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Conversation with Hannah Greer

Hannah describes using combat sport experience to write convincing fight scenes, using sociology theories to develop characters and their decisions, reading for Fusion Fragment, and using Carrd for author sites.

Conversation with Hannah Greer

Hannah Greer explores the sociological theories she studied in school through fiction. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in PseudoPod, MetaStellar, and The Dread Machine. She is a first reader for Fusion Fragment, hoards books, and competes in combat sports. She resides in North Carolina with her partner, a trio of cats, and a small flock of pigeons. Find her on Bluesky or her website

Hannah is the author of “When It Breaks” from Radon issue 6.

Q: What gave you the inspiration to write “When It Breaks”?

There are two things that helped inspire my short story “When It Breaks.” The first was learning about “quiet dystopias.” My favorite stories are character-driven, and those are often quiet. Dystopia and post-apocalyptic are my favorite settings and really interesting thematically. They have a lot of potential for a writer to play with. I’m not sure “When It Breaks” qualifies as a quiet dystopia/post-apocalypse, but it is definitely character-driven, and the idea of quiet dystopia got my brain working. If you want to read a great example of quiet dystopia, I recommend "The Last Good Day" by JL George.

The other half of what inspired “When It Breaks” came from my Crimes of the Powerful class. I took it a couple of years ago, but it’s the sociology class that’s stuck with me the most. People in power have so many more opportunities to commit crimes that affect so many more people. And because of the power they hold, they’re often able to avoid repercussions. Take the Ford Pinto incident, where they were actually running a cost-benefit analysis with human lives versus money. Or the Hamlet chicken processing plant fire, where fire escapes were locked with chains in order to save a few bucks and people, mostly single mothers, burned to death. Powerful people still commit and get away with this type of injustice today, and it will continue to happen. “When It Breaks” looks at what could happen in the future if climate change is continually ignored, and what kind of person is able to look past all that in favor of making life better for themselves.

Q: As a lover of combat sports, do you find that the characters you write often utilize various combat forms?

I do find that my experience with combat sports influences certain characters, and especially the way I write fight scenes. So far, I’ve competed in BJJ, combat jiu jitsu, kickboxing, judo, as well as sport and combat sambo. Some of these competitions are full contact sports, which includes all types of striking like elbows, knees, and headbutts, while some only involve grappling. 

My real-world experience helps the fight scenes I write make sense to me. I can break them down in a way that (hopefully) also makes it easier for a reader to follow along. When I do write a fight scene, my characters utilize a range of striking and grappling. That’s partially because my personal pet peeve for a lot of fictional fights is that they are either only striking or only grappling. In a fight, people use whatever they can! I think characters should too.

Q: What sociology theories are your favorite to explore?

There are a few I find really fascinating, one being the labeling theory. This theory is essentially about self-fulfilling prophecies where if someone is labeled a criminal, they are more likely to act like one and therefore become one. If someone is labeled a gifted kid, they will try to act like that. The way someone is classified by others influences the way they act.

I also find the looking glass self interesting. This is where someone bases their own sense of self on how they believe others perceive them. For example, someone’s self-worth and value may be tied up in how they think others perceive them. So, if they think others find them unintelligent, they may think themselves to be unintelligent. Even if that’s not actually how anyone views them. Because they think it is, it’s enough to affect how they view themselves.

Tittle’s control theory is another one that sticks out to me. In this theory, if a person has too much or too little control over themselves or a group, crime is more likely. For crimes of the powerful, this presents in how powerful people often have lots of control over others while very little control is exerted over them.

I don’t really pick specific theories to explore in certain stories, but these types of theories definitely influence how I develop and create characters, which shape my stories. Sometimes it can be fun to look at certain characters I’ve written and see if any particular theory helped influence them.

Q: Do you also write academic essays on these topics, or do you prefer fiction?

I much prefer fiction, though I have taken inspiration from papers I had to write or read in my undergrad work. Currently, I work at a housing center where I help gather data on evictions. I do sometimes put together an examination of the data we’ve gathered and theorize about it, but it’s much more casual than official academic essays are.

Q: When did you start writing and submitting genre short fiction?

I became serious about writing genre short fiction in 2022 through my university’s Intermediate Fiction Writing class. I didn’t particularly care either way about short fiction prior to that class, but my professor helped me see how much fun it can be. Without that class, I don’t know if I would have had the confidence or interest to start submitting short fiction. I’m incredibly grateful to Professor Jones for the time and effort she put in with me in Intermediate Fiction and Advanced Fiction a year later.

Shortly after I first started submitting in late 2022, I had my first acceptance at The Dread Machine. In Spring of 2023, I had to put short fiction on hold for my final semester of college. This contributed to a gap of almost an entire year between my first acceptance and my second. But I have been back at it more seriously since graduating and in 2023, I submitted 108 times and had three acceptances. So far in 2024, I’ve submitted thirty-six times and had two acceptances. Hopefully the upward trend will continue!

Q: What books do you love to hoard?

Most of the novels I collect are YA fantasy. Some of my favorites are Ash Princessby Laura Sebastian, Daughter of the Bone Forest by Jasmine Skye, and The Bridge Kingdom by Danielle L. Jensen. I also like physical editions of speculative magazines like Heartline Spec and The Dread Machine.

My favorite way to hoard books is to find them on sale or used. Books are expensive and it’s fun to find deals. But because I can find books on sale faster than I can read them, I do have an excessively long physical TBR (to be read). I think it’s up to over 250 books I own but haven’t read, hence the hoarding of books! I have, unfortunately, had to slow down on buying books until I can work my way through some of my TBR.

Q: How did you come to be a first reader for Fusion Fragment?

I began reading recent issues of Fusion Fragment to prepare for an upcoming submission window and found I absolutely loved their content. When they put out an open call for first readers, it felt like the perfect fit. Since graduating a few months prior, I had been considering applying to read slush for a magazine, so the timing was right. It was an excellent choice and I’m so happy to be reading for Fusion Fragment. Cavan Terrill, the editor, is fantastic. He really cares about his readers and the work authors are entrusting us with.

Q: What have you learned doing it?

There’s a lot I’ve learned through being a first reader, but the biggest thing is how important the opening of a short story is. It sets up the way a reader will view the rest of the story and it’s very easy to disengage as a reader working your way through slush if the beginning isn’t working.

I’ll share some specific details to help explain. It’s important to start at the right spot. I’ve read stories that get really, really good halfway through and I just wish they’d started later. It’s also vital that a story engages the reader immediately. If a story doesn’t do anything to draw me in, I may start skimming. Once I start skimming it’s very unlikely I’ll rate it highly. It’s also so important that an opening is clear and easy to follow. I’ve read stories that confused me from the very beginning, with too many technical terms, a lack of setting or characters, or any number of other ways. That makes it easy to put down, which as an author, you don’t want! A good opening gives a sense of place, establishes a character, offers a hint at the conflict, and sets up reader expectations for the rest of the story.

Q: Would you recommend using Carrd to build simple sites to fellow authors?

I would. Carrd is free and it’s relatively simple to use. It looks polished and can be customized easily to fit an author’s specifications. It’s also very easy to update and add new stories to the website as they come out.

Q: Still early in your career, where do you hope to go from here?

Great question! I intend to continue writing and submitting short stories as I have found I really enjoy the short form. It helps me work through shiny new ideas without spending loads of time on each one.

I’m also working towards completing a novel. I’ve drafted two novels before but haven’t stuck with either through the intense revisions required to get them polished enough to even think about trying to publish. Hopefully the third time is the charm!

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