CORVIDAE blog tour banner

Corvidae Contributor Interview: Michael M. Rader

CORVIDAE blog tour banner

Over the coming weeks I’d like to share interviews that Magnus and I conducted with the contributors to Corvidae and Scarecrow. This week we’ll talk with Michael M. Rader.

Interview with Michael M. Rader

Please share a short excerpt from your story:

“He worked late on Tuesdays, perhaps rushing to meet some unknown deadline on Wednesday. His motivation doesn’t matter, his location matters, the solitude of the university matters. I padded softly through the darkened, echoing brick hallways of the animal sciences building. It was cold. This antiquated edifice is incapable of capturing heat; every wisp of warmth seeps through the crumbling mortar into the crisp October evening. I heard creaks and rumblings and voices and footsteps ricocheting through the building, but I knew we would be isolated in the ornithology wing, which is cast so, so very far away from the civilized lands of the grant-laden Primatologists and Herpetologists. I crept slowly down the hall, so very slowly, the minute hand of the steadily ticking clock in the old man’s office moved faster than my feet. In time, I noticed my heart joined the clock tick in synchronization, the clock and I had fused in purpose; it conspired with me to steal the old man’s time. This was a good omen, a sign my cause was pure and just. Time is reasonable, time is order and I am an orderly, reasonable woman.”

What is it about corvids that inspired you to write about them? I read a lot about animal behavior, and I’m particularly interested in animals that use tools and exhibit higher intelligence like mirror self-recognition. Naturally, most of these animals are great apes, but there are two fascinating outliers: cephalopods and corvidae. Cephalopods have giant brains, so that’s maybe less surprising. However, the phrase “bird brain” exists for a reason. Birds have physically small brains, and anyone who has spent a lot of time with your average bird is not going to be terribly impressed with their intelligence. Except for corvidae. Ravens can use tools, Eurasian Magpies can recognize themselves in mirrors (the only non-mammal capable of doing that), and crows can recognize faces and communicate descriptions. No other family of bird can do that. They’re not just weirdos in the animal kingdom, they’re weirdos in their own class. I guess I just have a soft spot for that.

Was there one corvid characteristic you wanted to highlight more than others? Definitely the concept of the corvidae family’s higher intelligence, and also how some members of their family (blue jays) aren’t quite as impressive. 

Do you think you were successful? I set out to tell a story about intelligence, how it differs from sense, and how just being in the right bird family (or academic setting) doesn’t make you intelligent, practical, sensical or sane. I believe the characters in my story, and the corvidae they study, really highlight that  characteristic.

If you were a corvid, what would you build your nest out of? Memory foam for comfort, pages from Discworld novels for entertainment and strips of political manifestos just to be edgy.

What’s your favourite ‘shiny’ thing?  Love? No, that’s far too sappy. I’ll go with bits of broken glass instead.

As you may know, one of Edmonton’s local Twitter personalities is Magnus E. Magpie who haunts Twitter as @YEGMagpie. I invited him to read an advance copy of Corvidae and Scarecrow and offer a short cawmentary on each story from a magpie’s point of view, which he did. When he was finished I asked if there was anything he’d like to ask the contributors. The italicized portions are mine because Magnus didn’t ask straight-forward questions on account of he’s a magpie 🙂

Mr. Yegpie: It would be cool to know where all these stories came from, I mean geographically – like I think I could tell who was from Edmonton and who was from Vancouver! (Where do you live, and did that affect your story/poem at all?I’m from Colorado, right on at the foot of the rocky mountains. You’ll be happy to know we have the same sort of Magpies here as in Edmonton, although perhaps less handsome and sophisticated.  I believe my location did affect my story a fair bit since I based my descriptions on local flora and fauna, and the university in my story is very heavily based on my own.

 Mr. Yegpie: I also would sure love to know where they got their ideas from! I caught several familiar references from existing books and mythology and fairy tales; I like seeing people riff off stuff. (What inspired your story/poem?My story was stolen very blatantly from a story called The Tell-Tale Heart by some guy named Edgar Allan Poe. Fortunately he’s dead and can’t do much about it. Well, he could haunt me, but I’d be far more flattered than frightened if he did so.

More personally, I wrote this while struggling through a very difficult project at my university that ended up delaying my graduation by a year, so more than a few of my feelings and frustrations inspired this story. My professor is still very much alive, though, and I wish him no ill will.

Mr. Yegpie: I think I would like to know what people’s favourite corvid is though; and if it isn’t a magpie, WHYEVER NOT?!? (If they come back with some guff about crows using tools, PLEASE LET ME KNOW AND I WILL SEND THEM A COPY OF MY ROGERS BILL. Pffft, crows.) (What is your favourite corvid?While I did write about blue jays in my story, it was only to highlight how silly and stupid they are in comparison to the far superior members of their family: crows, ravens and magpies. While this may sound ingratiating, I do think magpies win out over the other corvids since they can recognize themselves in mirrors on top of being able to use tools. That’s gorilla level intelligence there, and we humans will likely be subservient to your kind in a century or so.

 

Michael M. Rader lives in Colorado with his wife and two children where he does dad things, engineers electrical things and writes spooky things.

Cover for CORVIDAE. Design by Eileen Wiedbrauk

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Just say no to tab indents

If I could get all the time I’ve spent removing tab indents from the stories I format for publishing I would be a happy, happy woman. I’ve spoken to a few colleagues about this and while a couple of them have methods for formatting that mean they don’t care if you use tabs to indent your paragraphs, for a fair number of them (like me) those tab indents mean extra work (and extra work is bad, mmk?).

But it occurs to me that maybe people don’t know how to indent without using the tab key, so here is a super quick and dirty guide to doing it in Microsoft Word.

Basically, what you want is to get to the ‘Paragraph’ menu. One way to do this is to click the little arrow-y thing right here:

Paragraph1

(you can click on any of the images in this blog post to go to a larger version of it)

Or you can also just right click anywhere on the document. In this case the text is highlighted, which means whatever I select within the paragraph menu will only apply to the highlighted bits, but you can do this without highlighting anything as well in which case it should apply to the entire document.

Paragraph 2

The paragraph menu, once opened, looks like this:

ParagraphMenu

From there it’s really quite intuitive. The indentation settings that you see in this example will mimic what you’d see from a standard tab indent.

Unfortunately, I am not familiar with how to set up auto indentation using other word processing programs, but Google probably is. And if you know of any good guides let me know and I’ll link them here 🙂

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Scarecrow Contributor Interview: Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Scarecrow Blog Tour

Over the coming weeks I’d like to share interviews that I (and Magnus) conducted with the contributors to Corvidae and Scarecrow. This week we’ll talk with Laura VanArendonk Baugh. Laura is one of my favourite short story writers and I’ve been honoured to include her work in Fae, Corvidae and Scarecrow.

Interview with Laura VanArendonk Baugh

Please share a short excerpt from your story:

“He’s right,” said Frank. “It’s all over, but you’re worse now than during the trial. What’s wrong with you?”

Everett wasn’t looking at them. “Those birds,” he said. “They’re watching me.”

The others turned to a wire drooping beneath the weight of a dozen crows. Most wore university ID tags. None were looking at the table. “Really, man? Come on, Everett.”

He shook his head. “They’re watching me. All the time. My apartment, out here, everywhere. And there’s more of them all the time.” He swallowed, his eyes still on the birds. “They’re gathering.”

Frank turned to look at them. “Not much of a gathering. Or a murder, I guess it is.”

“Flock,” snapped Everett. “Only poets call them a murder.”

Still, thought Jun, the term had to come from somewhere.

“But they’re flocking around me, more and more.”

Jeremy snorted. “If this is a joke, dude, you can drop it. We get it. You do a good crazy act.”

“I’m not joking, man!” Everett’s eyes looked as if he’d had his espresso as a tall. “They’ve started to bring things.”

“What do you mean, bring things?”

“Scissors, needles, clips.” Everett dropped his voice, embarrassed to speak but needing to confide. “Weapons.”

Jeremy looked as if he wanted to laugh but was afraid to. “Weapons, man? Seriously?”

“They use tools!” Everett jabbed a finger toward the crows. “You know what they can do, how they think — they use effin’ tools!” He slammed his hand down on the table, making a spoon jump to the ground, and screamed.

Even Jun jerked back from the table as Everett leapt up, clutching his hand to his chest. Jeremy and Frank looked at each other and then at Everett, inexplicably cradling his hand and swearing. But then Everett turned on them and shoved his hand at them. “See? See what I mean?”

A tiny drop of red blood marked the exit point of the fishhook, barbed and glistening and snaked neatly through the flesh of Everett’s palm.

Frank boggled. “Why was there a fishhook on the table? How does that even happen?”

“The crows put it there!” Everett snatched up the flatware from the table and hurled it, piece by piece, at the birds on the wire. They exploded into the air, screeching annoyance. “Get away from me! You freaking monsters! Keep away!”

If you were a scarecrow, what would you look like? What would you be stuffed with? I can tell you I’d definitely not look like those “country kitsch” hyper-trite things with big eyes and dopey grins that are so popular in the faux-country crowd. Those are some of the most annoying inanimate objects…!

...like this

…like this

Nor would I be a gruesome over-the-top Arkham escapee. Hm. I’d probably have a fairly classic silhouette, all denim and flannel, and I’d really like a pumpkin head, and I’d look very appropriate in the slanting autumn sun, and then you’d notice that the pumpkin eyes seemed to follow you as you passed, just a little….

What is it about scarecrows that inspired you to write about them? My scarecrow story grew directly out of the backstory of my corvid story. It seemed plausible that a crow cognition lab would have a scarecrow mascot – why not? – and that provided not only an interesting visual for an important bit of history but a bookended resolution, full of vengeance and fury and righteous comeuppance.

As you may know, one of Edmonton’s local Twitter personalities is Magnus E. Magpie who haunts Twitter as @YEGMagpie. I invited him to read an advance copy of Corvidae and Scarecrow and offer a short cawmentary on each story from a magpie’s point of view, which he did. When he was finished I asked if there was anything he’d like to ask the contributors. The italicized portions are mine because Magnus didn’t ask straight-forward questions on account of he’s a magpie 🙂

Mr. Yegpie: I also would sure love to know where they got their ideas from! I caught several familiar references from existing books and mythology and fairy tales; I like seeing people riff off stuff. (What inspired your story/poem?At a training and behavior conference, a training friend (the always-amazing Ken Ramirez) shared some of his research on what I’ll describe simply as counting in dogs. As we sat at the faculty table for dinner the next night, I told him he’d given me an idea for a story. This story ended up being only partly related to that first idea, but that’s how ideas work, right?

Mr. Yegpie: I think I would like to know what people’s favourite corvid is though; and if it isn’t a magpie, WHYEVER NOT?!? (If they come back with some guff about crows using tools, PLEASE LET ME KNOW AND I WILL SEND THEM A COPY OF MY ROGERS BILL. Pffft, crows.) (What is your favourite corvid?Okay, after all my guff about people liking corvids only for their gothic associations…. I confess to liking ravens in particular just because of Edgar Allan Poe’s classic poem. I mean, come on. Vincent Price, enormous black birds, despair, what’s not to love?

But magpies can be very striking, visually. I wish we had magpies locally to admire.

I guessed, but I had to Google to confirm – a Rogers bill is for wireless and internet, so Mr. Yegpie uses a smart phone for all his tweeting! Clever bird. 🙂

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Laura was born at a very early age and never looked back. She overcame childhood deficiencies of having been born without teeth or developed motor skills, and by the time she matured into a recognizable adult she had become a behavior analyst, an internationally-recognized animal trainer, a costumer/cosplayer, a dark chocolate addict, and a Pushcart Prize-nominated author with a following for her folklore-based stories and speculative fiction. Find her at www.LauraVanArendonkBaugh.com.

 

Scarecrow edited by Rhonda Parrish

Amazon: (CA) (UK) (US)
Kobo: (CA) (US)
Direct From the Publisher: World Weaver Press

Scarecrow Blog Tour

Scarecrow Contributor Interview: Andrew Bud Adams

Scarecrow Blog Tour

Over the coming weeks I’d like to share interviews that I conducted with the contributors to Corvidae and Scarecrow. This week we’ll talk with Andrew Bud Adams. Andrew’s Scarecrow story has been a favourite with more than one reviewer, and for good reason 🙂

Interview with Andrew Bud Adams

Please share a short excerpt from your story/stories:

A rustling in the tall yellow stalks woke Okamiko. She heard it all around her, but when she opened her eyes she saw only the blue sky framed in grain. Her first thought was animals–regular animals who couldn’t talk–because she was used to sharing her bed with them; but the rustling was too rhythmic. She sat up, using Take to stand.

The rustling stopped. Surrounding her were four workers,  but now that they stared at her, she saw they weren’t from any of the familiar villages. They had red faces with long, curved beaks, and their scaly red hands gripped bundles of grain. The rest of their bodies were covered in sleek black feathers, except for their feet, which were red and taloned like their hands. They wore colorful jackets, divided skirts, and conical hats like people, but were short, almost as short as Okamiko, as if they were children.

They stared a moment longer, appraising her, too, and then went back to gathering stalks.

She watched them wide-eyed, afraid to move, afraid the work was a trick and they were crow-people who had spied her lying as if dead and come to peck out her eyes. The thought made her squint and look away, but she didn’t move. They kept harvesting around her, and it was only when she was several yards in their wake that she stood taller and her expression changed. She cocked her head like a puppy, more curious than frightened, and yelped, “What are you doing?”

They didn’t stop. One looked back at her, that curved red beak swiveling like a bloody sickle. She saw herself in its big round eye, saw how naked and plain she must look to them, but that only increased her curiosity, because they were not angry nor afraid.

“Who are you?” she asked.

There’s a Japanese God who is represented as a scarecrow. It is all-knowing but cannot move. If you could know any one thing, what would it be? In that situation? Definitely telekinesis.

Would it be worth learning the answer if you were forever stuck in one place afterward? Well I wouldn’t be stuck, would I? Telekinesis! I’d float myself around in the lotus position.

If you were a scarecrow, what would you look like? What would you be stuffed with? I’d look like an owl. I’d be stuffed with crows.

Do you think you’d make a good scarecrow? Why? As an owl? Actually, I think I’d make a much better letter carrier for the wizarding world…though I hear they have to work Sundays.

What is it about scarecrows that inspired you to write about them? As soon as a scarecrow comes to life I see it as part of the golem tradition, like Frankenstein’s monster. It may be heroic, it may be dangerous, but either way it’s tragic and misunderstood, forever stuck between two worlds. Like Pinocchio. I’m very drawn to that theme – living in the world but not of the world, discovering a creator’s design, etc. For this particular story, I took inspiration from the Japanese folk tale “The Tengu’s Magic Cloak,” which, instead of a scarecrow, features a straw cloak of invisibility. I couldn’t resist the chance to reverse that trope in a retelling – for my scarecrow to render the invisible, visible. You’ll see what I mean!

As you may know, one of Edmonton’s local Twitter personalities is Magnus E. Magpie who haunts Twitter as @YEGMagpie. I invited him to read an advance copy of Corvidae and Scarecrow and offer a short cawmentary on each story from a magpie’s point of view, which he did. When he was finished I asked if there was anything he’d like to ask the contributors. The italicized portions are mine because Magnus didn’t ask straight-forward questions on account of he’s a magpie 🙂

Andrew Bud Adams was raised by spider-men and turtle ninjas and ronin rabbits, who are now helping raise his own children. “The Straw Samurai,” inspired by them and the Japanese folk tale “The Tengu’s Magic Cloak,” is one of his first published retellings. When not wandering between fantasy villages or teaching college writing, he can be found on Twitter @andrewbudadams.

Scarecrow edited by Rhonda Parrish

Amazon: (CA) (UK) (US)
Kobo: (CA) (US)
Direct From the Publisher: World Weaver Press

Short Fic Sale

Magical Menageries on Sale!

Short Fic Sale

World Weaver Press is celebrating short fiction by putting all their short fiction on sale. That means, for a limited time, you can pick up any of my Magical Menageries for 25% off the paperback price or $0.99 for the ebook. If you haven’t read all of these titles, now is the perfect time to change that. I mean seriously–less than a buck. That’s pretty tough to beat 🙂

World Weaver Press’ Short Fiction Sale

D is for Dinosaur

D is for [Drum Roll]

It’s time to announce the theme for the next Alphabet Anthology. I am really stoked about this one. Like, really, really stoked. I’ve been looking forward to the D anthology since I first decided to do this anthology series–in fact, more than once Jo has had to talk me out of releasing books out of alphabetical order because I was impatient to get to D.

So what is the theme?

Well, Demons seemed like a good fit–a collection of dark and diverse stories would be a lot of fun but not quite as fun as–

Dragons. Dragons seem the obvious choice, right? I mean, I love dragons. I used to collect them, I even have a dragon tattoo. And there’s no doubt that dragon stories could be diverse in theme, voice and tone… but dragons were actually kind of too obvious. Plus I have a vaguely dragony anthology in the works and I don’t want to duplicate efforts. Much. Still gargantuan reptilian creatures are pretty amazing and so I am excited to announce that–

 

D is for Dinosaur

–because c’mon! How cool is that?

The dinosaur theme will be interpreted in a wide variety of ways for this anthology but my authors assure me that there will, indeed, be at least a handful of prehistoric critters within its pages. I’m super stoked!

Speaking of those authors, contributors to this anthology include some veterans to the series and some new faces too. In no particular order, story contributors to D is for Dinosaur are:

~ Alexandra Seidel ~ Pete Aldin ~ Beth Cato ~ Michael Kellar ~ Cory Cone ~ Simon Kewin ~ Samantha Kymmell-Harvey ~ C.S. MacCath ~ KV Taylor ~ Laura VanArendonk Baugh ~ Michael B. Tager ~ Gary B. Phillips ~ Michael M. Jones ~ L.S. Johnson ~ Brittany Warman ~ Hal J. Friesen ~ Megan Engelhardt ~ BD Wilson ~ Michael Fosburg ~ Jonathan C. Parrish ~ Suzanne J. Willis ~ Lynn Hardaker ~ Amanda C. Davis ~ Andrew Bourell ~ Sara Cleto ~ Jeanne Kramer-Smyth ~

Janice Blaine will be contributing the artwork.

D is for Dinosaur will be coming out in 2017 but you can pre-order the third installment in the Alphabet Anthologies series, C is for Chimera right now.

Scott Burtness

Scarecrow Contributor Interview: Scott Burtness

Scarecrow Blog Tour

Over the coming weeks I’d like to share interviews that I (and Magnus) conducted with the contributors to Corvidae and Scarecrow. This week we’ll talk with Scott Burtness. I thought Scott’s story was the perfect note to end the anthology on, and reviewers seem to agree with me 🙂 I also had the pleasure of hanging out with Scott at When Words Collide last year, hopefully we’ll get to repeat that sometime soon.

Interview with Scott Burtness

Please share a short excerpt from your story/stories:

Clots of mud and foliage stained with dark vital-fluid marked Scarecrow’s path from the airlock. Initiating a physical-assessment scan, it analyzed the extent of its injuries, categorizing them by degree of severity. Despite openly weeping vital fluid, none were terminal, nor were any severe enough to degrade its capabilities. Shifting its awareness, Scarecrow observed Jorry, the human wet-tech assigned as its Tin Man. The human’s posture, facial expressions and bio-signatures indicated that he also did not believe Scarecrow’s wounds to be severe. Applying the relevant pre-loaded decision matrix, it determined that updating the Dorothy took precedence, and established a communication link.

“Scarecrow to mining site.” It formed the words slowly, hindered by facial muscles not well-shaped for Consortium Standard. “Mission accomplished.”

There’s a Japanese God who is represented as a scarecrow. It is all-knowing but cannot move. If you could know any one thing, what would it be? How to eat hot pizza without burning the roof of my mouth. 

Would it be worth learning the answer if you were forever stuck in one place afterward? Only if I was stuck in a pizza joint.

If you were a scarecrow, what would you look like? What would you be stuffed with? If I were a scarecrow, I’d look like Dean Koontz and be stuffed with Stephen King books.

Do you think you’d make a good scarecrow? Why? I’d be a terrible scarecrow. One, I like crows. They’re very clever and sound like Predator when they croak, which is awesome. Two, I have a short attention span. No way could I handle staring at a field for days on end. I’d totally lose focus and… Wait, what was the question? Oh, three, I think unicycles are way cooler than tandem bicycles.

What is it about scarecrows that inspired you to write about them? All random humor aside, I think scarecrows are fascinating. They present a window into humanity’s psyche. There’s a darkness in us, but also a desire to channel that darkness into a clear purpose. Scarecrows provide a focal point of our contradictory nature.

As you may know, one of Edmonton’s local Twitter personalities is Magnus E. Magpie who haunts Twitter as @YEGMagpie. I invited him to read an advance copy of Corvidae and Scarecrow and offer a short cawmentary on each story from a magpie’s point of view, which he did. When he was finished I asked if there was anything he’d like to ask the contributors. The italicized portions are mine because Magnus didn’t ask straight-forward questions on account of he’s a magpie 🙂

Mr. Yegpie: It would be cool to know where all these stories came from, I mean geographically – like I think I could tell who was from Edmonton and who was from Vancouver! (Where do you live, and did that affect your story/poem at all?I live in Minnesota, USA. When I was drafting the story, there was a lot of attention on sulfide mining in northern Minnesota. It provided the context for writing a story about a deep space mining operation that had to extract metals without adversely affecting the nearby communities.

Mr. Yegpie: I also would sure love to know where they got their ideas from! I caught several familiar references from existing books and mythology and fairy tales; I like seeing people riff off stuff. (What inspired your story/poem?Inspiration came from a very old and obscure bit of mythology… the opening scene of the movie Star Trek: Into Darkness. Kirk et al are pranking the natives and allow their spaceship to be seen, which is in clear violation of the Prime Directive.

Mr. Yegpie: I think I would like to know what people’s favourite corvid is though; and if it isn’t a magpie, WHYEVER NOT?!? (If they come back with some guff about crows using tools, PLEASE LET ME KNOW AND I WILL SEND THEM A COPY OF MY ROGERS BILL. Pffft, crows.) (What is your favourite corvid?My personal favorite are jackdaws, because a group of jackdaws is a clattering. Could there be a more perfect phrase than, “a clattering of jackdaws?”

Scott Burtness

Scott Burtness lives in Minnesota with his wife, Liz and their English Staffordshire-Boxer, Frank.  He has it on good authority that he possesses all of the requisite parts to be considered human, and sincerely believes he’s taller when measured with the metric system. Scott’s debut novel, WISCONSIN VAMP, is available on Amazon.com. When not writing horror-comedy romps or sci-fi adventures, Scott enjoys bowling, karaoke, craft brews and afternoon naps. Follow him on Twitter (@SWBauthor). Don’t follow him down dark alleys.

 

Scarecrow edited by Rhonda Parrish

Amazon: (CA) (UK) (US)
Kobo: (CA) (US)
Direct From the Publisher: World Weaver Press

Scarecrow Blog Tour

Scarecrow Contributor Interview: Katherine Marzinsky

Scarecrow Blog Tour

Over the coming weeks I’d like to share interviews that I (and Magnus) conducted with the contributors to Corvidae and Scarecrow. This week we’ll talk with Katherine Marzinsky. Katherine created one of my favourite scarecrows, Strel.

Interview with Katherine Marzinsky

Please share a short excerpt from your story/stories:

“So,” Rosa began, her voice the temperature of the water on the bedside tray, “you’re still wandering around with that stupid straw-man of yours?”

“Yes,” Vicente replied with equal coldness, studying the IV line running into his wrist.  “He’s my hermano de tinta.  Why wouldn’t I be?”

“I’m just a little surprised.”  Rosa crossed one leg over the other.  “I thought you’d have scrapped him and run off with some new, half-baked story by now.”  She met Vicente’s eyes.  “After all, that’s what you did with us, your real brother and sister.”

Vicente looked away.

“… I wasn’t ready to handle all that nonsense.”

“We’re nonsense?”  Rosa’s eyes widened.  “Your family is nonsense?  And just what do you think that damn scarecrow is?”

“I needed time for myself.”

“All you ever think about is yourself.”  Rosa uncrossed her legs and braced her palms against her thighs.  “Mamá and Papá didn’t raise us to act that way.  Do you know how ashamed they’d be if they knew how you abandoned us?  Abandoned your life and their memory?  Luis is almost a teenager now, and he doesn’t remember anything except Mamá’s coffin and you walking away.”

“Shut up.”  Vicente knotted his fists around the bed sheets and squeezed until his veins bulged like worms.  “You don’t have any idea what you’re talking about.  You don’t know me; you never knew me.”

“Who does then?”

Feeling the pain rising from the IV needle on the back of his hand, Vicente let go of the sheets.  He closed his eyes for a moment, and then shrugged the best he could in his cocoon of linens, gauze, and plastic tubing.

“Strel’s the only one.  Not like you’d ever ask him though.”

“That’s bullshit, Vicente.  Your scarecrow can’t even talk.”

“Maybe you just don’t know how to listen.”

There’s a Japanese God who is represented as a scarecrow. It is all-knowing but cannot move. If you could know any one thing, what would it be?Would it be worth learning the answer if you were forever stuck in one place afterward? I tend to be an extremely anxious person; I worry constantly about everything, and if there’s nothing to worry about, my brain will create something to worry about.  With that in mind, if I could know any one thing it would be the secret to perfect mental peace.  If I was forever stuck in one place afterward, then I’d be okay with that.  I would much rather be peaceful in one spot than a fearful and restless wanderer.

If you were a scarecrow, what would you look like? What would you be stuffed with? For starters, I would be much thinner, and I would definitely want some kind of animal skull as a head.  I originally envisioned Strel, the scarecrow in my story, with a deer skull as his head, so I’ll go with that.  A ram skull might be pretty cool too, though.  As for my stuffing, I would love to be stuffed with crumpled up pages ripped from literature and art textbooks.  That way, I’d always know that I was beautiful on the inside, even if my outside got tangled in thorns and covered in bird droppings.

Do you think you’d make a good scarecrow? Why? Honestly, I probably wouldn’t make a good scarecrow.  I can’t stand the heat, and most crops are grown in the hotter months.  I could also see myself stressing about all kinds of potential catastrophes, like a plague of locusts, or a wild fire, or a devastating storm, or falling over and being unable to get back up… I’m sure the crows would learn pretty fast how to take advantage of my distraction.

What is it about scarecrows that inspired you to write about them? I think my affinity for scarecrows began after playing “The Legend of Zelda: Majora’s Mask” when I was a kid.  The antagonist in that game is a creature called the Skull Kid, and although I don’t think he actually is a scarecrow, he certainly looks like one.  The combination of creepiness and vulnerability that his character, and scarecrows in general, represents has continued to fascinate me to this day.

As you may know, one of Edmonton’s local Twitter personalities is Magnus E. Magpie who haunts Twitter as @YEGMagpie. I invited him to read an advance copy of Corvidae and Scarecrow and offer a short cawmentary on each story from a magpie’s point of view, which he did. When he was finished I asked if there was anything he’d like to ask the contributors. The italicized portions are mine because Magnus didn’t ask straight-forward questions on account of he’s a magpie 🙂

Mr. Yegpie: It would be cool to know where all these stories came from, I mean geographically – like I think I could tell who was from Edmonton and who was from Vancouver! (Where do you live, and did that affect your story/poem at all?I have lived my entire life in a rural area of New Jersey, a place with more farms than city streets. (Believe it or not, Jersey does have areas like that.)  This may have helped foster my general interest in scarecrows, but it certainly didn’t inspire the setting for my story.  “Waking From His Master’s Dream” takes place in Cielotriste, a fictional city in a fictional Latin American country.  I have a Venezuelan friend and it was his descriptions of Caracas that inspired Cielotriste.

Mr. Yegpie: I also would sure love to know where they got their ideas from! I caught several familiar references from existing books and mythology and fairy tales; I like seeing people riff off stuff. (What inspired your story/poem?The main characters in my story started off as minor characters in a larger, novel-sized piece set in the same universe (which still remains unfinished after six years).  Somewhere along the way, I became very attached to this particular group of characters, and I knew they deserved more than bit parts in another’s story.  Vicente describes his scarecrow and fictional creation, Strel, as his “hermano de tinta,” meaning “ink brother;” he created him in response to some very difficult situations and emotions.  I think Vicente is my hermano de tinta.  He represents a lot of very personal things to me, and writing about him has been almost therapeutic.

Mr. Yegpie: I think I would like to know what people’s favourite corvid is though; and if it isn’t a magpie, WHYEVER NOT?!? (If they come back with some guff about crows using tools, PLEASE LET ME KNOW AND I WILL SEND THEM A COPY OF MY ROGERS BILL. Pffft, crows.) (What is your favourite corvid?Sorry, Magnus, but crows are my favorite corvid, mostly because they’re the corvids with which I am most familiar.  Crows are very plentiful where I live, and they’re always a joy to watch.  I had never even seen in magpie in real life until I took a trip to Norway in 2012.

 

Katherine Marzinsky is a writer and student currently residing in New Jersey. She attends Kean University, where she is working toward an undergraduate degree with a major in English and a minor in Spanish. Her previous work has appeared in “Asimov’s Science Fiction Magazine,” “A Cappella Zoo,” “Cease, Cows,” and “The Inanimates I” story anthology.

Scarecrow edited by Rhonda Parrish

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