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Gary A. Braunbeck

Gary A. Braunbeck is the author of close to 200 stories that have appeared in a wide variety of anthologies and magazines such as Cemetery Dance and The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction. He is also the author of four novels -- In Hollow Houses, Time Was, The Indifference of Heaven, and This Flesh Unknown -- and three short story collections: the critically-acclaimed Things Left Behind, his new CD-ROM compendium Sorties, Cathexes, and Personal Effects, and Escaping Purgatory, a collaboration with noted horror artist Alan Clark.

I meet Gary for lunch on a warm spring day in Columbus, OH to discuss his past, present, and future work. We decided over the phone to meet in front of the Cap City Diner on Olentangy Boulevard. I arrive early and wait on the sidewalk beyond the canopied front entrance of the restaurant.

Soon, a yellow cab pulls into the parking lot and Gary emerges, leaning heavily on a wooden cane. I know that he has very recently undergone surgery to repair a crack in his spine that was a relic of a childhood fall down a flight of concrete stairs. He's wearing a plain black pocket tee, blue jeans, and black sneakers. A black Quadrophenia baseball cap is pulled down tight over his curly black hair, and his black beard is neatly trimmed.

He limps up the sidewalk, calling a greeting and apologizing for his tardiness. I tell him not to worry; he's not late. We go into the restaurant. It's just shy of 11 a.m., and the lunchtime rush hasn't hit yet. A waiter escorts us to a high-backed booth in the smoking section and leaves us with menus and ice water.

Everything at Cap City is delicious, and it takes us a while to decide. Finally, I ask for a soup and salad, and Gary requests the grilled salmon special. As the waiter carries our orders to the kitchen, Gary pulls off his baseball cap and lights up a cigarette.

I nod toward the cap lying on the table. "Your favorite Who album?" I ask.

"I got this cap three years ago, when I finally saw The Who perform Quadrophenia in its entirety," Gary replies. "I won't start in on what a genius I consider Pete Townshend to be, or we'll be here until sometime next Tuesday. And if you cry 'Hyperbole!' at my use of that word, just read his phenomenal short story collection, Horse's Neck.

"Simply by its musical structure alone, Quadrophenia opened my eyes and my intellect to the endless possibilities offered by the metaphor," Gary says. "Add to that its compelling but challenging narrative structure, and you've got something that, to my mind, qualifies as a masterpiece."

He takes a final drag off his cigarette and crushes it out. "Quadrophenia centers on a young kid in 1960s England named Jimmy. Jimmy comes from a hard-luck, working class family. He wants to be popular among his friends. He also wants to be a good son, a good worker, and a great lover. In the midst of trying to be all things to everyone around him, he realizes that he presents four very distinctive personalities to the world over the course of his days: the tough guy, the romantic, the crazy fun friend, and the loyal son. All of these separate personalities are represented by a distinct musical theme, and each personality encompasses only one aspect of the real Jimmy; none of them represent who he is in his heart. On top of all this, he's saddled with having a deeper insight into the human spirit than most people think a person in his station is capable of. He admits that even he doesn't know who he really is.

"There's much, much more to Quadrophenia's story, but that's the spine of it."

"When did you first discover the album?" I ask.

Gary smiles. "Christmas Eve, 1973. I was 12 years old. I had been in the hospital for over a week with pneumonia and had been released the previous morning. My dad was at work and his shift didn't end until eight p.m., and my mom and my little sister were doing the visiting rounds with friends and relatives but had promised me they'd be back before seven. I'm lying there in bed, feeling like I'm gonna bite the big one any second, and there's nothing to do. It was a tradition at the Braunbeck home that everyone got to open one present on Christmas Eve, and I knew which one I was going to unwrap. However, I was convinced that I wasn't going to live to see the morning, so I rallied and stumbled downstairs in a medicated haze and stole one of my presents from under the tree. I knew it was the Quadrophenia album (this was back the good old days of yesteryear when vinyl was all the rage) and I was damned if I was going to die without having heard it. I took it back up to my room and lay down and listened to it all the way through, sides 1-4."

He pauses. "This sounds like a sad cliche, but the friggin' thing changed my life. On side 4 of the album, there's an instrumental piece called 'The Rock,' which remains for me one of the most brilliant pieces of music -- and that's music, period, not just rock music -- that I've ever heard.

"Where with Tommy, the central character's epiphany is conveyed through words and music, in Quadrophenia,it is conveyed only through music. 'The Rock' starts off by repeating each of the four themes separately, then, one by one, begins overlapping them until the four themes blend seamlessly into one, creating a fifth, unique, defining theme as Jimmy finally realizes who he really is.

"It was revelation for the twelve-year-old me. Townshend had pulled an incredible musical sleight-of-hand, solved a rock Rubik's Cube that I hadn't even realized existed until the answer was given.

Things Left Behind cover

"I knew then that I wanted to someday create a piece or body of work that did with words what Townshend had done with Quadrophenia's music; present you with a group of seemingly disparate pieces/themes that in the end converged into a unified whole which was not only rewarding in and of itself (as 'The Rock' most definitely is), but also enriched the sum of its parts.

"I think 'The Rock' is a perfect metaphor for what we as human beings strive toward during every moment between that first slap on the ass and the handful of soil tossed on the lid of the coffin; call it the psychological equivalent of string theory or whatever you will: we strive to bring the various Selves together to form the whole that is uniquely 'me' or 'you,' all the while treasuring the journey that has led to this time, this breath, this moment.

"That's why I love 'The Rock,' and that's why Quadrophenia -- both in its musical and narrative structure -- was, is, and ever shall be the prime example of the standard I compare my storytelling abilities to. I don't know if I'll ever create something as structurally and aesthetically overpowering as it is -- and God knows it's not something that is always in the forefront of my mind -- but, damn, it's been a helluva trip toward my own 'Rock' so far."

"Speaking of rock, what kind of a role does music play in your writing process?" I ask.

"Most of the time, music plays a key role in the process for me," Gary says. "I find it almost impossible to write without music playing in the background."

"How do you choose the music you listen to while you work on a given piece?"

"It depends on the tone of the story," he says. "If a story has a lighter, even funny tone, like 'Subtext' or 'The Ballad of the Side-Street Wizard,' then I sure as hell ain't gonna be listening to Mahler's First Symphony while I work on it; odds are I'll choose music that's more tongue-in-cheek: The Dead Milkmen, Cracker, The Offspring, some of Stewart Copeland's film soundtracks -- hell, I've even listened to Jerry Reed to get into the spirit I wish to convey in a story.

"If, on the other hand, I go in knowing that the piece is going to dark and intense, then it's a matter of finding something that, to my ear, conveys that. There are three stories in this collection -- 'Iphigenia,' 'The Clotted Frets of Daedalus,' and 'The Friendless Bodies of Unburied Men' -- that were all written to the same piece of music. That's why I tried to keep them as far apart from one another as possible. If you read them one right after the other, you'll notice by the second section of 'Friendless Bodies' that all three stories share the same rhythm, tone, and momentum. For the record, the piece of music I was listening to when writing each of them was Tangerine Dream's 'Quichotte.'

"Music is integral to my process, to offer the short-winded answer."

The waiter arrives with a basket of honey-buttered rolls and our entrees. Gary takes one look at my lobster bisque and shudders visibly.

"What's the matter?" I ask. "Don't you like soup?"

"It's that whole primordial thing," he replies. "I don't like to talk about it. Pardon me whilst I go call my psychiatrist."

He pretends to get up from the table, then sits back down, grinning.

Sorties, Cathexes, and Personal Effects cover

"Okay, rock and roll and scary soup aside, how did you go about selecting stories for your new collection?" I ask.

"My first collection, Things Left Behind, contained mostly new, never-before-published stories or original versions of stories previously published in edited form," Gary says. "Regardless, everything in the collection was less than five years old at the time of the book's publication. Looking back on it now, though I remain damned proud of it, I think it might have been better had it been 100 or so pages shorter than it was. I kind of went crazy when putting it together; I was convinced that it would be my only chance to ever publish a story collection, so I decided to showcase only new material or pieces that were less than six years old. I wanted Things to be a clear representation of where I was as a writer at that time, and given that guideline, I think I succeeded.

He takes a bite of his grilled salmon. "But one of the real joys for me as a reader when I open a short story collection is in seeing the progression of a writer's skills; to go from a very early story that shows great potential to a new or recent story where you see that potential reaching fruition. As proud as I am of it, Things didn't do that.

"With Sorties. . .I decided to go back and mine stories from twenty years of writing. Though I've only been a full-time writer since 1994, I'd been writing, submitting, and publishing long before that. There are stories in this collection that I wrote when I was barely out of my teens and just beginning to find my narrative voice; there are a couple of older, unpublished pieces, and a brand-new novella, 'Keepers,' which I think is a solid example of where I am now. Scattered between these pieces are stories that I hope will show readers how I've progressed over the years. With only three exceptions, I did no revisions to the reprinted stories; they appear in the same form as when they were originally published. I thought it only fair to present an honest overview of my progression as a fiction writer; tweaking and revising these stories seemed a bit too sneaky to me. Not to mention dangerous; the person I am now is not the person I was when I wrote, say, 'To His Children In Darkness.' When I reread that story before sending it to Brian, I lost count of how many times I wanted to re-write certain scenes or change a section of dialogue or expand on an idea, and I'm glad now that I didn't, because I would have grafted new sensibilities, techniques, or themes onto a piece where they absolutely did not belong."

"Which stories in the collection do you like the best?" I ask.

The Indifference of Heaven cover

"As far as my personal favorites go -- and this is kind of tricky, because I have come to firmly believe that a writer is the worst judge of his/her own work -- I would have to say 'Keepers,' because it's a piece that I think, along with my novel The Indifference of Heaven, would qualify as perfect example not only of what I write, but how I write. 'Matters of Family,' because it was the first story in which my narrative voice finally made itself known to me. 'Iphigenia' and 'The Clotted Frets of Daedalus' because their intensity still holds up over a decade after they were first published. 'Mail-Order Annie' -- yeah, I took the title from a Harry Chapin song -- because even though I set out to write a simple mystery, it turned into the best ghost story I've ever done. 'Ol' Jack's Cathedral,' despite what I now see as a bit too much sentiment at the end, because it was one of the hardest stories I've ever done. 'But Somewhere I Shall Wake,' because it drove home to me just how much my father had sacrificed for the sake of his family. And I'd have to add 'One Brown Mouse,' not only because it was the first hard science fantasy I'd ever written, but because it was one of those rare and holy instances where the story took over and pretty much wrote itself. I was just the conduit. I was also really -- pardon the word -- inspired by something pretty wonderful that had just happened in my life."

He pauses to take a sip of his Pepsi. "But I like all of the stories. I wouldn't have included them if I thought they sucked eggs -- and, believe me, I've published a handful of stories that I now find truly embarrassing."

"When you were a kid, when did you realize you wanted to be a fiction writer?" I ask.

"I was in the sixth grade," he replies. "I was not -- big surprise here -- a very social or popular kid. I had a geek haircut and thick, Coke-bottle glasses with dark frames. I looked like the secret son that Buddy Holly kept chained up in his basement. Anyhoo, one Friday in English class we were given back our spelling tests from the previous day. I got a C, by the by. Our teacher, a great guy named Steve Shroeder, informed us that our next assignment, to be done in class that day, was to select seven words from the test and write a story using those words. Everyone groaned, including me. Then I picked up my pencil and started writing. Twenty minutes or so later, everyone else is sitting there staring at their papers and I'm still cranking. I wrote right up until the lunch bell rang.

"It was a child's first attempt at a horror story. All about a haunted house and a photographer who snaps a picture of the moment of his own death three days before it happens and doesn't discover it until he's developing the pictures and sees himself standing in his darkroom, looking at a newly developed photograph, while behind him this slimy, awful monster is creeping through the wall behind him. He turns around just in time to see a clawed hand reach for his face. The end.

"I figured the story was going to get me in trouble -- I attended a Catholic grade school and most of the faculty -- nuns and otherwise -- thought I was 'disturbed.' (I lost count of how many times I was called into Sister Barbara's office for a 'chat' about 'my problems getting along with the others.')

"The next day, Mr. Shroeder hands back the papers. He had written a big-ass 'A+' in bright red ink at the top of my paper, and on the back of the last page he wrote: 'Great story. You should do more.'

"I had written stories before that I'd kept to myself for fear of how people would react to them. This was the first time anyone had ever read something of mine -- and an adult, no less -- and they'd really liked it. That was a very moving moment for me; it was the first time in my entire childhood I suddenly felt like I wasn't useless."

The lunch crowd has steadily filled the diner. An adorable little tow-headed girl of about three has wandered away from her parent's table, babbling sing-song glossolalia to herself. Gary watches her, smiling to himself; perhaps she reminds him of his niece.

Suddenly, the little girl stops, feeling eyes on her. She turns, and looks up at Gary, her blue eyes wide.

He waves at her. "Hi there."

The little girl stares at him in openmouthed shock and dismay for two beats, then emits a shriek and runs back to the safety of her parents' table.

Gary looks crestfallen.

"Do you always have this effect on little kids?" I ask.

"No," he says with a dramatic sigh. "Most of the time they point, scream, then roll their eyes and fall down on the floor in the grips of a terror-seizure. My family does the same thing whenever I visit. Makes for interesting holidays."

Then we get serious again.

"A great deal of your work deals with child abuse, a subject that many publishers state they don't want to see," I say. "Yet you've apparently had no difficulty getting even the most wrenching child abuse stories published. For instance, 'Some Touch of Pity' and 'The Friendless Bodies of Unburied Men.' Why do you think that is? And do you care to elaborate upon why you feel compelled to write about this particular subject?"

Gary sets down his fork and takes a deep breath. "Everything is bigger to a child; not only physically, but perceptually and emotionally, as well. A dollar found becomes a discovered treasure. A harsh word becomes a deafening declaration of war. A heap of dirty clothes in the corner becomes a nasty, fanged beastie after the lights are out. A paper cut is a knife in the stomach. And a hug from a parent in times of fear becomes Perseus's shield, protecting them from Medusa's deadly power.

"Everything is amplified; so can you begin to imagine, just for a moment, the terror, the pain, the agony and confusion experienced by a child whose every waking moment is marked by fear and nothing but? Childhood is over too soon under the best of circumstances; to strip a child of their trust, to despoil them of the belief that those who love you will always protect and never harm you, to commit the obscenity of taking a child and simply, totally ruining their fragile world, to destroy the joy in their hearts just like that!. . . It is, in my opinion, the most unpardonable and irredeemable of human crimes. Period.

"Climbing down off my soapbox now. . .to answer your questions: I think that I manage to be as balanced as possible when presenting instances of abuse toward children in my stories. I know it seems like the lowest of low pandering tactics -- you want suspense? To engage a reader's emotions? Then put a child in jeopardy! -- and sometimes it is, especially in horror and suspense, but I like to think that I present as honest a portrait of it as is possible. Not that I use my stories as bully pulpits -- at least, I hope not -- but child abuse is a subject with which I am intimately knowledgeable. Not only my own experiences as a child, but those of children that I have met and worked with over the years.

"I never use child abuse as an exploitative element in my stories, never. I don't sit down to write a piece and say, 'Oh, I'll throw in a dash of child abuse for added depth.' To do that would not only be insulting to the reader and a slap in the face to those who dedicate their lives to bettering the existence of children who are in an abusive situation, but it serves to numb people to the plight of these children, and that's the last goddamn thing I want to do.

"To use what is probably my most uncomfortable example, take 'Some Touch of Pity,' my novella that appeared in Marty Greenberg's Werewolves. Anyone who's ever read that story remembers the rape scene. I agonized over that thing for weeks, for several reasons, not the least of which was I didn't want any element of that scene to seem even remotely titillating -- what Ray Garton once called '. . .whacking material for pedophiles.' Marty, God bless him, understood that a graphic presentation of the rape was integral to the story -- the central character relives this moment from his childhood on an almost hourly basis, it's what defined his view of himself, and it's what keeps him standing at arm's length from his own true heart. But Marty said that as the scene stood, it would be just too much for DAW. Understood.

"I rewrote the scene so that the reader experienced it only through the sensations and impressions that the child could identify. That's the version that was published in the anthology. It was still effective, but it didn't pull the reader nose-first into the painful, filthy, bottomless pit of the character's suffering. So, when it came time to include the story in my first collection, Things Left Behind, I restored the rape scene to its original form, which is much more direct, unflinching, and brutal.

"God, how I lost weight and sleep over that. I worried that people would read it and think I was simply trying to shock them in the most depraved manner. I worried that readers would find the story offensive and unreadable. Then I realized that, with all the worries I was dredging up, the one which never crossed my mind was: is it necessary to be this graphic?

"The story informed me that, yes, it was necessary to present it in this way. I'm relieved to say that, in the four years since I published the uncut version, not one person has accused me of being irresponsible in telling the story in the manner that it required. Writing that story was one of the most gut-wrenching experiences of my career, for reasons both professional and very, very personal."

"How much of your work is autobiographical? Or, if not strictly autobiographical, how many of the events are based on things you've been through?" I ask.

"There's a great line from William Goldman's novel The Color of Light that says, 'Life is material; you just have to live long enough to figure out how to use it.'" Gary replies. "Faulkner maintained that any child who managed to live past the age of seven had enough material to write books and stories for the rest of their lives and never see the well run dry. All of which is a roundabout way of saying that if you encounter any author who insists that his/her work isn't in some form autobiographical, they're lying through their teeth. It's not only outward, chronological events that shape our psyches and determine who we become, but our own internal worlds; imagination, conclusions, impressions, prejudices, fantasies, regrets, passions, likes and dislikes, all of it is eventually filtered through the writer's sensibilities to make an appearance in their work. So I suppose, given that statement, that all my work is in one way or another autobiographical. Most of it covertly so, but every so often I will pull an actual event from my own life and use it in a story -- that is, once I've gotten enough distance, both emotionally and chronologically, to turn a fiction writer's objective eye on it. You cannot use an actual occurrence from your own life and then defend it to people by saying, 'But that's how it really happened.' Fiction cares nothing for how an event 'really' happened, only how said event or events fit into the natural progression of the story you're telling.

"You have to learn to put your ego aside when you write a story or novel, even if you're using something from your life as fictional fodder; you have to care enough to be quiet. Let the story be your guide, not your desire to inflict yourself and your views on the reader.

"That said, I will point out here that a story in this collection, 'The Marble King,' is one of the few times I have taken actual events from my own life and recounted them with little or no embellishment. Remove the element of the elf and the mythology he recounts, and everything else the narrator describes -- and I do mean everything -- happened to me when I was a kid. The darts, the birthday party, my friend Johnny, the rat, the attempted hanging, the rabies shots. . .all true, presented just as it happened. It's one of the few times I've been able to do that with a story. It was incredibly liberating.

"On the flip side, 'The Friendless Bodies of Unburied Men' uses very little of my actual experiences when I traveled with my grandfather and his carnival as a child. What I brought to that story were the impressions that remain with me of carny life. Every summer between the ages of six and ten I traveled with Grandpa's carnival. I worked as a 'stick.' Who the hell was going to accuse a sweet-looking little Catholic Boy of working a con? Especially since I didn't know it was a con until my last summer with them; then I just thought it was cool."

I think about everything he's just told me.

"Do you get nightmares?" I ask.

Gary nods. "Almost every week I'll have a nightmare of some sort."

"Do they influence your work?" I ask.

Another nod. "I don't know what that says about my psychological stability, but man, have they ever provided me with material! Mostly I come away not so much with events to use in stories -- dream narratives tend to be a bit too abstract and non-linear for that -- but a deeper understanding of the emotions I experienced during the nightmare. I've been told my work has a very strong emotional quality to it, and I've my nightmares to thank in part for that."

"You've described yourself as a 'recovering Catholic'," I say. "How has that faith influenced your life and your work?"

Escaping Purgatory cover

Gary leans back from the table and scratches his beard, scowling. "I'll try not to go overboard in answering this; it's a very sore spot with me.

"First of all, I have to take exception with the use of the word 'faith' insomuch as it applies to me personally. I don't look upon Catholicism so much as a faith as I do an ideology -- that is, a doctrine embraced by those for whom belief in a Holy Triumvirate -- Father, Son, Holy Spirit/Ghost -- offers a spiritual anchor, a sense of their being part of a greater, infinite Whole -- children of God.

"I no longer embrace the Catholic religion. I use the term 'recovering Catholic' because, like alcoholism, it's something that's always part of you even after you separate yourself from it. I spent over a decade in the Catholic school system and it taught me only three things: shame, fear, and guilt. Not the best commodities to base individual spirituality on. I also came to distrust the Bible, for many reasons, not the least of which is that the Bible, as we know it today, has not only been edited and revised several times in order to more accurately 'reflect' (read: adhere to) the Catholic Church's moral codes. This is beside the fact that the book itself, taken in original form, Apocrypha and all, amounts to little more than a bunch of tall tales, fables, and didactic homilies written by a group of zealots who were only interested in promoting their own brand of spirituality.

"I've been told by more than a few people that the Catholic Church is much more 'enlightened' today than it was when I was knee-deep in a parochial school system whose teaching and discipline tactics rivaled those of the Gestapo. Groovy, I say. You can still have it. There remain for me far too many contradictions in its philosophy and too many nebulous stances in its theological evolution. To me, unquestioning belief in a God Who watches over all things, Who knows all thoughts, Who created all and judges all, Who gave us Elvis and UFOs and cheeseburgers and Rwanda and Kool-Aid and Susan Smith and dew glistening on leaves on autumn mornings, Who is majestic and wise. . .to believe in such a being without question is to bleat like a sheep and march like a lemming to the cliffs."

He takes a deep breath, then sips his Pepsi. "That little rant out of the way, I will tell you that I believed in -- for lack of a better term or name -- God long before I ever attended Catholic school or set foot inside a church. I still believe in such a power, and I worship in my own way -- through what I create. My writing is my act of worship. I have days, weeks, months, when I doubt that humankind is even on God's radar anymore, but I have long since stopped taking the easy way out and blaming God for every little ill or horror that befalls us. I believe in evil, and I believe in compassion, and I believe that all our acts should spring from the well of unselfish love, whether there be continuation after death or not.

"On my really bad days, I always resort to quoting a line from The Boys in the Band: 'I believe in God, and when I die, if it turns out there isn't one, that's fine; but if it turns out there is one. . .I'm covered.'

"I have more questions than I do answers. I do not ram my beliefs down anyone's throats, and I ask that they extend to me the same courtesy. If my mother believes that going to church three times a week and kneeling down to pray to a bunch of statues and stained-glass figures is going to secure her place in Heaven after she dies, then I will get up in the morning, get dressed, accompany her to the church, walk up the steps, and hold the door open for her. I just won't follow her inside.

"Catholicism has influenced my work by giving me more than enough knowledge about shame, fear, and guilt. I learned deep anger at an early age because of it. I learned self-loathing and hopelessness. I discovered my interior world because the Catholic Church made me feel there was nowhere else I belonged or was wanted. I learned to recognize suffering in others. I also was privileged to meet a handful of genuinely selfless priests and nuns who always managed to show me that true compassion -- given freely, without judgment or expectation of reciprocation -- had almost nothing to do with Catholicism itself, but instead came from the core of the individual's conscience, where dignity, empathy, and integrity were the Holy Triumvirate that make up the human spirit.

"It also gave me some nice scars on my knuckles from where any in a line of Nunzillas used to whack me with heavy, three-sided metal rulers. That's enough to put you off measuring anything for the rest of your life. Can I get an amen?"

"Amen," I reply. "Well, since I better not ask what you think of Baptists and Pentecostals, I'll ask you this: what is your greatest challenge as a writer?"

"My greatest challenge is to keep getting better at it," he says. "I know that sounds trite, but it's too easy to get into a well-oiled groove and just coast along. Every couple of weeks, I sit down with a handful of my stories selected at random and re-read them to make sure I can see improvement. If I can finish a piece and say, 'I'm a better writer today than I was yesterday,' then I deserve to remain a storyteller. I think writing is not only a talent, but also a privilege -- what Harlan Ellison so eloquently dubbed a 'holy chore.'

"That challenge has never changed, and it never will."

We finish our lunches, then pay the bill and leave the table. Gary uses the pay phone at the front of the restaurant to call a cab, and then I follow out to keep him company while he waits for his ride.

I ask him what he likes best about being a writer.

"To do what I love doing and make a living at it, and to be told that my work is read and appreciated by others. . .that's about as good as it gets," he says. "I hope to remain deserving of the title 'storyteller.' It's what defines me. Subtract storytelling from my equation, and your sum would be zero."


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Lucy A. Snyder is a consultant for Strange Horizons.

Reprinted from Sorties, Cathexes, and Personal Effects. ©2001 Lucy A. Snyder.

Visit Gary Braunbeck's home page.

Lucy A. Snyder frequently escaped into Clive Barker's worlds when she was in darkest academia pursuing her MA in journalism. She is the author of Sparks and Shadows, Installing Linux on a Dead Badger (from which Strange Horizons has published an excerpt), and the forthcoming Del Rey novel Spellbent. Her writing has also appeared in publications such as Farthing, Masques V, Chiaroscuro, Greatest Uncommon Denominator, and Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet. You can learn more about her at
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