stories do you write? Why?
I tend to write the same genres that I prefer to read, which invariably means medium-hard sci-fi first contact stories, stories of Lovecraftian beasties and alien geometries warping the world of man, and New Weird. That last one is my favorite—ostensibly it’s kind of a mishmash of horror, sci-fi, and fantasy, but I think in practice it’s a sticker applied to a style which is free to be a little literary or experimental or ambiguous here or there, and also says “But don’t worry: we’ve still got guns and monsters and robots and interdimensional portals.”
My first novel (I’m a few drafts in) is a colonial fantasy with nonhuman characters. I like to write stuff which is a little out-there in its concept and setting, but which hopefully still resonates with readers in more conventional ways. The wild-ass stuff comes to me more naturally since that’s how my imagination works, and then it’s a lot of work before the characters actually start feeling real and the plot turns surprise me.
What authors have had the greatest influence on your writing? Why?
Cormac McCarthy is the fuel for my creative pump. I don’t have the idea that I’ll ever be able to write the way he does, but that’s not my intention anyway in reading him: he just makes me want to write. A go-to scene for me is that sequence in Outer Dark where the shepherd is driven off the cliff by a herd of hogs, but you could probably pick any random page or two and find some dazzling bit of language.
Beyond that I don’t think I’ve written anything recently that wouldn’t have been at least a little different without the influences of Clive Barker, China Miéville, Peter Watts, and Orson Scott Card. And I wouldn’t have gotten into this stuff as early and as thoroughly as I did if I hadn’t stumbled into Bruce Coville’s stuff in elementary school.
Which of your fellow writer-winner stories do you like the most? Why?
I go to bat for Ziporah Hildebrandt’s The Long Dizzy Down every chance I get. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a better implementation of the “unreliable narrator” in fiction. She creates this utterly mad vocabulary and uses it with ironclad consistency, and so what started for me as “Oh, I get it—it’s Flowers for Algernon meets such-and-such” turns into me just reading in awe as I uncover the sci-fi world behind this compromised protagonist’s voice.
I mean, look at this:
“Before Ship? Nothing. Only Jake. Jake and I are brothers. Laughing starswallow of ripping through a nebula when we were so-close and our touching filled us like dizzy only so-so-better and Jake made words sing poems. We could only be so-close in the far-between when Ship almost slept from hunger and there’s no dizzy, only humdizzy just enough to feel.”
Best prose in the book, bar none. It flows like poetry, but in the context of the story everything means something, even if you’ve gotta work it out a bit (reminds me a bit of the cargo cult kids in Beyond Thunderdome, actually). I love a story which takes the risk of being divisive and accomplishes something stellar, especially when the story’s form and plot work together.
If you were a D&D character, what would your class be (e.g., fighter, magic user, barbarian, etc.)? Why?
I rolled a character for my second-ever campaign last week, and I’m pretty sure I committed to some sort of tiefling warlock. So some sort of demon-human hybrid who makes contracts with dark forces in exchange for power and influence over others. So it’s a lot like being a writer, really.
To read Dustin’s story, “Envoy in the Ice”, please buy your copy today of Writers of the Future: Volume 33. If you already have a copy and have read it, please take a few moments to click this link and place your review: http://amzn.to/2kNE5eh If you haven’t gotten your copy yet, then still click this link, get your book, read it, and review it!