Maura Yzmore writes short-form literary and speculative fiction, as well as humor. She lives with her family in the American Midwest and works as a university professor in a math-heavy field. You can find out more about her work at https://maurayzmore.com or on Twitter @MauraYzmore.
When did you start writing?
How much time have you got? I’m an academic scientist, so technical writing is my bread and butter. I’ve also published a book of essays and cartoons on academic life with a small press under a different pen name; this material arose from almost a decade of blogging. But I never thought I could write fiction; I didn’t think I had the chops or could come up with a compelling plot, even though I’d always read a lot and across genres.
Then, last summer, something happened. I started looking into publishing markets and wrote a number of stories over a very short period. First some drabbles, then some flash and short stories, most of them literary or slipstream. Many weren’t very good when I first started sending them out (my apologies to the poor slush readers upon whom I inflicted those). But send them out I did, and, of course, rejections poured in, which was both demoralizing and illuminating.
Then a few acceptances snuck in, which did encourage me. I connected with the flash-fiction literary community on Twitter, a wonderful and supportive group that is such a privilege to belong to. I met accomplished writers and started reading their work, stories upon stories every day, and learned about newer publishing markets.
In the fall, I started volunteering as a reader/editor at 101 Words (I had to say goodbye to them recently, as life got busy); this was a phenomenal learning experience, which really taught me what makes or breaks very short fiction. If you get a chance to be a first reader for a magazine, take it; it’s invaluable for the development of the craft. So I wrote and published literary fiction, slipstream, and some humor for about eight months before I got the courage to try my hand at speculative fiction.
“Cryobliss,” is actually my first pure science-fiction short story. I’ve sold a few since, but “Cryobliss” will always remain special.
It is special. Thanks for sharing it with us! Why do you write speculative fiction?
Speculative fiction is virtually limitless in what it enables an author to explore. The best speculative fiction has richly textured language and compelling characters, just like the best literary fiction, but at the core of speculative fiction lies a bright and shiny original idea that gives the piece its life force, the seed to a plot. This idea is unconstrained by our reality, location, technology, history, or biology. I’m a sucker for surprises, and speculative fiction delivers great ones.
The characters in your story get quite a surprise. What inspired you to write “Cryobliss”?
When I was a kid, my Grandma told me that Walt Disney had been frozen, hoping to awaken once he could be cured. I’m pretty sure she’d read it somewhere and believed it to be true. I never really thought about it much until recently, when I came across an article about the people who did in fact enter cryostasis and those who are widely believed to have done so, but actually didn’t, such as Disney. That article stayed with me until an idea came—what if someone in the future ended up with a frozen Walt Disney on their hands? That’s the main idea behind the story, and the rest arose from my fascination with the colonization of the solar system.
Fascinating stuff indeed. Who are some writers that have inspired you with fascinating ideas?
Among household names, probably Isaac Asimov, Ursula Le Guin, Ray Vanderby, Kurt Vonnegut, and Stephen King. Contemporary speculative fiction novelists whose work I enjoy include Claire North, Becky Chambers, Ann Leckie, Nnedi Okorafor, Charlie Stross, and John Scalzi. Short-fiction writers in the genre whose work I always look forward to include A. Merc Rustad, Sara Saab, Vanessa Fogg, G. V. Anderson, Christopher Stanley, and S. E. Casey. But there are many more, really.
That’s quite a list of remarkable writers. What was the last book that blew your mind or made you laugh/cry?
“The First Fifteen Lives of Harry August” by Claire North. Becky Chambers’s Wayfarer books. “Neptune’s Brood” by Charlie Stross. “Dark Matter” by Blake Crouch.
What is your favorite TV show?
These days, it’s The Expanse, no contest. I love The Handmaid’s Tale in the way you love something that gives you nightmares. Among the lighter fare, I’d say GLOW and Santa Clarita Diet (yes, I waste a lot of time on Netflix).
If you could offer one piece of advice to your past self, what would it be?
Work on your craft to better honor your voice. I think newbie writers assume that all rejection is a comment on their imperfect craft and that all editorial feedback following a rejection must be incorporated. In reality, there is magazine flair and editorial taste; some magazines will never take anything you write, no matter how good you become, and that’s okay, but there’s no point in trying to write to their preferences. You want to find those that like your voice and your style and might even take a chance on your rougher stuff and work with you; these are your markets. You need to trust your gut and your vision; improving your craft is a way to bring your writing and your vision closer together, not to beat them into submission according to someone else’s specifications. Also, everyone gets rejected. A lot. All the time, really. Yes, even the pros.
What writing projects are you working on now?
I am working on several speculative short stories with August submission targets. Then I plan to focus on some literary fiction and nonfiction ideas before all the speculative pieces come back rejected and bum me out. And I mustn’t forget a humorous story about a zygote that I’d promised a good Twitter friend months ago I’d submit.