EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Lucius Shepard Talks About ‘The Flock’

[Interviewer’s Note: This is a series of interviews featuring the contributors of The Beastly Bride: Tales of the Animal People edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling.]

Lucius Shepard was born in Lynchburg Virginia, grew up in Daytona Beach, Florida, and currently lives in Portland, Oregon. His fiction has won the Nebula Award, the Hugo Award, The International Horror Writers Award, The National Magazine Award, the Locus Award, The Theodore Sturgeon Award, the Shirley Jackson award, and the World Fantasy Award.

His latest books are the massive career retrospective, The Best of Lucius Shepard, and a collection of short fiction called Viator Plus. Forthcoming in 2010 is collection of five novellas, tentatively called Extras. He is finishing work on a longish novel about which he will not speak.


Charles Tan: Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. What made you decide to use grackles in your story?

Lucius Shepard: Because the folk tale I referenced in the story specified grackles. I’ve no particular fondness for grackles. By all accounts they’re devious, vicious, unprincipled, rather like people, though grackles are nowhere near the conversationalists that human beings are.

CT: What is it about Blackbeard and the Devil’s Birds that interests you?

LS: I’ve always had a passing interest in pirates, and the Devil’s Birds story relating to Blackbeard piqued that interest; but frankly the idea of typical transformations, were-creatures and all that, didn’t really thrill me until I thought about using a high school football team as a focal point. I was far more intrigued by the idea of writing a fantasy in which high school athletics featured prominently–it’s not something you often see.

CT: “The Flock” is one of the lengthier pieces in the anthology. How did you decide upon the length, or was it the result of simply writing the story you wanted to tell?

LS: The latter. I usually write long is all. I considered it a triumph that I could manage this story at less than novella length.

CT: In your last three lines, Dawn and your narrator provide two different paradigms when it comes to memory. Whose perspective do you personally subscribe to?

LS: Neither…or both. The power of memory is transformative and allows us to edit reality as we choose.

CT: What’s the appeal of the Beastly Bride concept for you?

LS: The concept mainly appealed to the fact that I had a story in mind that fit it (sort of, anyway). But I suppose I have an overarching fascination with the concept of transformation, as does the rest of humanity, judging by the number of legends and folk tales dealing with the subject, not to mention the number of genre stories. I chose to employ a more mechanical type pf transformation than is usual because I thought it lent the story a darker, spookier edge.