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An Interview with Ellen Datlow


An Epic Tale of Fear, Courage, and the Fine Art of Making Shit Up
Part Three, the Agony and the Metapixel

Our story so far....

As you may recall from last issue, we had been asked to do an interview of one of our all-time favorite speculative fiction personalities, the inestimable Ellen Datlow.

You may also recall that this little project was causing us to grow boils the size of robins' eggs on the undersides of our cerebellums. Well, guess what? It's OVER! Actual Interview can be found at Milk of Medusa (CLICK HERE). And here is the Shit I Made Up part:

The Fine Art of Making Shit Up

It really wasn't long after finishing the first part of this essay (see The Fine Art of Making Shit Up, Parts 1 & 2) that I realized that the story was not complete. I mean, there I was, rhapsodizing all eloquent and stuff about rejection and whatnot, all the while dangling a huge unanswered question--one certain to be clinging to every single reader's lip--one that could surely prove far more interesting than the all the drivel that's gone so far before. I'm referring, of course, to the ultimate question for the speculative fiction writer:

Who is this Ellen Datlow, anyway, and how can I make her like me? I mean, really, really like me.

Anyway, so imagine my trepidation when this guy named Bob asked me (in a polite enough way, for sure) to do an email interview with the maven of speculative fiction herself, the one-time dark queen of OMNI, the current Fell Editor of

"Dude," says Bob, "interview Ellen Datlow for me." His image flickered and spat. Not because of the vidphone or the connection mind you, more like because he exists in a tenuous temporal state roughly akin to quantum flux. Not that that's a bad thing. It works for Bob.

Now this is where the story gets weird. "Uh, okay," I said, knowing full well that the assignment would probably kill me. "I'll get right on that."

Never one to dither beyond the just needs of procrastination, I immediately set to it. (If, by "immediately" you interpret "a couple of months later" and by "set to it" you read "finally got around to it.")

I rifled the closet to find my old beat up braindeck--a Hyundai 2600i with no memory and a penchant for emitting a periodic cloud of rank smoke--and kicked it to life. When the vapors cleared, it seemed to be functional, so I smeared some Vaseline on my forehead and jacked in.

Now, I haven't spent a whole lot of time in the cyber jungle, so the first thing I always have to do is head to the Googleplex and ask for help. I tapped into the bloated thing and fed it Ms. Datlow's address and before I knew it, there she was (well, her avatar, anyway) looking very serious and intimidating and saying:

I'm not here right now. I'm trying to get some WORK DONE. If you have something worthwhile to share, leave me a message. Otherwise, go pester somebody less likely to force-feedback a gigawatt up your nose.

She didn't scare me. Well, not so much that I didn't leave the following message: "Dear Ellen, Bob Urell made me contact you regarding a possible interview. Please don't hurt me."

I signed it with my own name, which shows just how tough and forceful I can be, then headed over to the nearest Naturist Preserve to wait. I was just about to learn something new about the physics of volleyball when Ellen's response zinged into my mailbox.

"Sure, okay," she said, "Meet me at Lester's Deep Space."

Lester's, as you probably have heard, is not exactly where you'd expect to find a well-respected New York editor. Lester's is a loud and smelly cybar, usually filled with 'necks, and pervs, and other assorted no-lifes and never very far from an all-out flamewar. So I tried to look as inconspicuous as the limbless smiley-face avatar that came with my cheap-assed deck would allow. Which is to say, about as inconspicuous as pink clogs at a rodeo. I hung back a bit, but it wasn't very long before I noticed the hubbub. Twenty or so aspects were crowded around a single radiant avatar. Leaned up against the back of the bar, blowing neon green smoke from an elaborate pipe, she looked like a demon goddess in full court. I mean, that avatar ruled. She was tall, and pale, and sported immense leathery wings.

It was Ellen, of course, and she was smoking. "Only a tweaker," I heard her say, "would think there's anything interesting left to say about metafiction." She took a huge puff of vapor and spun it into a butterfly, then floated out across the bar.

I gulped, and flashed on/off in a putrid shade of green. "Hi, Ms. Datlow?"

She gazed down on me with an unmistakable mixture of imperious compassion and amused dismay. "Just call me Ellen." Her avatar melted, transformed into a considerably more accessible image, that of an intelligent and serious Easter bunny.

I admit I grinned. Of course, with that damned smiley for an avatar, I could hardly help it.

"You ready?" She scooped me up in a flutter of ears and eggs and we settled into a comfortable back booth. "Let's interview."

I made a quick survey around the bar to see if there was anybody from the Attorney General's Appropriate Conversation Patrol lurking about. A couple of amorphs clung to and within each other in some sort of hypernasty dance, and a single bald rooster pecked at a terminal display filled with assorted comic x-game idols, but everybody else looked cool. Of course, the giant glowing Eyeball of National Security stared down from above the cybar--just like it does from every other gathering spot on the net--but Lester had the thing jacked and hacked into thinking it was watching old Super Bowl reruns--just like every other gathering spot on the net. The tweakers think the NS-EYE protects them. The rest of us think of it as mood lighting.

"I've just got a few questions..." And I proceeded to plaster her with utter inanity.

Ellen struck a thoughtful pose throughout, complete with full orchestra and flocks of tiny owls that emphasized her points by hooting and forming up into punctuation marks, marching band style.

I would have been scribbling furiously, except that my avatar had no hands. Fortunately, I had the log script turned "on." You can read the actual interview at Milk of Medusa, if you are so inclined, but I must warn you in advance: the photographs are all doctored.

And so it went, for twenty-five delirious minutes I was chatting up Ellen Datlow. "Thanks, Ellen," I said, with some relief. "That wasn't nearly as scary as I thought it would be."

That's when she grew to three times her original height, turned a vicious shade of scarlet, and erupted fangs and horns and razor things beyond any description and laughed with an earth-convulsing giddy glee that emptied the net's toughest cybar quicker than a lit joint clears a room full of Mormon law students. And that, my friends, was pretty scary.

So anyway, I disconnected, and after a long couple of hours of shaking and muttering, I wrote this damned interview. I only made some of it up. And then I set to writing a new story. Because you know what? I think she kind of liked me.

~The Staff at Fiction Inferno



Previous Debris

Concerning the events of September 11, 2001

A Little Flotsom

The Stars Are Going Out

The Fine Art of Making Shit Up, Part 1

The Fine Art of Making Shit Up, Part 2

The Fine Art of Making Shit Up, Part 3



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Books Received

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The Seven Paths to Global Harmony
Daisaku Ikeda
Middleway Press

Satan Burger
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The Kafka Effekt
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Skimming the Gumbo Nuclear
M. F. Korn
Eraserhead Press


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