For this week you can find not just one interview, or even two -- today we have for you three interviews posted as a holiday treat! Our second interview introduces us to Matthew Carey and his uniquely themed magazine, Labyrinth Inhabitant Magazine!
For those readers who might not have previously discovered Labyrinth Inhabitant Magazine, can you tell us a little about it? What makes your publication unique?
As the masthead mentions, Labyrinth Inhabitant Magazine is the web's first magazine devoted to stories about life in giant artificial structures created by forces beyond human comprehension. It is also, incredibly, the only such magazine.
How did you become a poetry editor?
When I started the site, it wasn’t obvious whether I should accept poetry submissions, but because I was imposing such limiting restrictions in terms of genre it seemed ungracious to be a chauvinist about literary form. I have a very narrative-based outlook, so for me, the difference between fiction and poetry was the difference between organized, consolidated narrative and inchoate, fragmentary narrative. In other words, reading poetry submissions as well as fiction submissions means being more scrupulous in the search for meaning, examining every shred of literature that can be sent my way. Accepting poetry definitely proved to be the right decision, though, as many of the site’s most memorable works have been poetry.
What's your background? How has that affected your decisions, with regard to individual poems or types? Are you more critical of some genres, subgenres, or tropes than others? If so, why?
I was an English major, and I took it quite seriously. For many years I was a person of deep faith in difficult poetry, as well as in any obscure, complex literature generally. I use the word “faith” because I had a fairly dogmatic belief that with any work of literature, no matter how well one knew it, it was possible to go deeper into it and extract ever deeper meaning, and that this meaning was transcendentally important. I don’t recall exactly where I got that idea. Nowadays I tend to look at some of the same tropes I admired and see a reflection not of soundless artistic meaning, but only genre convention, social convention, politeness, nostalgia, pandering, decorativeness, even obfuscation—concepts that I once hardly would have believed a true “artist” capable of entertaining. But I still have a strain of fanaticism in me, so the kinds of poems I favor most are the kinds that, if you ran them up a flagpole, would make me want to salute.
What good is a fantasy?
I once read a critique of The Divine Comedy that said the various spirits Dante meets are more fully themselves in the afterlife than they ever got a chance to be in life. I think fantasy provides readers with a similar opportunity—not so much to escape from themselves or to experience being someone else, but to encounter themselves in a setting without the restraints that the real world puts on them. Or, possibly, with a different set of restraints.
If that’s true, then fantasy presents readers with a vision of how their relationship with the world could be different, an avenue for possible growth. But I’m sure that not all fantasies are good for you. The ones that are easiest and most appealing are probably the ones that make us lazier, more complacent, and even meaner. If fantasists want to accept that point of view and get a big head, believing they hold their readers’ moral futures in their hands, then they get to enjoy that private fantasy of their own importance as well. Everybody wins.
What scares you?
The prospect of overlooking everything of importance.
Where is the "science" in science fiction? How could SF help us to prepare for the future?
One doesn’t have to know any science to write science fiction. Obviously it helps, but you can also get by with just genre conventions. So the short answer is, there may not be any science. I think science fiction can help us prepare for the future in the completely conventional, unsurprising way of portraying possible futures and postulating what they’d be like. 1984 was a good example. I think science fiction might have also played a role in convincing people to forgo the excitement of nuclear war.
Who are some of your favorite poets, and why?
T.S. Eliot is probably my all-time favorite, from back in my vision-quest days. Milton, because I have a long-standing fantasy about what the perfect movie adaptation of Paradise Lost would look like (a bit like Dragon Ball Z, actually, though strangely I didn’t enjoy Matrix Revolutions). I don’t read any contemporary poets for pleasure. With the technology available right now for making art, I think poetry is the optimum medium for only a small and narrowing range of artistic expression. (I know this is a horrible thing to say! I’m sorry, WC!)
What makes a poem poetic?
After what I just said about poetry, I probably have no right to answer this question! But for me “poetic” simply means the words are chosen for their form or sound to create some effect in addition to their meaning. Prose can be poetic, but it rarely is for very long. That’s a dry way of putting it, I know. Again, English major.
How do you feel about rhyme?
I like it! I like wit, and it’s so much easier to sound witty when you’re rhyming. Of course sometimes in a slush pile rhyme is the sign of the absolute neophyte who doesn’t even know it’s not cool to rhyme. But that guy’s submission wouldn’t have gotten accepted anyway.
What are some of your favorite poetic forms? What catches your eye when you read a submission?
Epic poetry is probably my favorite, but it’s not necessary to go to that much trouble. Probably the most common way submissions have grabbed my attention is for the author to dive into very specific imagery and come up with something surprising.
Which would you rather see in your slush: a SpecFic narrative that's easy to follow, or imagery/lyricism that blows your mind? How compatible are these two elements?
Well, anything that blows my mind is better than anything that’s easy to follow. But as I said, I lean toward narrative.
What do you find that submitters most often get wrong with their submissions? Is there anything outside of the obvious of the submitter not following your guidelines? What advice would you give to those submitting to your mag?
Too many submissions are simplistic and threadbare. Occasionally I get plots that trudge straight from point A to point B with no surprises or suspense. Poems that refer to a lot of concepts in only broad terms are usually in trouble. Poems that use a lot of words for emotions are usually in big trouble. My advice is pretty typical: be spontaneous, don’t hurt yourself, have fun.
Is there anything you would like to see more of? Less of?
More: Goats. Herds of goats.
Less: Rotating-blade booby traps.
-- Matthew Carey, Labyrinth Inhabitant Magazine