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Joseph Carrabis Author Interview

Welcome to Ink & Magick. I’m your friendly neighborhood witch. What kind of spell can I get for you (or your character) today?

Hmm...few ever offer me their magicks, usually they’re asking magicks of me. What magick would I be gifted with? Le Guin showed us that asking for a thing doesn’t put boundaries on how that thing is achieved. I will ask that you weave a spell that lets all asking of magick to know all that happens for that magick to be, then giving them the choice of still asking or not. (wow, what a good piece of storyfodder, that!)

That's a very thought-out request and generous that you wish to share it with others. I hear you have a book of #scifi/#fantasy short stories out called Tales Told 'Round Celestial Campfires. Tell me more about it.

Tales Told 'Round Celestial Campfires is an anthology of 15 scifi/fantasy stories from short story to novella length. Thirteen of the stories were previously published in small press and anthologies between the early 1980s and the late 1990s and include the Nebula Award nominated Cymodoce and the Pushcart Prize nominated The Weight.

Stories include:

"The Goatmen of Aguirra" — Leaving behind his estranged wife and son, Gordon Banks, a Xenopologist, sets out with an advance team on a mission to explore the distant planet Aguirra. There, the team discovers the Goatmen: wise aboriginals with a rich telekinetic history preserved through entheogenic ritual. Nicknamed "Journeyer" by the Goatmen, Gordon Banks is invited to their village to live amongst them and participate in their customs. He soon realizes that the Goatmen are not the only intelligent life form on Aguirra and, in the process, embarks on a path of self-discovery. Set against the backdrop of interstellar colonialism,

"The Weight" — A man, hiking a route last traveled as a troubled youth, seeks forgiveness for his past only to discover that he encountered another traveler along the same road, and that other traveler also seeks something from the past.

"The Settlement" — Their son was an asteroid miner and there's lots of money to be had doing such hazardous work. Mom and dad discovered just how much and wanted some. But they forgot why their boy became an asteroid miner in the first place.

"Mani He" — Nearing the peak of his career, a man starts seeing things. After his own big promotion displaces his colleague, he attempts to quiet his guilt by holding onto his personal profit and gain. But it’s not enough. His visions intensify until he is transported to another world where he is forced to question the values of his current way of life. Through the guidance of nature and several of its inhabitants, the man learns that some of the worst animals can take on human forms and that a position of power is simply that, a position of power. It is up to the individual to determine its ultimate allocation.

"Them Doore Girls" — The waves and tides are some of the strongest forces in nature...especially when they take a liking to you.

"Cold War" — Some experiments shouldn't be done, even with consent. Especially the successful ones.

"Those Wings Which Tire, They Have Upheld Me" — After developing limited vision, a young boy is forced to wear a strange contraption on his head to replace his eyes. At school, all of the other children make fun of him but for one other boy. Together, the two become fast friends, learning in tandem from a mysterious Angel who appears only to the boy with no eyes. Angel serves as their mentor, offering a space for the children to learn and grow in a way neither home nor school could provide. But soon, the Angel begins to fade and the children are forced to cope with, yet honor, an irreplaceable loss.

"Dancers in the Eye of Chronos" — Two lovers, cursed by the gods to dance through time, learn what the Gods could never know (A love story that transcends time, two people abandon paradise realizing it is also a prison, and all gifts, especially those from the gods, come with a price.)

Short stories are approached completely different than novels. What themes do you explore in this anthology? My editor tells people that the two things you’ll always find in my stories are a deep understanding of human psychology, and love. I accept that that’s true of everything I write. How I put such things into a short story versus a novel differs in that short stories tend to deal with a single or a few events, novels deal with several events.

What sort of research do you have to do for these stories?     Not much, unless some aspect of history/science/technology is necessary for the story to work and I've not previously investigated it. But I’m a perpetual student, everything fascinates me, so I have a lot to draw on. Example: I have patents spanning anthropology, computer science, linguistics, neuroscience, mathematics, psycholinguistics, and sociology, and have done advanced work and published peer-reviewed papers in those fields along with others. I get around, I guess.

I'll say! How are your supernatural beings unique?     Probably because each is aware that each “super” aspect of their nature comes with a price, usually some “sub” aspect of their being, a kind of superman-kryptonite thing, except the kryptonite tends to be some aspect of their nature, internal to them, not some external device or element the antagonist needs to carry around to make use of. Internal weaknesses are, in my opinion, much more powerful for storytelling than external weaknesses because internal weaknesses give your characters a chance to grow, change, evolve, adapt, and that overcoming-obstacles is what storytelling is about. Example: Somebody needs to save their land from flooding. Okay, external threat from Nature. This person is terrified of water and to save their land from flood they need to go fix a dam. Much more interesting story because the character needs to overcome their own fear — grow as a person — in order to deal with the external threat. Now do a two-fer; echo how the character fixes the dam with the character's internal growth. You have a single plot line with interweaving dramatic and thematic elements. Now, you've got a truly interesting story going.

Indeed. Which story is your favorite, or which are you most excited to tell readers about? Usually the one I’m working on when they ask me.

Haha! I know the feeling. Who is your favorite (or least favorite) character and why?     Tough one. I have trouble with cowards, moral cowards especially. People who use their training/experience/education to intentionally harm others are tough for me. The ideal is to create characters that are fully developed, not stereotypes, not one or even two-dimensional, but fully realized human beings. One of my favorite sayings is “Nobody’s an asshole in their own eyes.” It’s right up there with “Nobody wakes up in the morning and says, ‘Yeah, today I’m going to be an asshole.” Everything everybody does is done for a reason. Being a successful author means discovering those reasons and sharing (as much as makes sense) with your readers. An example is Dracula; Dracula is the personification of evil because he’s so pitiable. Imagine a creature so driven by hunger so strong they can never rest. Now use that same concept for other types of monsters; the spouse-abuser who hates being abusive and doesn't have the tools to understand their behavior, to stop it. Ditto the child-abuser and/or pederast. This "inability to rest" can apply to any monolithic character trait so long as you allow for other character traits, otherwise the character can't grow. In Bram Stoker's Dracula, Dracula never grew, never evolved, never changed. Most of the other characters did and the reader focused on overcoming the evil, not the evil itself.

Fascinating perspective. Well, thank you so much for stopping in to chat today. Good luck with your storytelling!

You can connect with Joseph on his website, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Goodreads, and Pinterest..

You can get your copy of Tales Told 'Round Celestial Campfires on Joseph's website, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble.

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    D. Lieber has a wanderlust that would make a butterfly envious. When she isn’t planning her next physical adventure, she’s recklessly jumping from one fictional world to another. Her love of reading led her to earn a Bachelor’s in English from Wright State University.

    Beyond her skeptic and slightly pessimistic mind, Lieber wants to believe. She has been many places—from Canada to England, France to Italy, Germany to Russia—believing that a better world comes from putting a face on “other.” She is a romantic idealist at heart, always fighting to keep her feet on the ground and her head in the clouds.

    Lieber lives in Wisconsin with her husband (John) and cats (Yin and Nox).

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