From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Author Spotlight: Deb Taber

Is the Shining City based on a particular place or event?

The Shining City is (very) loosely based on Caracas and the surrounding areas in Venezuela. Venezuela really was once known for its chocolate production, but the oil industry took over the economy once oil was discovered there, and agricultural exports dropped.

Why are the “Mineral Men” called that?

The theme of the story is based in the triad of animal/mineral/vegetable. I imagined the Mineral Men as embodying the characteristics of mineral (stone) far more so than of animal (bone) or vegetable (stem). I also imagined them as being alchemists, of a sort, so their magic is very earth-based, which also lends to the mineral aspects. I see the term as a name the people of the area gave them, rather than a name they chose for themselves, so it shows how the people of the area see them–hard and emotionless, but somehow necessary.

“The stones were bad, but there were worse things than stone.” Considering what Jacinta had lost because of the stones (a sibling and a child), what would have been worse for her than the stones?

Jacinta sees that humans seem to have the worst end of the deal when it comes to stones–other animals give birth to gemstones or smooth, round rocks while the human mothers have what they see as worthless, painful lumps. Jacinta suspects it would have been the same with plants, and that had the women of the city started giving birth to plant life instead of mineral life, the thorns she mentions to Xoch would be worse than the scraping of stone. She also internally notes the “reptilian baby hyacinth things” that have come from the plants, and in my mind, she is disgusted by but also feels sorry for these creatures, who have lives that are stilted and so different from what they should have been, making the tragedy of the living creatures worse than the seemingly stillborn stones to her. She identifies with their confusion–particularly those specific creatures, as the name “Jacinta” means hyacinth.

Why did Jacinta decide to give birth to another stone?

I really think that is something the reader really needs to decide for him or her self, and I would actually be very interested in hearing other people’s interpretations of the choice. However, in fairness to the question, here’s the short answer: Jacinta is making the decision to live within the new way of being rather than wish for things to go back to the way they were. I’m a big fan of stories that don’t have “happily ever afters,” but instead force the characters to come to terms with a new level of reality. Jacinta is doing that.

How should we understand Xoch’s reaction to feeling the stone inside of Jacinta?

Xoch still believes that something might change, that things can go back to the way they were. He believes it all the harder because he remembers it the least, and has the fewest solid ties to it; he is a dreamer who has only heard the idealized fantasies of what it was like when human babies were born. When he feels that Jacinta carries just another stone, not a return to what he had been told all his life is normal and good, his dreams and hopes are trampled–not entirely crushed, but still severely damaged. I also think that he partly blames her for not fixing the problem.

Do you have anything else you’d like to tell us?

I’ll probably be posting a bit more about the background inspiration for the story on my blog next week at, so anyone who is interested can learn more about the story and my other upcoming publications there.

Thanks for having me back at Fantasy Magazine. It’s always a pleasure to be on these (virtual) pages.

William Sullivan is a writer, computer programmer, and musician living in Austin, Texas. You can find his website at