Konstantine Paradias is a jeweler by profession and a writer by choice. His short stories in English have been published in the Unidentified Funny Objects! 2 Anthology, Third FlatIron's Lost Worlds Anthology and Horrified Press' Nightmare Stalkers and DreamWalkers. His short story, 'The Grim' is nominated for a PushCart award. He also rants about the state of pop culture and gaming in general on his Blog, Shapescapes (shapescapes.blogspot.com)Shapescapes
1) Why do you write?
This is a doozy of a question: why do I write? I guess it’s because I can’t help it otherwise. If I don’t, I feel like I am wasting my time, feeling unfulfilled and directionless. The potential stories in my head possibly tamper with my brain and perhaps make nest in the stress centers and peck at my gray matter with their beaks, while the book ideas crawl all the way down to my monkey brain and go : “what are you doing with your life?”
Then again, I feel that even while
I am writing, so I am not really, really sure if I am even helping myself or
just feeding into an addiction. Maybe I am like those people who have quit
trying to quit smoking, I guess. I get an itch and it won’t go away until I’ve
got at least 900 words worth of product written down on a word document and
sent out to a publisher.
Then, when it is rejected, I rewrite it and resend it, while I write something else to rewrite and sometimes I skip sleeping or lunch because I JUST need to get that 5k today, because the next thing’s just around the corner, so I just…
Oh God, I think I might have a problem here.
2) Where do you find inspiration for writing?
I’m not supposed to go around telling people that, but I buy it from a guy I know. He sells these grade-A aspiring artists’ tears, in small bottles that I inject into my frontal lobe with the help of an unliscenced chiropractor. The process is absolutely painful, but it gets me my 600-word-a-day quota and it appeases my fears of being a hack. But you have to wonder where those tears come from. Sometimes I think that I’m an experimental performance artist. This one time, I woke up in the middle of the night and wrapped myself in saran wrap then sang this weird song in French. I think it had something to do with sad clowns.
But then I just can’t find my guy, then I guess my only option is simply treating a story like actual work: sometimes, the best way to be inspired is to plainly ask someone what kind of story it is they want you to tell and THEN work around it, doing your own thing. Other times, I aim for what the publisher DOESN’T want, and I work on a borderline basis with that. It’s fun, when you’re walking that thin, thin line between rejection and acceptance. The rejections don’t seem too bad then (you were asking for it at the time) and the acceptances are rare, wonderful occasions.
3) Without spoiling the plot, what inspired you to write your story for Capes and Clockwork?
Once upon a time, I and a friend of mine were bashing established monoliths of pop culture (as all nerds are wont to do on lonely Saturday nights). We were going on and on about the universe-killers and the famous planet-eaters, detailing how we would have been SOOO much better at it (we wouldn’t) and how everything needed to be changed, pronto.
We were halfway through discussing the specifics of Superman’s death at the hands of doomsday, when my friend said: what if somebody could burn Superman to crisp? How would he come back then?
The obvious answer was: through something that can burn everything by the merest touch. A quick Google search produced and equivalent in Phlogiston, the pseudo-scientific material that Isaac Newton wasted his life trying to prove (and failed). It wasn’t long before the idea of a Phlogiston-based cosmic threat came along, its possible ramifications and then, finally, a possible counter-measure against it.
Turned out the cure was worse than the disease, though.
4) Who is your favorite author? Why?
I have about a dozen favorite authors as of this time, but if I had to choose I would go with Kurt Vonnegut. He’s not the most original choice, but he’s got so many, wonderful things about him (personally) that make him my favorite author.
He’s a bloody cynic, for starters, who adopted a hippie-look
to promote his work, which mostly details the futility of human endeavour. His
stories are dark little bits that delve into human nature and reflect his own
opinion that’s been bubbling under that charming smile.
5) What is your favorite book? Why?
Again, by Kurt Vonnegut, the Sirens of Titan. There’s a nice little gem of science-fiction. It’s a wonderfully woven narrative about horrible people swept up by cosmic necessity, to perform feats of historically altering significance and being destroyed in the process, each of them martyred for the greater good.
It features the best robot in science fiction so far, it brims with cruelty and it is darkly funny, with an ending that exists in the grey area between utterly, utterly horrible and sadly sweet.
6) What’s the best response a fan or critic has ever given to your work, and how did you respond to it?
I guess it was with a story of mine, called ‘The Gears That
Ground The Hearts of Children’, on Aphelion Magazine. The story was about a boy
who finds out he was never really real and the trauma this causes to him, his
parents and the entire neighbourhood. While the readers generally like the
story, the best response I received was from a reader who managed, according to
some research on his part, pinpoint roughly the decade during which the story
would take place (it was 2110).
I’ve heard people tell me how they loved or hated something I wrote, but for a guy to RESEARCH the year where it takes place? Damn, man, that felt great!
7) What is the worst response a fan or critic has ever given to your work, and how did you respond to it?
It was not actually a worst response, it was more of a rant
on why my story sucked and how I am an idiot for writing this. It was the very
first time I was called names on it and after trying (a couple times) and
failing to understand how I could possibly fix the story through feedback that
mostly explained how I was dumber than a wet cucumber, I just gave up and
posted pictures of smiling kittens.
As for a critic, I think the worst response was a “your story did not work because another similar story has already been accepted/we did not like it or for any other possible reason”. This is an actual, unedited rejection letter I received from a magazine (which will remain nameless for the sake of decency). It provided zero explanation as to what didn’t work with the story and was in a way, much more harmful than the plain, robotic “the story didn’t just work for us” response most magazines email you. I tried contacting the magazine, but all my emails were ignored. When I tried asking the editor (whom I contacted personally), the editor explained to me how “they cannot afford to waste their time on rejections” and that “I should try sending something better next time”.
I left it at that. The story got picked up by another publisher and is now nominated for a Pushcart award, so I guess it turned out okay in the end.
8) What is the best constructive criticism you’ve ever received and who gave it to you?
This ons is two-fold: one is from Waylines magazine (which, I might add, sports the nicest editors I have met so far), who always take time to explain why a submitted story did not work for them. They went into as much detail as they could about how the story I had submitted had a ton of buildup and that while they would not buy the story, they would definitely read the novel, which is what led me to start work on my current book.
The other was by a friend of mine, Justin Case, who is a professional illustrator. He had aoffered to check out a novelette I was working on and plain old asked me, when he was done, if I wanted his complete and truthful critique. I said yes of course, so Justin went on to rip the story to bloody shreds, exposing all the glaring problems that I just could not see, then handed it back to me. Turns out his advice was pretty solid, because it has saved my bacon more times than I can count already.
9) Is there a book you read again and again? Why?
There’s actually two: One is Chuck Pallanhiuk’s Choke. It’s a gritty visceral little deal that stars a horrible person who is punished for being such a terrible bastard all the time and makes you feel sorry for them, even as you keep hating them. It has also some excellent writing and the introduction runs you over like a 35-wheeler.
The other one is Zelazny’s Lord of the Light. God, what can I say about this book? I first read it when I was 17, after a trip to India with my father and I got my impressionable little mind blown to smithereens from page 12, when Sam the Buddha played dice with the Rakasha, then tore through it across battlefields where ancient, impossible machines clashed with monsters from the depths of history and was awed at the battles of the gods. It was the very first, honest-to-god science fantasy book I ever read and it scarred my brain.
10) What is your opinion of the classics in the genre in which you generally write? That is, do they deserve to be classics?
In science-fiction (the genre which I mostly write in) there is a TON of excellent stories by impossibly gifted people who have inspired me. From Harlan Ellison to Vonnegut to Bester to all the innumerable minds that have made this genre the collection of awesome that it is today. Even when I discovered superhero comics (and superhero fiction) I have found very, very few exceptions to the rules among my main sources of inspiration.
But I do have a couple sore points when it comes to writers: first off, there is Isaac Asimov, who is pretty much the granddaddy of modern scifi, whose work (while pioneering pretty much every staple of the genre) is dry and humorless. His stories (with the exception of the one with the robot that thinks it’s truly alive and that humans are the manufactured, inferior species) bore me and I have not finished any one of his books. But the man was a genius, I have to give him that.
The other one is Heinlein. Now, I am in no position to criticize a man who is known to be the other great monolith of modern science fiction, but I just couldn’t go through stories that are about how bad communism is, about time-travelling women who have a creepy, semi-incestuous relation with their father and all their children and great big ventures into life in 19th century America in the middle of a story about 31st century multi-dimensional warfare.
11) How much do you read?
As much as I possibly can. I try to finish as many books as
possible, in order to meet my quota as a reviewer for
BestSciencefictionstories.com, but my favorite bits are anthologies, because
they pack so many bits of sweet awesomeness in condensed format from so many
While my attention span is terrible, I always do my best to read through pretty much everything I can get my hands on, getting it done within the week so I can pick up the ext thing. Unless it’s something by, say, James Morrow. Then I’m through it in less than 24 hours.
12) What is your most current project that is close to publication?
Right now, there’s the Chrome Horde, a book about the
restored Mongol Horde, cutting a swathe of bloody destruction across Asia all
the way to your back yard in the advent of a fossil fuel apocalypse. As of this
moment, I am 10 thousand words away from an ending before the book is shipped
off to the publisher.
But if we’re talking immediate
here, then I guess it must be my erotica novelette, Loved by Heaven, Fouled by Hell, which is to hit shelves sometime
in December, by Breathless Press.
Mr. Paradias, thank you for dropping by.