Corvidae Contributor Interview: Mike Allen

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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 Mike Allen.

Interview with Mike Allen

Please share a short excerpt from your story:

A spider with a leg span wider than my outstretched hand squeezed out from the space behind the light switch, and spread its wings.

I froze, my finger still on the toggle. Behind me the dust-draped ceiling fan hummed to life, the light bulb beneath it flicking on to paint the monster with my shadow.

The marks on its body formed a single staring eye above a screaming mouth.

What is it about corvids that inspired you to write about them? In this case a little bird approached me, heh, heh, and asked me to consider creating a corvid story that didn’t involve crows, ravens or magpies. I was intrigued with the idea of writing about a bluejay, because I have a thing for blue, and the more I read about these birds, the more inspiration I found. I had already written two short stories (“The Hiker’s Tale,” “Follow the Wounded One,” published) and a whole novel (unpublished) that take place in a world where certain special people have spirit animal forms possessed of immense power. I didn’t start out intending to set “The Cruelest Team Will Win” in that universe, but the elements just snapped into place unbidden.

Was there one corvid characteristic you wanted to highlight more than others? 
In the case of the bluejay, the ability the bird has to smash open acorns with a single peck of its beak.

If you were a corvid, what would you build your nest out of? The scalps of my enemies.

What’s your favourite ‘shiny’ thing? For me, there’s nothing shinier than a wickedly good story.

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 the Appalachians, and though “The Cruelest Team Will Win” isn’t explicitly set there, all the other stories in the series most definitely are.

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 its heart, my fear of flying spiders.

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?I’m a raven man, myself.


Mike Allen edits the digital journal Mythic Delirium and the critically-acclaimed Clockwork Phoenix anthology series. He’s a three-time winner of the Rhysling Award for poetry; his short story “The Button Bin” was a Nebula Award finalist. His newest poetry collection, Hungry Constellations, offers a 20-year retrospective on his career, while his first collection of horror stories, Unseaming, debuted in October to starred reviews from Publishers Weekly and Library Journal. By day he’s the arts columnist for the daily newspaper in Roanoke, Virginia, where he lives with his wife and frequent project co-editor Anita Allen, as well as a dog named Loki and two sister-felines, Persephone and Pandora.


Cover for CORVIDAE. Design by Eileen Wiedbrauk

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