Annie’s Book Stop of Worcester is happy to shine a spotlight on native Worcester writer Alan Ira Gordon, who we are excited to have join us for our Ray Bradbury Day. Alan will be giving a talk based on his Bradbury research and appreciation.
Thank you for joining us, Alan! Can you please tell us briefly a little about yourself and your writing? How would you like us to introduce you?
I’m a full-time practicing government urban planner as well as a part-time planning professor at Worcester State University. I’ve been writing genre and mainstream fiction and poetry for many years, mostly science fiction but also fantasy, horror, slipstream and mainstream. I’ve been in a wide variety of publications including wider/larger markets such as The Magazine of Fantasy & Science Fiction and Analog, as well as many middle and smaller magazines and anthologies. I’ve also been an associate anthology editor for Whortleberry Press, won the Worcester Magazine annual short story competition and received an Honorable Mention for science fiction story of the year in the eighth annual Year’s Best Science Fiction anthology from St. Martin’s Press.
What draws you to the particular genre or style that you write? What do you think draws readers to these kinds of books?
I’m drawn to the speculative aspect of genre fiction, the plotting and situation of real world situations that develop an otherworldy element that affects the seemingly real-world realism of the plot. Ed Ferman, the renowned editor of The Magazine Of Fantasy and Science Fiction, was brilliant at finding and publishing such tales, the reading of which hooked me on the genre in those days, and renowned genre editor Gardner Dozois has continued presenting that wonderful style of speculative literature into today’s publishing market. Those are the type of stories that grab me and inspire me to write my own stories and poems.
As a history buff and trained/educated urban historian, I’m also addicted to reading and writing alternate reality tales; I just love the interesting nuances and fresh versions of history that the alternate history genre offers-up!
Writers very often have furry or feathered or otherwise non-human companions to “help” them through their work. Do you? What do you have? How do they “help” (or, “not-help”) with your writing?
[This question] is very central to my writing! My current husky, Lucky, and my former husky, Beau, have been and are very central to helping me write. It’s the lifestyle of regularly-scheduled long walks and hikes that open my mind and get the creative thoughts both flowing and sorted-out. Part of my writing occurs in my head as Lucky and I walk; I’ve written story lines and poem stanzas in my head while walking, evolved story structure and developed characterization, along with solving plot dilemmas. I honestly don’t think I could write without my dog in my life!
I know a well-known accomplished writer of children’s short stories who actually retired from a stellar writing career when her last dog passed away and she felt she was at a later stage of life no longer able to care for a pet. I can understand how she felt the deep connection between the pet companion lifestyle and the life force/process of writing!
What is the greatest lesson you’ve learned, thus far, in your writing career?
The greatest lesson I’ve learned thus far in my writing career is both patience and openness in the writing process. Patience in taking time to think and plot a work of writing, not rushing it to a conclusion. Openness to rewriting, adapting and changing, changing, ever-changing to allow a plot or poem to properly develop to its rightful final version/conclusion. I’ve met too many well-intentioned and talented writers who are afraid to redraft, rewrite, break an idea back down and approach it in a better manner and as such ultimately fail to create a good and publishable final product. Your story or poem in its initial draft or idea is not a holy relic or set in concrete, it’s malleable and changeable, and it should be seen as a living and changing element. I’ve learned that from many successful writers and that lesson has served me well in both creating stories and poems that I’m satisfied with and many that have seen the light of publication.
Are there any groups, clubs, or organizations that you would recommend to other writers that have helped you in your career?
I think it’s great to get involved in both local and non-local networking. Locally in Worcester, the poetry scene is amazing and I particularly enjoy and love the poetry group events at Annie’s! Nationally, the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writer’s of America (SFWA), Horror Writer’s Association and Science Fiction Poetry Association are wonderful groups that welcome folks of all writing levels and interests. And we’re very fortunate here in Massachusetts to annually host the national ReaderCon, attracting hundreds of fans and writers to partake in genre panels and workshops. ReaderCon is in Burlington these days, but I cherish my experiences of attending the many annual ReaderCons held here in Worcester back in the 90’s. I learned so much chatting at those Worcester-based ReaderCons with the likes of science fiction pros including Jack Dann, Algis Budrys (that great writer actually was married to a Worcester woman and annually visited here for years!), Glen Cook, Rebecca Ore, Jonathan Lethem and Terri Bisson, as well as connecting with fantastic editors such as Gordon van Gelder and Sheila Williams. So ReaderCon is by all means a major recommendation for writers and readers to immerse themselves in, as far as I’m concerned!
Where can people find your work? (Besides ABSW ;)–though they should totally check here first!)
You can find my work in a wide variety of places, including a comprehensive listing and links on my webpage at http://www.alaniragordon.com, in several Whortleberry Press anthologies and I’m a regular contributor to Star*Line, the journal of the Science Fiction Poetry Association. Just this week, my latest science fiction poem was published in the October issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact. I have a poem in the recently released annual 2015 version of the popular science fiction anthology The Martian Wave from Nomadic Delirium Press.
How can we follow your work, share your awesomeness, or otherwise stalk you in a totally non-creepy way?
Folks can follow my work and generally stalk me via my webpage at www.alaniragordon.com!
Thank you very much for joining us, Alan, and we look forward to seeing you for Ray Bradbury Day!