Erica Satifka’s short fiction has appeared in Interzone, Clarkesworld, and Daily Science Fiction. She is the author of the British Fantasy Award-winning Stay Crazy (Apex Publications) and the ruralcyberpunk novella Busted Synapses (Broken Eye Books). If you want to read more of her stories, catch ‘em all at ericasatifka.com.
Her story, “Where You Lead, I Will Follow: An Oral History of the Denver Incident”, appears in the Weird World War III anthology.
Tell me about yourself. Where are you from? What’s your background?
I’ve been publishing science fiction since 2007 (with frequent hiatuses). My first pro-published story was “Automatic” in Clarkesworld Magazine, and since then I’ve also been published in Lightspeed, Interzone, Shimmer, and many other places. In 2016 Apex Books published my urban fantasy (or so people tell me) novel Stay Crazy, the story of a schizophrenic teenage stocker at a big-box store who is contacted by a mysterious force… or is it just all in her head? This novel won the British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer the following year, which is probably one of the top three moments of my life. Sometime soon (likely in 2020) Broken Eye Books will publish my “rural cyberpunk” novella Busted Synapses, which is set in a near-future West Virginia. I’m originally from Western Pennsylvania and my work definitely reflects that, for better or for worse. I currently and permanently live in Portland, Oregon with my husband and four strange cats.
Which of your short stories is your favorite? Why?
They are all my children and I love them equally! But the one I’m probably proudest of is my novelette “The Goddess of the Highway,” which was published in Interzone in 2017. The protagonist is a long-haul trucker with a poorly-functioning brain implant who meets up with a young woman with a well-functioning brain implant. That’s not a coincidence; in the world of the story the brains of everyone in North America got scrambled by a mysterious fog, which is implied to be the work of rich elites. It’s a political story, but also kind of a funny story, although keep in mind that I have a strange sense of humor. The titular goddess might be real, or she might be a hallucination caused by trucker speed, but either way people are losing fingers and fomenting revolution. (This makes sense in context. Probably.)
What’s the craziest thing you’ve ever done?
In 2014 my husband and I moved across the country to Portland, Oregon, without any jobs and three cats in tow. That’s pretty crazy! We’d moved to Baltimore for a job that didn’t work out, and while we considered returning to where we came from, we had the feeling that there was something else out there. I’d always wanted to live on the West Coast (despite having never been to the West Coast until the previous year), and we had some money saved up, so why not try it? I don’t know if I really expected to stay here permanently when we first moved out, but we did, and I’m glad we did.
What author has had the greatest influence on your writing? Why?
Without a doubt, Philip K. Dick. I “discovered” him in college (he had already been dead for twenty years at that point) and his work clicked with me immediately, there was just something about the style of writing that I found so compelling. Of course the technological and drug-related aspects of his writing are important (especially these days, where “social credit” and facial profiling and algorithms threaten to doom us all), but beyond that I really felt a strong connection to his characters. They’re flawed individuals, all of them, and in a way you don’t often see in science fiction. Some of his lesser-known novels, like Dr. Bloodmoney or We Can Build You, are basically literary novels set in future societies with a commercial writing style, and there’s few things like them. I like his more SFnal novels too, but working-class schlubs just trying to get through their tedious days in the future is my ultimate jam. (Cross-promotion time: I have an essay about PKD coming out in a book by PM Press later this year, with special attention to the politics in his work.
Many of your stories, including your story in Weird World War III, involve the sinister side of technology. How concerned are you about real-world technology?
Extremely concerned! I keep thinking about something said in passing on Twitter about how anonymity will soon be a thing of the past due to facial recognition programs, cameras being in everything, and the cashless economy, and it makes me really anxious. Not because I necessarily want to fall off the map, but sooner than we think it won’t even be an option. Combine this with social credit and you get a dystopia of our own making, and none of the political parties in any country seem like they want to take this problem on at all. And it doesn’t feel like anyone really benefits in the long run; sure, there’s money to be made, but the people who designed and profit from these systems have to live in them too. The Internet is possibly the greatest thing humans ever made, but it opened a Pandora’s box of unintended consequences. I don’t know how this can be fixed without deliberately nerfing technology, and who decides what technologies are nerfed and how? In my story, catastrophe happens because people aren’t skeptical enough about technology. Hopefully, we can turn the tide before something similar happens in real life.
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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