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 S. Pack. In addition to having a story in Corvidae, Michael also had a story in Metastasis — the anthology I edited to benefit cancer research.
Interview with Michael S. Pack
Please share a short excerpt from your story:
That morning, Chris hadn’t woken up. The nurses mumbled answers that dodged the only question that still mattered. Later, a doctor would stop by on rounds to explain what Lorraine already knew. A machine alarmed. She turned to look, but it was routine. Some drug run its course. A bag that needed flushing. A kink in the IV line. Nothing that could make a difference. A nurse came and went.
When she turned back to the window, she almost fell out of her chair in shock. A large black raven perched on the stone ledge. It cocked its head such that one black eye stared through the glass. Its beak, a hard, black finger length, opened as it quorked a sound that made Lorraine think of water drops. It could see her through the glass, but it showed no fear. It quorked again. As suddenly as it had appeared, it launched into flight. The great pinions of its wings beat the air.
The bird was gone, and she was alone again with her dying son.
What is it about corvids that inspired you to write about them? Ravens have interesting ambiguity when they appear in myths and folklore. They can represent wisdom, but also destruction. They can be messengers of the gods or forerunners of war—or both. They create, but they also play the role of the trickster. The uncanny intelligence of ravens has led people around the world to imbue them with supernal, almost mystical, cunning. And, in many myths the raven literally exists in a state of ambiguity: a part of our “real” world as well as a part of the spirit world.
Was there one corvid characteristic you wanted to highlight more than others? The sound of their wings in flight.
If you were a corvid, what would you build your nest out of? Twigs. I’m all for tradition.
What’s your favourite ‘shiny’ thing? Firefly. 😉
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 on the north coast of British Columbia, and ravens are abundant here. There’s one that hangs out around our house who likes to talk to the cats. Not sure what he says. Location mattered in one other way as well. The hospital in the story is loosely inspired by St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver.
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?) A few years back, I saw the aurora borealis for the first time. The image stayed with me, and I ended up reading some on myths around the northern lights. The thread of myth where ravens use the lights as a gateway to the spirit world resonated with me. That I first saw the aurora while my son was recovering from a lung transplant has some obvious implications for my story.
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’ve met ravens and crows, whiskey jacks and jays of all kinds, but never a magpie. I couldn’t do a magpie proper justice in a story. I would have to say I favour ravens.
Michael S. Pack was born in the Deep Southern US, but he fled to Canada after an encounter with a particularly fierce mosquito swarm. His short stories have appeared in several anthologies, most recently Missing Monarchs (Fox Spirit 2014) and Fractured: Tales of the Canadian Post-Apocalypse (Exile Editions 2014). He is currently working on an epic fantasy novel. He sometimes posts on twitter @Michael_Pack and on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/M.Pack.Author
Available Direct from the Publisher:
World Weaver Press