C. L. Kagmi is an award-winning and bestselling writer of short science fiction. She holds a degree in neuroscience from the University of Michigan and spent five years working in clinical research before striking out as a full-time freelance editor and ghostwriter. Her short story “The Drake Equation” was a winner of the Writers of the Future contest and appeared in the bestselling anthology Writers of the Future Volume 33 in 2017. Her other short stories have appeared in issues 2 and 5 of Compelling Science Fiction and the anthologies Crash Philosophy and Compelling Science Fiction: The First Collection.
Her story, “Evangeline”, appears in the Weird World War III anthology.
Tell me about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your background?
I was born in Ann Arbor, Michigan, which most any Michigander will tell you is an interesting city (though whether they mean that as a compliment or an insult depends on where they’re from). It’s home to the University of Michigan, and it was basically settled by a bunch of hippies back in the 60s and 70s.
When I graduated high school, there was no question in my mind about where I wanted to go. The U of M – not just because I had hometown spirit, but because it had an unusual combination of stellar art and science programs. By this time I was already infatuated with science fiction because I’d figured out it meant you could put art and science together.
I got my Neuroscience BS there and worked at the University’s Mott Children’s Hospital coordinating clinical research for five years. Then I realized I was spending as much time helping researchers with their writing as I was coordinating research, so I became a full-time ghostwriter and editor.
I’m now located in Chicago, which I must admit has even more going on than Ann Arbor. I think we’ve got about half a dozen colleges and one of the best public transit systems in the country. You can find anything you want in Chicago – for better or worse.
What kinds of stories do you write? Why?
I like to predict the future. Or try to. Ironically I did have us on schedule for a pandemic very similar to the coronavirus in my fictional universe, but not for another 100 years. Also the mortality rate was much higher, so we can be thankful for that. This isn’t a full apocalypse. Just about 2% of one.
I’m particularly interested in evolutionary biology and cybernetics. I don’t feel that either discipline has been explored to its fullest extent yet in fiction, and things get even more interesting when you predict how humans will respond to these developments.
In this book I’ve made a rare branching into magical realism or alternate universe speculative fiction. “Evangeline” is inspired by a real-life court case in which a psychic medium was charged with witchcraft – because she was leaking government secrets to the public, but the government couldn’t find enough evidence of how she was getting her information to charge her with espionage.
What authors have had the greatest influence on your writing? Why?
Frank Herbert, Octavia Butler, and Greg Bear are my three biggest influences. Greg Bear’s novella “Hardfought” remains one of my favorite pieces of literature of all time, and when I first discovered Octavia Butler I was totally astounded because it was like she was doing exactly what I wanted to do, but so much better. It’s amazing to consider how ahead-of-her-time she was.
What is your favorite speculative fiction genre? Why?
I am mostly a sucker for science fiction, because the element of science and futurism is tantalizing to me. However, I’ve been considering making more forays into magical realism and fantasy as places where emotional realities can be manifested as magic. We definitely live in a time where our society needs a plan for doing emotional work – maybe even more than we need scientific or technological advancement.
If you could live in any time period, when would it be? Why?
Honestly, the present is pretty interesting. Even if “interesting times” can sometimes be a curse. The only other time period I might choose would be being born in the future, so I can see how things turn out. We’re writing some hella interesting chapters of history right now.
Each of the stories in this volume evoked certain themes and emotions that can sometimes be approximated with music. The below video is the editor’s best interpretation of the feelings and themes that this author’s story evoked. Please note that this is only the editor’s interpretation. The author did not know this portion of the blog post existed until the editor published it.
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