Chatting with Myna Chang
Myna speaks about publishing her debut collection, growing an online following, trying to sell comedic science fiction, looking for avenues besides Twitter, and women's gains in sci-fi since the 20th century.
Myna Chang (she/her) is the host of Electric Sheep SF. Her work has been selected for Flash Fiction America (W.W. Norton), Best Small Fictions, CRAFT, Daily Science Fiction, and MicroPodcast’s special science fiction edition. She has won the Lascaux Prize in Creative Nonfiction and the New Millennium Writings Award in Flash Fiction. Read more at MynaChang.com or find her on Twitter @MynaChang.
Myna is the author of the flash fiction story “Come Out, Come Out” from Radon Issue 4.
Q: You have a dedicated and passionate following online. How did you get to where you are?
I feel fortunate to have found so many talented and supportive friends online. With social media—like so many things—you get out what you put in. I believe in being a good literary citizen, and luckily, I enjoy it! Following new authors, reading and commenting on their stories, and offering my own support whenever possible, is fun. I tend to focus on making authentic connections with other writers, where we have genuine shared interests. The community keeps me going.
Q: As an award-winning short fiction author, do you feel you do your best work in short form?
I love flash and micro fiction. The sharp, precise focus appeals to me. Finding that kernel of universal emotion, and conveying it in a tiny package, is an exciting challenge. I think that’s where I do my best work.
Q: Do you self-impose a word limit when writing, or do shorter pieces come naturally for you?
I’m most comfortable (right now) with micro fiction. The 400-word range is where I feel at home. I also enjoy writing longer stories, but I have to adopt a different mindset for those.
Q: Your debut flash fiction collection, The Potential of Radio and Rain, was published in February and is already in its second printing. What was your experience putting together a collection?
It took me a while to settle on the general theme. I write a variety of genres, ranging from CNF to screwball-style comedy to transhumanist science fiction. How do you find a common thread in such disparate genres and styles? Once I realized that I could pursue bite-sized chapbook-length collections, the pressure was off and I could group subjects that naturally fell together. I decided to base Radio and Rain on the place—the shortgrass prairie region of the US—rather than the genre or style of the writing. The final book is a hybrid work containing historical fiction, creative nonfiction, and both fantasy and science fiction pieces. The stories intertwine, creating a larger overall story than any separate piece, though they are all standalone stories. In hindsight, I’m finding that putting the collection together was a lot easier than promoting it after publication!
Q: Do you feel most at home while at your desk writing new stories, or while performing at your own author events and traveling to conferences?
My favorite thing is editing a story early in the morning at my desk. Not that I like to be awake early, but it’s the only quiet time in my house. And I definitely enjoy the puzzle of editing a piece, more than the word-barf process that kicks off each new story.
Hosting author reading events is also a lot of fun. I currently manage and host two: the Electric Sheep reading series, featuring science fiction, fantasy, and horror short story authors; and the Drop the Mic(ro)! reading series, featuring readings of 400 words or less. It’s a lot of work, but I have a few generous friends who help ensure the events run smoothly.
When I’m reading one of my own stories at an event, or participating in a conference, I’m often rattled with public-speaking anxiety. I imagine a lot of writers feel the same way. It’s worth the effort, but not my favorite thing to do!
Q: Tell us about Electric Sheep, your short fiction reading group?
Electric Sheep is a weekly discussion group. We read short speculative stories and get together on Zoom to talk about them. We invite the featured author to join us for a short Q&A. Our goals are to have fun, and to promote & celebrate spec authors and the magazines that publish them. Membership is capped at 25. This allows for robust conversation. We keep a waitlist for folks who would like to join us as spaces open up. We got our start after taking a discussion class offered by author Tara Campbell (thanks, Tara!). We enjoyed it so much, we didn’t want to stop meeting.
Q: You've interviewed over a dozen authors this year, including Sherrie Flick, Ai Jiang, and Isabel J. Kim. What got you interested in interviewing others? When discussing inspiration and craft with other writers, do you find yourself reflecting on your own creative process?
I blame the editor of Uncharted Magazine, Tommy Dean, for all these interviews. I hadn’t planned to interview anyone, but he suggested I give it a try, and I enjoyed it enough to continue. It was a nice surprise. (Thanks, Tommy!)
I hope all my interviews will give the author a chance to connect with more readers, and to provide a new perspective or insight into the writing process. Sometimes their comments really resonate with me, and (selfishly) I love when that happens.
Q: You occasionally find success with your comedic science fiction. Have you found that humorous short pieces are harder to sell than other types?
Oh my gosh, yes. I enjoy writing screw-ball style comedy, and the market for that is very narrow. I think many editors find comedy to be less worthy than other styles of writing (I disagree!), and humor is notoriously subjective. Still, I keep trying, because ridiculous stuff makes me laugh.
Q: Have you had any success in finding an alternative platform for writers other than Twitter?
I wish! I’ve tried several of the other platforms, but I don’t have the stamina to recreate all the contacts I have on Twitter. Right now, I have hopes for Bluesky. But we’ll see. I’m spending more time on Discord and Slack lately. The groups centered there offer a more in-depth experience, which is nice. I have no idea what to expect next, so I’m just trying to keep an open mind and remain flexible.
Q: Do you feel that women have made inroads in the science fiction genre since the days of it being labeled a “boys club” in the twentieth century?
Ooh, this is one of my soapbox topics. I grew up in a farm town in the middle of nowhere in the 1970s. The school librarian and my teachers actively discouraged me from reading science fiction, because girls were not supposed to read “boy stuff.” The nearest bookstore was 120 miles away. Luckily, my uncle gave me free access to his Science Fiction Book Club membership. Many of the books available then were written by the Golden Age authors, so sexism was a common element. The landscape has changed significantly since then. Now I can easily find works by diverse authors, from all over the world. We still have a long way to go, so I can’t say everything is perfect. But I can’t remember the last time someone tsked at me for my reading preferences, and that feels like a victory.
Q: How did you get started writing, and how have you seen the industry change?
I disliked writing when I was young. I majored in journalism because it required the least amount of math, not because I liked to write. Later, I ended up helping to manage a fanfiction archive. Through that experience, I became interested in creative writing, but I didn’t know how to start. (This was before social media was so widespread.) Fast forward to my 52nd birthday—a friend mentioned the New York City Midnight writing competitions, and I decided to enter as a birthday gift to myself. It was a blast! And I met a lot of friends through the NYCM forum.
In terms of industry changes, I think we’re seeing a more literary approach in the short story markets. Focus on language and craft seems to be generally expected, as an additional layer to plot-based genre stories. I also see publications reaching out to marginalized communities, seeking their stories and their voices. It seems to me like our industry is moving in the right direction. We just need to keep going.