Chatting with Addison Smith
Addison talks combining animals and cybernetics, the tribulations of self-publishing, finding book artwork, and the role of speculative fiction discussing queer stories.
Addison Smith has blood made of cold brew and flesh made of chocolate. He spends most of his time writing about fish, birds, and cybernetics, often in combination. His fiction has appeared in Fantasy Magazine, Fireside Magazine, and Daily Science Fiction, among others. You can find him on Twitter @AddisonCSmith.
Addison is also the author of the flash fiction story “Spill-Free and Sparkling” from Issue 4.
Q: Your Radon story is all about cleanliness with a twist. Do you consider yourself a thorough cleaner in the real world, like CleanBean?
Ignore my wife laughing in the background, please. And can we edit out these six coffee cups on my desk? Actually, maybe we shouldn’t be doing this over video.
Q: What was the inspiration for “Spill-Free and Sparkling”?
Most of the time stories just happen, but I did have a tactic in mind for this one. I wanted to tell a story through omission of detail. Think of the old “Show, Don’t Tell” rule taken to the extreme where nobody comments on the things being shown, or even understands them. Other neat themes cropped up during the writing though, and I ended up with a lot of messages about the indifference of machines and how they are going to do exactly what we program them to do.
Q: You note in your bio that you love writing about fish, birds, and cybernetics. Do you have many stories about combining two or more of them—cybernetic animals?
I have a strange fixation with both birds and fish in my stories, and often explore them as conduits for emotion and growth. They are strange to me, and life is strange, so I use them frequently in metaphors for disruption, change, and growth. As for cybernetic animals, I don’t think I have any futuristic enough to call cybernetic, but my files are filled with stories of mechanical birds that always end up being a friend and guide to my characters. Whether bird or fish, they are always creatures that exemplify the internal nature of my characters and frequently fight the intrusion of a world that wants them to change for it. Over the years the imagery of the two animals has grown to mean a lot of different things to me.
Q: In January you released a short story collection, Parallel Worlds. Tell us more!
Parallel Worlds was originally released as three micro-collections of five stories with drabbles in between. In January, I collected them into a single volume. I’m really happy with how it turned out, as the stories I chose really represent me and my writing. For anyone interested, the collection can be found at Amazon by clicking here.
Q: The cover art featured on your short story collections are exceptionally high quality. Do you create them yourself?
Yes and no. The artwork itself is generally stock art from paid photo websites. I’ve commissioned art before, and I recommend it to absolutely everyone as it’s an incredibly exciting process. But writing doesn’t pay much, and neither does my day job. On the other hand, I’ve been playing with design software since I was twelve and worked as a graphic artist for five years. I do my best to take the artwork I have available and make it even more engaging in its presentation.
Q: Tell us about your time with Codex Writers?
Codex is wonderful! The group itself is really just an active forum and an active Slack channel with a few hundred members, but it’s the members that make it so great. There are basic requirements to join, but it mostly boils down to “have you made a pro sale? Come on in!” The collected experience and expertise has been invaluable to me as a growing author. If you’ve made a pro sale, I highly recommend going to codexwriters.com and applying. It’s really an amazing place.
Q: How has your experience been trying to make money as an author self-publishing online?
“Trying” is definitely the word. I’m self-publishing short fiction, which is an even harder path than self-publishing novels. Full transparency: my top month has been something like $40. I mostly do it because I think it’s fun.
Q: Give us your top three favorite pieces of short fiction. What types of stories inspire you?
1) “Girls Who Do Not Drown” by A C Buchanan – Apex Magazine, Dec 2018
I picked this one for several reasons. I remember how well it worked for me when I first read it, and the percolating afterward. I love darkness in stories, but above all I love humanity. It’s messy and complicated and we are all just trying to figure out who we are and be accepted for it. Stories exploring identity rank high on my list.
2) “Namasté Prime” by Grá Linnaea – Apex Magazine, Sept 2011
Going back pretty far for this one, but this story was foundational to my understanding of cyberpunk and its aesthetic. I read this story years ago and I just got it. I still go back to it now and again.
3) “The Sinners and the Sea” by Kameron Hurley – Meet Me in The Future: Stories
There are a number of things to love about this story. But what ended up sticking with me in the end was the imagery. Every scene of this story is so solidly written that it plays like a movie in my head. That’s an impressive skill!
Q: You've described "Sounds for Crustaceans" in Fantasy Magazine as the favorite story you've written. It follows a queer couple as one of them slowly transforms into a crab. Does speculative fiction have a unique role in discussing queer stories and identity compared to a more literary tale?
I think every type of story has something to contribute to the discussion, but speculative fiction allows you to get really weird with it. It brings in readers who already have a knowledge of science fiction and fantasy, which has a rough history with regards to gender and sexuality, and lets you introduce them to stories that may not have been highlighted in the past. Gender and sexuality are exceedingly confusing and bizarre and are best defined on a personal level as “I am me,” where “me” might take a doctoral thesis to define. Speculative fiction, especially horror, has not necessarily done this justice in the past. Just try to get past the first chapter of Jaws by Peter Benchley now. It’s tough.
Q: What was it like transitioning from living in Texas to the Midwest and then New York?
Texas to Minnesota was easy because I was six! Throughout my childhood, my family had a habit of traveling all over the country, plus some venturing into Canada. By the time I was twenty I had visited half of the states. Minnesota to New York was more difficult as it was really a move from the middle of the woods near a town of 900 to a city of a few hundred thousand. The Midwest can be an isolating place and I’m absolutely basking in all the culture here! Also, the grocery store isn’t thirty miles away, which is a perk.
Q: What big plans do you have for your future?
Honestly, despite traditional publishing being more financially viable for me, I’m planning to go all in on self-publishing my stories. I’ll have a smaller audience I’m sure, but I love the process and the control it gives me over my work. I’ll never stop writing or submitting to my favorite publications, but a lot of my focus is going indie. At the moment I am in the process of putting together a dozen stories for a collection of deep-sea horror, which I’m pretty excited about!