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EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW: Jay Lake on “The Fathomless Abyss”

Jay Lake lives in Portland, Oregon, where he works on numerous writing and editing projects. His books for 2012 and 2013 include Kalimpura from Tor and Love in the Time of Metal and Flesh from Prime. His short fiction appears regularly in literary and genre markets worldwide. Jay is a winner of the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer, and a multiple nominee for the Hugo and World Fantasy Awards.

SF Signal had the opportunity to talk with him about shared worlds and The Fathomless Abyss, a shared world anthology featuring stories from Jay, Mike Resnick, Cat Rambo, J.M. McDermott, Mel Odom, Brad Torgersen and Philip Athans. In The Fathomless Abyss, a bottomless pit opens who-knows-when onto who-knows-where, just long enough for new people from a thousand different worlds and a million different times to fall in and join the fight for survival in a place where the slightest misstep means an everlasting fall into eternity. In this world, the laws of physics work against you, there’s no way out, and time means nothing…

CHARLES TAN: Hi Jay! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, how did you get involved with The Fathomless Abyss series?

JAY LAKE: Pretty simple. I’d worked with series editor Phil Athans on another project about two years before The Fathomless Abyss started. He liked my words and we both enjoyed working together, so when he and Mel Odom cooked up the concept, they invited me in. I’m always up for something new and fun, so in I jumped.

CT: What’s the appeal of the Fathomless Abyss setting for you?

JL: A combination of the sheer weirdness, and the open-ended possibilities provided by imposing significant narrative constraints. Writing within tight boundaries can be very liberating, because of all the things you *don’t* have to do to build the story. And the world is charmingly cock-eyed, while still possessed of vast possibility.

CT: What are the challenges and rewards when it comes to writing in this shared-world setting?

JL: Like any shared-world setting, the need to cooperate and collaborate means I have to be careful about introducing large concepts, or having plot elements with far-reaching consequences. These kinds of projects encourage stories that one might describe as someone encapsulated. The bigger the scope, the more overlap. That is both a challenge and a reward in its own right. Plus there’s always the fun of bouncing off other writers and the work that they do.

CT: How different or similar is the experience, working with Athans & Associates Creative Consulting, compared to working with the other independent presses you’ve worked with in the past?

JL: Phil takes enthusiasm to a level that I might describe as pathological. (This is a good thing in a publisher.) His experience at Wizards of the Coast and elsewhere means he brings trade press perspectives to these projects. He’s also a very flexible thinker, with respect to business terms and so forth. The most important quality an independent press can have from my perspective is good organization. Some are famous for it — Tachyon and Subterranean spring to mind. Phil does a pretty good job in that dimension as well.

CT: What can you share with us about your upcoming novella?

JL: An as yet unwritten tale of adventure and woe set against a backdrop of a world of shadows! (ie, I don’t know yet…)

Charles Tan is the editor of Lauriat: A Filipino-Chinese Speculative Fiction Anthology.

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