Issue 035 Author Interview: Beth Goder and “Pulling Secrets from Stones”

You’ve read Issue 035, right? If not, go–nay, run–and check it out. There are 16 fabulous spec fic stories in there! One of them, “Pulling Secrets from Stones” is by Beth Goder. We’re excited to post our recent interview with her today!

LSQ: Putting unwanted memories into stones–dangerous, but an appealing concept. Is this something you’d ever consider if it were possible? What drew you to this idea?

Beth: As an archivist, I work with historical documents, so I think a lot about how the historical record influences our collective memory. (In other words, how the documents we save change how we understand our history.) I work with all sorts of documents–correspondence, diaries, business records, photographs. It occurs to me that a document is a little like a memory stone, storing information about the past that would otherwise be forgotten. Those gray manuscript boxes where we house our documents are certainly stone-like, and you never know what you are going to find when you open one up.

As for giving up memories, the archivist in me wants to hold on to everything. I will often tell people that history is full of terrible people doing terrible things, but it’s important for us to remember what has gone on before. It’s important for us to understand how historical choices affect the world today.

I wrote another story, The Forgetting Place, which touches on what we lose when we give up our memories, even the ones that are most difficult for us.

LSQ: What was the most challenging thing about writing this story?

Beth: I originally wrote this story using a prompt from The First Line, which is a neat little magazine that, as you might guess from the name, asks authors to write stories using the same first line. The sentence that inspired this story was: “By the fifteenth month of the drought, the lake no longer held her secrets.” To meet the deadline, I wrote the first couple drafts of “Pulling Secrets From Stones” in one week, a furious pace for me.

After some critiques, I realized that the story had some structural issues. I rewrote the first section (and the first line), and reworked some of the imagery at the end. After that, the story came together a little better.

LSQ: What advice would you give to someone who’s afraid of change?

Beth: I myself am someone who dislikes change. I think a fear of change is really fear of the unknown. But if you refuse to change, you can get stuck with a bad status quo. How can you know if something better is out there if you never explore?

LSQ: Are you working on other projects currently? If so, can you tell us a bit about them?

Beth: I recently finished up final edits on two short stories, so I’m deciding what to tackle next. I’ve got a folder full of ideas, outlines, and stalled story drafts. Next, I might work on the story with the woman employed as a lexicographer at a dictionary and who of course has a little magic in her voice, or a story looking at the ethical implications of the trolley problem as it relates to self-driving cars, or the one with the college student who gets stuck in a parallel universe where everything is made out of bananas. I also have a file here called, “Death and the Magical Kazoos,” which my notes tell me is supposed to be a literary story of great seriousness. We’ll see about that.