From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Dual Voices: Jay Lake and Shannon Page

What inspired “In the Emperor’s Garden?”

We’d written a handful of collaborative stories by then, and realized how much we love writing together. We were in Shannon’s apartment in San Francisco; she was busy doing something else and didn’t have time to work on a story, so Jay started this one. He set it in San Francisco so she couldn’t resist diving in once he’d done the opening.

Who can resist San Francisco, after all?

Would you mind explaining your collaborative process? The story is told through two points of view (“Him” and “Her”). Did you each write from one of these points of view? If so, who was “Him,” and who was “Her?”

Our collaborative process. . . we’ve done it any of a number of ways, so far. This one, yes, we each wrote sections: Jay wrote “Him” and Shannon wrote “Her.” We did this one as a straight pass-the-draft: Jay wrote his section, then Shannon wrote the next section, then we passed it back and forth till the story ended. We’re always free to edit each other’s sections, which we do, but minimally.

When we write this way, we try to challenge each other without breaking the story. (If you’ve ever written a group story, you know what we mean by this: someone will throw in a ridiculous cliff-hanger or plot change, then the next person has to top them. . . very soon you have something completely unreadable.) It’s a way of communication, very indirect and lovely and fun, and at time, inspirational.

We’ve collaborated other ways as well. Sometimes one of us writes a first draft, then the other edits and fills in; sometimes we do a blended-voice pass-the-draft. The dual voices (like this one) tend to turn out to be love stories. Not sure why.

A key theme in this story seems to be that of pursuit. What do you think makes a good chase so exciting?

Hmm. The drama, the excitement, the uncertainty—even though you can be fairly certain that the narrator lived to tell the tale, if they’re telling it? Or maybe it’s just that it’s a fundamental human trope, chasing or being chased—we all have the dreams (nightmares) of being chased, of being unable to run, one’s feet stuck in molasses. . . and everyone loves a good hunt. Right?

In addition to which, love stories always seem to be about pursuit. The hunt of the heart, as it were. Knowing someone from a distance, closing in together, realizing what can be shared. And for us, the metaphors of fantasy work so well.

In your story, it states that “San Francisco had just gotten a whole lot weirder.” How is that even possible? After reading up on the history of Emperor Norton, it seems hard to believe. . .

Hahahaha! Of course San Francisco can get weirder. San Francisco is downright normal these days. Compared to the sixties anyway, or even the eighties. . . San Francisco has a whole lot of deep history for a place that’s only a century and a half old. (Must be all the water. . .) And it tries very hard to be respectable, to function as a normal city, to cover up its color and magic and power. . .which of course only makes all that weirdness leak out around the edges.

So, what’s next for Jay Lake and Shannon Page. Do the two of you have any upcoming projects you would like to mention?

Well, since you asked. . . Yes, we’re always trying to work on collaborative short stories, since we enjoy them so much. Our body of short work is growing, with a number of stories out there to be read today, with more on the way. We both have fairly distracting life complications at the moment which have interfered in moderate ways with our production, but nonetheless we’ve collaborated on a novel, that is currently with first readers. Hopefully we’ll be able to tell you more about that one soon, including when you can buy it!

A piece we both like a lot is “Rolling Steel: A Pre-Apocalyptic Love Story”, which can be seen here. We’ve also got current work in Interzone, and more to come online and in print.

TJ_HeadshotT.J. McIntyre has seen his short fiction and poetry published in numerous publications including recent appearances in Everyday Weirdness, Ruthless Peoples Magazine, and Scifaikuest. He is a member of various writing organizations, including the Science Fiction Poetry Association (SFPA), and serves as a moderator for the Lobo Luna and Western Writers writing communities on LiveJournal. Until earlier this year, he published Southern Fried Weirdness, an anthology and web zine celebrating speculative fiction and poetry with a Southern perspective. He lives in a busy household in the muggy heart of rural Alabama with his wife, two young sons, an aging Doberman mix, five tiger barbs, and three salt-and-pepper catfish.

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