Authors in Quarantine – Kate Heartfield

With this this series, I am hoping to capture how this cultural moment is affecting our speculative fiction authors and how our authors are surviving during the COVID-19 outbreak

Spec Can: What have you been up to during the COVID-19 outbreak?

Kate Heartfield: The priority has been distance learning for my 10-year-old son, and I’ve also carried on with my regular freelance editing and online teaching jobs, in addition to trying to keep up with writing.

Even though I haven’t really had any extra time, I have been starting all kinds of new creative projects, because it helps my mental health. Projects help to remind me that today is different from yesterday and tomorrow will be different again, that change will happen. And I’ve always used work as a coping mechanism, rightly or wrongly! So in addition to everything else, I’ve been painting and assembling a hurdy-gurdy from a kit, baking a lot, and trying to get my garden in decent shape. I’ve signed up for an online course in Old Norse, because I figure, if not now, when? A lot of my projects (such as baking bread and making masks) also serve to help our household cope with the pandemic.

I’ve also been allowing myself the time to do a fair bit of relaxation activity, such as playing Civilization VI (my comfort game!) and watching TV with my partner and son. We just finished Tales from the Loop and are currently finishing up the last season of Clone Wars together.

Spec Can: How are you adapting to social distancing?

Kate Heartfield: Our household is pretty fortunate, all things considered. My partner, my son and I are all introvert homebodies at the best of times, so on a day to day basis it doesn’t feel that strange. But the uncertainty about the future, the stress of distance learning and the inability to see people I love is wearing, for sure. I feel like my heart is a rubber band that’s been stretched into the same position for two months and is weakening at the edges.

I’ve been using Zoom and other online platforms to keep in touch as much as I can with my writing community, although I miss all my writer pals terribly and nothing can make up for their physical presence. I’m taking part in two virtual conventions this month, including the Nebula awards weekend at the end of May, and that helps to keep me in touch too.

Spec Can: How is the outbreak affecting your writing?

Kate Heartfield: My creative brain is my coping mechanism, so I’m enjoying dreaming and plotting out my current novel. But when it comes time to sit down and write, I frequently struggle these days with a kind of brain freeze — I can’t execute and get the words down very well. An effect of long-term low-level stress, I think, and I’m sure a lot of us are feeling the same way. Also, I’ve lost a lot of the options I used to have to get into a fresh headspace by going to work at the library or my favourite coffee shop, which sounds trivial but was a bigger part of my working life than I realized.

So it’s slower than I’d like, but I’m getting work done. Soon, my editor will send some edits for my next novel, The Embroidered Book, which is coming out next year. When that happens, that will become my writing priority. In the meantime, I’m working on a novel that isn’t sold yet, so I don’t have a deadline, which is a blessing in some ways as it means there’s less stress, but it also makes it hard to keep at it, because writing a novel on spec is an implicit act of faith in the future and that’s hard right now. I really love the book, so that’s helping. I also wrote a story for The New Decameron Project, which was great, because it gave me a reason to take out an old half-finished concept and finish it up. The result was a story called “In a Hansom Cab at the Liberty Street Ferry Terminal” and it gave me great joy to write.

Interviewed by Derek Newman-Stille MA, PhD ABD

Speculative Poetics

By Derek Newman-Stille

Speculative poetry tends to be largely ignored, cast between pages of short stories deemed superior by those who crave narrative hegemony, treated as filler. But there is a power in speculative poetry, a question forged not just of content but of resistance to the hegemony of grammar.
Poetry speaks to me as an artist. Used to pulling together myths in images into a frame, poetry is, in many ways, the closest parallel in words to what I try to do with paint. It is a blending flow of word into word, creating a snapshot moment of beauty.
There is a play with words that a poet can evoke, a teasing of meaning and potential from phonemes, speaking to more than the assemblage of letters and sounds. Because of their economy of words, poets need to pack a multiplicity of meanings into each syllable, encompassing often contradictory potentials in each word. They play with the cultural history of semiotics, questioning the ontology of language.
Some poetry has to be spoken aloud, tasted on the tongue as it rolls forth made of breath and myths and worlds formed of licks.
Poetry reminds us that words are worlds, myths built in themselves, and they shouldn’t be cast to the fringes of speculative works, but find their own position of interest, inviting the reader to speculate in a different way, explore those spaces and Spaces between letters (galaxies of meaning in themselves).
I would like to see speculative poetry find a place more central in the genre, not treated as a dirty secret cast into the dark spaces between short stories, closeted in dirty laundry. I would like to see more anthologies, speculative magazines, and other collections search for powerful poetry, rather than often defaulting to that which resembles a short story cut off too soon, and instead bring attention to poetry that plays with words, speculates about meaning, and constructs worlds inside of words.

Original Art By Derek Newman-Stille

Original Art By Derek Newman-Stille