Author of “Letters to the Earth” (Contemporary Fantasy)
How long have you been writing? Do you write in genres other than speculative fiction? If so, which ones? If not, why do you prefer spec fic?
I’ve only been writing for a little over four years now. I started in earnest during my sophomore year at college, somewhere around 2013 I think. I had changed my major several times at that point and didn’t know what I really wanted to do, with my life, career, any of it. I happened to enjoy my composition classes simply because I was putting out good work. One of my instructors, who I will always be grateful for, suggested I change my major to English. I figured one more change of major couldn’t hurt so I tried it. I took an introductory creative writing class and I’ve been writing seriously ever since. I do remember trying to write a book when I was maybe eleven or twelve, but I gave up after a chapter or two because writing long hand was hard for me. So maybe the desire was always there, it just took an adult brain to figure it out I guess. It’s not a glamorous or exciting story really.
As far as what I write, yes I do write genres other than speculative fiction. I write in whatever genre suits the story that’s in my head. That said, I prefer speculative fiction. I like stories that seem to ask (and sometimes answer) a “what if” question. I don’t know why I like to write stories like that. Those are the stories I like to read (and to watch) so I guess it has something to do with that.
What are some of your literary influences? How did you encounter them?
Like a lot of genre writers, my first real literary influence was Stephen King. In the introductory creative writing class I mentioned in my last answer, we read King’s memoir On Writing, and I loved every word of it. I’m absolutely sure that book had something to do with my decision to become a writer. His life and struggles so closely mirrored my own, and his philosophy of writing, for lack of a better written phrase, struck a chord with me. After that class, I went to the library, and over the next six months, read every King book they had. Then I started buying them, starting another, different kind of obsession. Since then I’ve read almost all of his works, and thankfully I didn’t rent On Writing for that class, so I’ve still got my dog-eared copy, with all my margin notes, tucked safely away on my shelf.
Beyond King, I found other literary influences through my American Literature classes. I fell in love with the work of Jack London, Frank Norris (McTeague is one of my favorite novels), and Mark Twain (the title of my 5X5 story is a reference to a Mark Twain story). I really appreciate the simplicity of their prose and the candor of their stories.
In speculative fiction, I tend to read what’s being written right now in the SF magazines, like Clarkesworld or Metaphorosis. I find myself consistently being influenced by what I read from these contemporary speculative fiction writers. There are too many to name, but many of them are in this anthology. Needless to say, I am always gobsmacked by what others are doing in this genre right now.
Are there themes that you find recurring in your work? If so, what are they, and why do you think they recur?
I see loneliness in my short stories a lot, either through the characters or the setting. I think the short story is kind of a lonely medium on its own, and it definitely prompts lonely stories, at least from me. Short stories really are the perfect place to examine the connections we have with each other, and how one person can never truly know another. So that makes for some lonely stuff. On the other end of that, many of my stories seek to find connection and meaning in that loneliness. The ones that manage this end up being my best stories, I feel.
I would like to say that these themes reoccur in my work because I am a deeply tortured and misunderstood artist, but honestly I just think the medium of a short story prompts somber tones from me. So I don’t know where these themes come from. I’ll have to see what my therapist thinks.
What writing projects are you working on right now?
I’m collaborating with an independent filmmaker on a screenplay right now. It’s this strange mockumentary about two redneck weeaboos trying to find internet success with a YouTube channel. I can’t really say much besides that, not because I’m not allowed to, but because I really can’t think of any other way to describe it.
And I’m always writing short stories. That never really stops.
For someone who wants to read more of your work, which of your stories would you recommend, and how can people find them?
The story I have published in the November 2016 issues of Metaphorosis, “The Cartographer,” is a great place to start. It’s probably one of my best, so it’s a good place to end too. But for the interested, links to all my stories can be found on my blog here:
You can read Caleb Warner’s story in Metaphorosis Magazine, “The Cartographer,” for free online.
For more about Caleb Warner: