sept.oct.2017.fandsfcvr

Here is my interview with The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction regarding the story, “Riddle,” that appears in the September-October 2017 68th Anniversary issue. You may also view this online on the F&SF blog at https://www.sfsite.com/fsf/blog/2017/10/10/interview-lisa-mason-on-riddle/A couple of reviews follow.

Tell us a bit about "Riddle."
As a writer and a reader, I’m much more interested in inner space than outer space. In stories about people living on society’s fringe than in starship captains or kings. In tales exploring consciousness, gender, and identity than in tales of derring-do, fisticuffs, and gun battles. (Though there are some fisticuffs in “Riddle.”)
I prefer tight, bold prose and try to achieve that effect in “Riddle.”

What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?
I have no idea—for once. This is one of the darkest stories I’ve ever written. I will say I wanted to set a supernatural story in my fascinating old neighborhood of North Beach in San Francisco.
“Riddle” is what bubbled out of my subconscious mind.

Was "Riddle" personal to you in any way? If so, how?
Oh, yes! I lived for some years in North Beach with my husband, Tom Robinson. Tom has degrees from the San Francisco Art Institute, the Academy of Art University, and the Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts. He’s a working artist, jeweler, and sculptor and at the time, he’d gotten the lease on a dream art studio.
The place was an entire flat above a belly dancing club in a Stick-Eastlake Victorian building on Broadway between Montgomery Street and Columbus Avenue. Twenty-foot ceilings, an entire wall of exposed brick, another of floor-to-ceiling built-in bookshelves.
Half a block west on Broadway is Enrico’s with its broad patio where, at three in the morning, we would see U2, Diana Ross, and Bill Cosby (yes, he was a foul-mouthed jerk even then). Two blocks down to Columbus and half a block up to the intersection of Grant Avenue and Vallejo Street is the Caffé Trieste, a coffeehouse situated at that location since 1956. The Beat poets congregated there—Philip Lamantia, Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Bob Kaufman, Allen Ginsberg, and William Burroughs. Burroughs published science fiction in F&SF! Or at least his novel, Nova Express, was reviewed in F&SF in the 1960s.
I took Bruce Sterling to the Trieste when he was in town for the premier issue of Wired Magazine. Bruce was on the cover and a number of people were reading Wired when we walked in. Surreal!
[I neglected the add that Francis Ford Coppola wrote the screenplay for “The Godfather” on a portable typewriter at a back table. I myself never saw him there, so that may be an urban legend, but husband Tom swears it is true.]
Around the corner was the Roma Caffé. I took Robert Silverberg there for pizza and Ellen Datlow for omelets on the back patio.
When you head two blocks down on Columbus Avenue, you’ll find Vesuvio, another gathering place for nearly sixty years. My favorite spot is the John Wilkes Booth on the mezzanine.
So North Beach is a very cool neighborhood. Coolness isn’t enough to drive a story, though. I needed a high concept. A supernatural high concept. I found that in “Riddle.”

Can you tell us about any of the research you may have done for this story?
Once I had my supernatural hook, I researched (plot spoiler alert!) sphinxes.
The classic legend tells of the sphinx in the desert who waylays travelers and poses a riddle. If a traveler can’t produce the answer, she kills and devours them.
Then Ulysses on his travels encountered the sphinx. She asked, “What walks on four legs at sunrise, two legs at noon, and three legs at sunset? When he correctly answered, “Man. As a baby he crawls on hands and knees. As an adult he walks on his own two legs. And as elderly, he walks with a cane.” Infuriated, the sphinx turned to stone and that’s what we see before the Great Pyramid in Egypt.
Greek and ancient Egyptian iconography portray the sphinx as a male animal—a man’s head and chest atop a lion’s body like the Great Sphinx at Giza. French sphinxes from the Louis the Fourteenth era, however, depict sphinxes as voluptuously female. (Leave it to the French!)
I knew I wanted my sphinx to be voluptuously, wickedly female.

What would you want a reader to take away from "Riddle?"
That love is complicated. Human consciousness is complicated. And life…you can’t be too sure about life. Fiction is meant to provide structure for our chaotic reality. I strove to make that point in “Anything For You,” published in the September-October 2016 F&SF. But sometimes fiction needs to point out the chaos.
I deliberately left an ambiguity at the story’s end, which I hope readers will ponder. If any reader wants to discuss this with me, I’ve got a Facebook Author Page and I’m on Goodreads. Come visit and we’ll talk!

What are you working on now?
I’ve just published a short novel, One Day in the Life of Alexa, with my independent publisher, Bast Books, for the purpose of placing it in an international fiction competition with a 20,000 pound prize. The title is available as a brand-new beautiful trade paperback and as an ebook worldwide on Kindle, Barnes and Noble, Apple, Kobo, and Smashwords.

The first review, on Goodreads, says, “Incorporates lively prose, past/present time jumps, and the consequences of longevity technology…An absorbing read with an appealing narrator and subtly powerful emotional rhythms.”

Another five star review on Amazon noted: 5.0 out of 5 stars Lisa Mason doesn't disappoint us on that issue and gives us a look ...
By R Bruce Milleron October 1, 2017
Format: Kindle Edition
Scifi is nominally about the future and the impact of technology on society. Lisa Mason doesn't disappoint us on that issue and gives us a look at a desirable biotechnology with some serious long-term and unforeseen consequences. However, like all the truly great scifi writers, what she really writes about is you and me and today and what is really important in life. Alexa lives an improbable life and yet, somehow, is a very real everywoman. Solzhenitsyn would have appreciated the homage. Cats! Grow your own organic food! Yes, there is much fun to be had on this journey, but the message nonetheless is solid and important. I enjoyed every word even though this book spoiled my day because I had no choice but to read it in one sitting while drinking too much coffee.

Also, I’ve just re-released in print Summer of Love, a Philip K. Dick Award Finalist, and The Gilded Age(originally titled The Golden Nineties), a New York Times Notable Book. This is an Author’s Preferred Edition set, with Tom Robinson’s beautiful covers. Both are feminist historical novels as well as extrapolations into the far future when women’s issues—and humanity’s issues—have taken a different turn. Those two books are as timely as ever and I’m very glad to republish them in print and as ebooks worldwide on all the retailers.

And my urban fantasy, The Garden of Abracadabra, has just been released in Print. That book is also an ebook on all the retailers worldwide.

More of my backlist books will be forthcoming in print in the next several months. And another dark modern fantasy, “Aurelia,” is forthcoming in F&SF in 2018.
I’ve got an SF novel in the works and, always, more stories!

Here are some reviews of “Riddle”:

http://www.amazingstoriesmag.com/2017/10/review-fsf-sept-oct-2017/
Lisa Mason’s “Riddle” is set in a city we both love, San Francisco. (If you have been paying attention, you’ll remember that her book Summer of Love has a special resonance for me, because I spent that particular Summer in the Haight-Ashbury district of San Francisco.) This story takes place in North Beach, where in the ‘60s, Carol Doda (a 44DD, thanks to implants!) danced topless at the Condor Club. (If you remember the movie Dirty Harry, North Beach is near where the church was.) Edwin Stone is an artist; his girlfriend Nikki has left him. She did so partly because of his lack of ambition, because he was content to just get by with his talent—but there are always multiple reasons for breakups—but Stone has decided his best friend is the boilermaker. (I had my first boilermakers in San Francisco, which residents call The City; never “Frisco.”) One night, completely drunk, Edwin rescues a vagrant sphinx. Part woman, part lion, all riddle. If you remember what happens to those who can’t answer The Riddle of the Sphinx, you might guess this story’s end. (Or not.) Nicely written!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/36123438-the-magazine-of-fantasy-science-fiction-september-october-2017
In all honestly, most of these had intriguing concepts and all of them were very well-written, but there were only a few that I would actually say I enjoyed. Just because of my personal tastes. Those being Lisa Mason's "Riddle" and Michael Swanwick's "Starlight Express".

http://www.sfrevu.com/php/Review-id.php?id=17551
"Riddle" by Lisa Mason -+- Edwin Stone is a down-down-on-his-luck artist whose girlfriend has left him. Drunk, he takes home a very different woman, a sphinx, part cat, part woman. She asks him riddles, he answers, they have passionate sex. But she does something else, too. Unsettling little horror tale.

http://www.tangentonline.com/print--bi-monthly-reviewsmenu-260/221-fantasy-a-science-fiction/3569-fantasy-a-science-fiction-septemberoctober-2017
"Riddle" by Lisa Mason
Edwin is an artist who has broken up with a woman and is trying to hook up with a waitress but fails. Then he meets a strange something in the alley on his way home which turns out to be a sphinx. Lots of riddles and weird sex and horrific things follow.
Some may see this as a tale of one screwed-up clueless nutcase. Others may see it as a defense of women who want to "fix up" their projects of boyfriends. Some may see this as a really powerful embedding of ideas in imagination.  . . . [P]oints for a memorable sphinx and a vividly nightmarish quality.

There’s plenty more good stuff this issue. Lisa Mason’s ‘‘Riddle’’ is a slickly executed horror story about a declining painter whose girlfriend has left him, and who meets another woman – or is she a woman? The title hints at what she really is – and what she really does is pretty scary.—Rich Horton’s column, Locus Magazine

"Riddle" by Lisa Mason: a charged story about a down-and-out artist who meets an unusual female who speaks in riddles. Physical and emotional mayhem ensues.
—Goodreads

Home Author's Bio Books Stories
Summer of Love The Gilded Age
The Garden of Abracadabra
Strange Ladies: 7 Stories
Celestial Girl, A Lily Modjeska Mystery
Shaken Tomorrow's Child Hummers The Sixty-third Anniversary of Hysteria
Every Mystery Unexplained Daughter of the Tao
Tesla, A Screenplay U F uh-O
My Charlotte: Patty's Story
Eon's Kiss (Book 1 of the Eon Trilogy) by Suzanna Moore
Bast Collectible Books
Alana
Luna
Time Travel Blogs with Laura Vosika 4 to 5
Chats About Writing with Ryan Schneider (1) Chats About Writing with Ryan Schneider (2)
Castles in the Sky Interview
Festivale Interview
The Next Thing
Art by Tom Robinson
Keep Fit, Keep Writing: A Roundtable with Kevin J. Anderson, Lisa Mason and Linda Nagata (Part 2: Chow Down!)
Reviews of Summer of Love by Locus Magazine and Award-winning Author Lewis Shiner

Ryan Schneider Chats with Lisa Mason About The Garden of Abracadabra

The Story Collection Storybundle
"Aether", The New Painting by Tom Robinson
"Anything For You" Interview with The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction
"Illyria, My Love"
Arachne Cyberweb
The Artificial Intelligence Storybundle
One Day in the Life of Alexa
Interview for "Riddle" in the September-October 2017 Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction

All content copyright 2000-2017 by Lisa Mason. All artwork copyright 2000-2017 by Tom Robinson.

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