We’re celebrating the launch of Issue 18 by talking about all sorts of “magics” (bold or subtle) with our authors, and what inspired their stories.
Lackington’s: “The Wytch-Byrd of the Nabryd-Keind” is infused with brilliant colours. There are dozens of mentions of different colours, but black, red, and gold come back again and again. How do you view colour in your story, and is there any meaning you wanted to communicate with it?
FRS: Most of my use of colour in stories stems from my preoccupation with Symbolist poetry. Georg Trakl has been an enormous influence, particularly with his use of colour and silence to verbally illustrate some kind of haunting, unknowable element of the natural world. And, though not a Symbolist, Bruno Schulz also made use of colour in ways that I admire. There is rarely a direct intention. It’s more of an exploration, and whatever meaning arrives is subconscious at best. I try to approach stories in a painterly way. A lot of the process is fragmentary and abstract. A story wants to be what it wants to be, so I try to let it guide me rather than trying to force meaning. Use of colour helps me to feel like I am producing something more artful and philosophical. As for the specifics of this story, it is my hope that the readers will make up their own minds what the recurring colour palette underscores. Though I will say that there is a thematic degree of unspoken violence that I hope people sense when they read it.
Lackington’s: The wytch-byrds of the title are given no scientific name, but they seem to have some features in common with vultures. But in other ways, they are like no living bird. How did you choose their attributes and are they in any way magical? Did you have particular birds in mind, either real or legendary, when you pictured them?
FRS: The original construction of these “byrds” came from a personal thought experiment around vultures and the red rains of Kerala. Originally I only knew that I wanted them to be diabolical and scarlet red. In childhood, I always had a soft spot for gryphons, and wondered what an inversion of that affection might manifest as. So a degree of the uncanny worked into their construction as well. Though there was no real avian influence other than vultures, I did imagine them having mannerisms and social dynamics more akin to hyenas. To what degree they are magical is left up to interpretation. The psychological decay of the protagonist warps his perspective, and I hope that the readers will be asking themselves how much is real and how much is the result of cognitive decay.
Lackington’s: The strange phrases “Nabryd-Keind” and “Ulldythaer” are associated with the dark transformations the birds undergo in the story, but the phrases themselves are never explained. They have a hint of Lovecraftian forbidden knowledge to them. Is there anything else you can tell us about these phrases?
FRS: These are recurring phrases and elements in the overarching world that my fiction operates within. I will refrain from claiming to have my own Lovecraft-esque mythos for the sake of not wanting to be that egotistical, but those who have read other pieces of mine will recognize the terms. They serve as somewhat of an “easter egg” regarding a broader world. I will avoid spoilers, but I can say that their inclusion bridges the world of horror with science fiction. For the language lover within me, I will spell out their pronunciation, as they are the artifacts of an ancient, evil language of a species known as the Uldreds, which I have been developing for some time.
Lackington’s: Is there something about unconventional modes of storytelling that you find especially compelling? Why do we need to make space for stories that don’t always work the way that readers have come to expect?
FRS: Unconventional modes of storytelling bridge the worlds of art, philosophy, and literature in ways that the conventional simply cannot do. There needs to be space for these stories for many reasons, but most notably (in my opinion) because they address the needs of literature for the artful, disenfranchised, and neurodiverse. My writing has attracted a beautifully fascinating fan base. An eclectic mix of people with disabilities, trans women, scholars of decadence and symbolism, fans of cosmic horror, all of the above, and more. There are people who respond to unconventional storytelling fiercely. So, while my stories may be too strange or difficult to be “for” a conventional audience, they are strongly “for” another that likely gets a lot more out of what they are experiencing on the page.
Farah Rose Smith is a writer, musician, and photographer whose work often focuses on the Gothic, Decadent, and Surreal. She authored The Almanac of Dust and Eviscerator, and is the founder and editor of MANTID, an anthology series promoting women and diverse writers in Weird Fiction. She lives in Queens, NY with her partner.