Interview with Rich Larson4 min read

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If Rich Larson’s name sounds familiar, it’s because you’re seeing his name in more and more places. Here at Apex, we recently published his story “Brute” in November of 2014 (issue 66), and before that “Maria and the Pilgrim” in February of 2014. His short fiction has also been published in Strange Horizons, Clarkesworld, Lightspeed, The Canadian Science Fiction Review, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, and other notable magazines. If anthologies are more your scene, you’ll find his name in the table of contents of War Stories, Upgraded, Futuredaze, and in The Years Best Science Fiction, Volume 32.

Born in West Africa, educated in Canada and currently living in Spain, Rich’s short fiction has been nominated the Theodore Sturgeon award, the Pushcart and the Journey Prize. With his unique take on the world combined with an in-your-face contemporary style, unapologetic settings, and dialects that perfectly match the mood of his pieces, he offers his readers a fully realized escape. I think once you read “Going Endo,” which hopefully will make you curious about his other work, you’ll understand why Rich Larson is a name to watch.

Rich was kind enough to let me pick his brain about his newest short story “Going Endo,” his use of dialect, and how sometimes stories just have to end in a bucket of protein slop, where you’ll find the world’s most unexpected matchmaker.

Questions about the story:

APEX MAGAZINE: “Going Endo” includes quite a bit of fun slang. The phrases are different of course, but the style of how words are swapped out reminded me of A Clockwork Orange. How did you develop the phrases you used, and when using Science Fictional slang and dialect (or even just futuristic sounding terms), how do you identify words and phrases that should be swapped out for slang phrases?

RICH LARSON: I love languages, and when I put future flavor into a character’s dialect there’s at least some logic behind the choices. I look at words and phrases that shift relatively quickly in English vernacular, I recycle older words and constructions, and I try to make the tech talk look like it’s been naturalized—“burn some virch” as shorthand for using virtual reality, for example. A Clockwork Orangewasn’t as influential for me as M.T. Anderson’s Feed, which really hooked me with the same sort of lexical barrage that almost tells its own story on the side.

AM: Puck is an “exo,” a sentient exo-skeleton, for use in hard vacuum. When her “endo,” her pilot, Cena, climbs into her, they neurally bond via fleshy tendrils and spinal dockets. It’s a symbiotic relationship, of sorts. How did you get the idea for the Exos and the Endos who control them?

RL: The seed for this story was written down as “3 way romance with technician—suit—soldier” but the prospect of writing about another mechanical exoskeleton with advanced AI seemed boring so I went the organic route instead, and from there a more symbiotic bonding made sense.

AM: To quote the story, “I bet it feels like god, going endo.” Beyond a possible god-like feeling, do you think there’s an element of addiction between exos and endos? That an endo could get hooked on the feeling of controlling something, and hooked on what they get in return?

RL: Yeah, definitely. I think there’s a bit of an addiction parallel.

AM: Your story “Brute,” which also appeared in Apex Magazine, features two friends who find what might be a secret military creature, of sorts. And a symbiotic relationship develops. Does “Brute” take place in the same universe as “Going Endo”? Do you plan to write more stories that are connected to either “Brute” or “Going Endo”?

RL: I didn’t imagine it in the same universe, no. “Brute” was my spin on The Venom Saga from the animated Spider-Man series in the 90s. I watched a VHS tape of it obsessively (I was six) until the symbiote story arc became a sort of mythical archetype for me, and I wanted to do that, but make it cool.

The similarity between the stories speaks more to a shared style I’ve found fits well here at Apex—strange and somewhat dark with elements of humor and light body horror.

Questions about writing and your career:

AM: Tell us a little about your writing process. Are you an outliner? Or do you just start writing and see where the story goes?

RL: Lately I try to be more intentional about plotting, but this was definitely one where I just started writing and did the whole thing in a couple sittings. The voice is breezy and there’s really only one place it can end up, which is a threesome in a tank full of protein slop. Not a lot of thematic nuance or plot intricacies to agonize over.

AM: You also write poetry. How are writing short stories and poetry similar for you? How are they different? When you get an idea, how do you know if it will work better as a poem or as a prose story?

RL: Oof, I haven’t written a poem in forever. They’re similar in that a single strong image is often important. For a story, that image is often a jumping-off point or an ending. For a poem, that image can sometimes be all you need. Generally I don’t write speculative poetry, so if it’s a sci-fi-ish idea like this one, prose is the clear choice.

AM: What writers (or other artists) have been the biggest influence on you?

RL: Kenneth Oppel, M.T. Anderson, Meghan Whalen Turner, C.S. Lewis, and all the others I’m forgetting.

AM: What’s next for you? What new projects are you working on?

RL: Depending on publishing schedules, I’ve either recently had or soon will have stories in Asimov’s and F&SF, then a few more later on in Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Interzone, and DSF. And of course I hope to appear in future issues of Apex, as it’s one of my favorites. Once I have twelve pro sales on the year I’ll put a moratorium on short stories and get back on the novel grind.

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