We're very happy to welcome author K.A.Teryna to the blog, to tell us about her story 'Morpheus', from our June 24th 2019 issue, and to discuss other aspects of her writing. We're also very grateful to Alex Shvartsman, for translating both the story and this interview. (And you can read his own interview here).
Can you tell us a bit about yourself and your writing – what first got you into speculative fiction?
It all started with the short fiction contests. I don't remember what caused me to join my first contest, but I made up a workable version for this interview: suppose I was certain from early childhood that I should become a writer. Over time this certainty grew up, matured, and dragged me into a contest. Whatever the actual reason, I managed to win my first contest, thereby mutating my certainty into overconfidence. However, overconfidence is not well-suited to contest biosphere, and it soon wilted as I realized that writing stories was much more difficult than my first attempt might have implied. It took several years of nurturing my confidence anew and forging it through victories and defeats. Currently I'm performing various genetic experiments on it in order to coax out my inner novelist.
'Morpheus' is a quietly disturbing examination of dreams and loss and guilt. Can you tell us more about where some of the ideas came from?
Ideas are easy: a single line appears, you pull on it and suddenly there's an entire ball of lines and all of them bite. If you untangle it despite the damage it's doing to your hands, you have a story.
In any other case I would stop at the true and accurate description of my writing process listed above. However, in case of "Morpheus" there's more I can add. About three years ago I came up with a story which, among other characters, included this rather unpleasant fellow, an emissary of evil, of sorts. I quickly realized that this story was not a short story at all, but rather an extended synopsis of a future novel. I've circled around this story a few more times, trying different approaches. "Morpheus" is one of these approaches, an attempt to poke at the inner world of that unpleasant fellow and to understand how he became who he is.
At the same time, "Morpheus" is an attempt to catch a dream by its tail. Many of us practice this pointless endeavor in the mornings, but not as many go quite as far.
We've seen a number of your stories published recently, in magazines such as Apex. Has the experience of having your stories translated been an interesting one?
It seems as though the format of this question anticipates one of two very brief answers: yes or no. Of course, the answer is yes. But I'll add a little bit about magic.
Short stories tend to have much shorter lifespans than novels do. As such, a translation is a form of reincarnation. The end result is the same story, but also a completely different one at the same time. The first level of changes is due to the different language operating under another structure, a different set of ties binding the abstract with the specific. But there's also the second level, a more intimate level where the story surreptitiously obtains new properties after it’s been processed through the mind of the translator.
The metamorphosis the text undertakes under the influence of those two levels is truly magical.
Is there a flourishing SF/F or horror scene in Moscow, where you're based?
There are two conventions that I attend regularly and with great pleasure: Roscon in Moscow and the St. Petersburg Speculative Fiction Assembly, also known as Fantassemblee. There's also a virtual community called SurNoname – a quiet assembly of charismatic sociopaths who encourage each other toward literary insanity and fearless experimentation.
What other Russian SF/F or horror authors would you recommend? Who would you like to see translated into English?
I've finally come to understand why cinematographers, when asked about their favorite films, recall dusty classics.
Suppose I selected all the names I would like to name, assigned a number to each at random, wrote those numbers on golf balls, threw the balls into one of those lottery drawing machines, and drew three at random. (I totally did that. You believe me, don't you?)
So, three names. Karina Shainyan with her psychological prose, where metaphors are woven so tightly into the material of the text that they become part of the plot. Dmitry Bogutsky with his crazy attention to science-fictional detail. The third name – Dmitry Gorchev – may seem surprising in the context of the question because no one would consider him a sci-fi writer, or a horror writer. But his prose is absolutely fantastic. Also, it's impossible not to mention Gorchev whenever it becomes possible to mention him.
And finally, can you tell us what you're working on at the moment?
Once upon a time I worked as a dealer in a casino and this work left a certain mark on me: a specific superstition that is mostly dormant, but occasionally wakes up and demands a hecatomb. I certainly won't go so far as to blame bad weather on an inadequate footwear of a friend (which is something my fellow croupiers actually practiced), but I prefer not to discuss work-in-progress.
I am indeed working on something and am even nearly finished writing this something. But, in my case, "nearly finished" is a nebulous concept in terms of timing, especially when we're talking about a novel.
We will ask no more! Thank you for taking the time to answer our questions, and good luck with the writing!