From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Mythpunk: Nicole Kornher-Stace

Nicole Kornher-Stace was born in Philadelphia in 1983, moved from the East Coast to the West Coast and back again by the time she was five, and currently lives in New Paltz, NY, with one husband, two ferrets, the cutest toddler in the universe, and many many books. Her short fiction and poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in several magazines and anthologies, includingClockwork Phoenix 3Best American Fantasy, Fantasy Magazine, Ideomancer, GUD, Goblin Fruit, Lone Star Stories, and Farrago’s Wainscot, and has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She is the author of one novel, Desideria, and her featured poems from the Summer 2009 issue of Goblin Fruit are collected in the beautifully-illustrated chapbook Demon Lovers and Other Difficulties.

What inspired “The Raccoon’s Daughter?”

Ooh. Let me try to remember. Pretty much everything I write tends to be based around some tiny kernel of something that somehow manages to accrue a story around it– a line of dialogue, an image, what-have-you. I can’t for the life of me remember what that kernel was for this story, but I do know I’ve always been fascinated by revolutions and magic realism, and both have certainly made it into here. I remember I wanted to write something political without (I hope) being preachy, and I wanted its setting to have echoes of actual events without being tied down to any place or time. I have a hard time explaining this one. The first line came easy and then the narrator just started talking and didn’t shut up ’til she was done. People seem to either love her or hate her. Fair warning.

Genre definitions are slippery things. “The Raccoon’s Daughter” encapsulates elements of both science fiction and fantasy. If forced to choose a single genre to describe your story, which genre would you choose and why?

Ahh, genre definitions. Hate ’em with a hating hate. As for this one, I’d say it’s an aggregation of elements from different genres or subgenres. Mainly I’d call it an homage to Latin American magic realism. The little mini-stories nested into the whole– the iron shoes, the red shoes, maybe some other one I forget now– well, I don’t seem to be able to keep myself from poking around at folklore and mythology in bloody near everything I write. Guess that makes it partly mythpunk too. I hope the politics earn the “-punk” suffix. I’d love to know what people think on that point.

You write in your story that “They say the revolution was started by a wedding cake.” In a way, this quote seems to parallel the famous statement, “Let them eat cake!” commonly attributed to Marie Antoinette. Much of the revolution itself reminded me of The French Revolution (the disparity of wealth between the ruling class and the peasants, for example). Was this story directly influenced by your knowledge of The French Revolution? What revolutions did you research prior to writing this story?

That’s an interesting interpretation. I certainly do love me some French Revolution, but I never consciously made the connection with this story. Revolutions in general have always fascinated me, as well as really any sort of street-level politics, guerrilla warfare, etc. Some years ago, well before I wrote this story, I read a few deeply fascinating books about the Zapatista Army of National Liberation in Chiapas, Mexico. Though this story isn’t based on that group’s efforts (or anyone’s) even loosely, really, I’m sure it contains some echoes of them.

Now I’m going to ask you a question straight from your own story. In your opinion, “Why is it that people love being beaten in the face with their own history?”

You know, I really couldn’t say! I wrote that line at a time when it seemed everywhere I turned I ran into a film or a book that dealt with some veeery depressing moment in history in a way that left no room for hope, i.e. “Well, that sucked, but if we play our cards right we might not have to do it all over again!” While, yes, there’s a need for historical accuracy, after a few of these films or books crammed into a short period of time, it starts feeling like a cult of error, and it’s depressing as hell.

So, what’s next for Nicole Kornher-Stace? Do you have any upcoming projects or publications for 2010 you would like to mention?

Well! As far as I know, I have a novelette coming out in an as-yet-untitled anthology from Prime. . . um. . . hopefully sometime next year; also a couple of poems in Goblin Fruit; also a story in Clockwork Phoenix 3. That story is currently undergoing expansion into a steampunk/mythpunk novel, which I will hopefully be trying to find a home for sometime next year. So, those of you who come across that story, if you happen to like it, there should be more to come in future.

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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