An Interview With
David F. Shultz writes speculative fiction from Toronto, Canada, where he is lead editor at TDotSpec Inc and Speculative North magazine. His over-sixty published works are featured or forthcoming through publishers such as Diabolical Plots, Third Flatiron, and Abyss & Apex.
Check out his work before you get to know the man?
Can you recall the very first story you wrote? When was this? What was it about?
The first story I wrote was in grade one; it was called Chickety Choo, and it was about someone who goes for walk. They see a few different things, then they describe their walk: “I liked it, I liked it, I did!” The end. (I hadn’t learned yet about the importance of conflict in stories.)
Well, that’s not bad at all. Anything I wrote in first grade rarely took more than a line. XD
Are you a plotter or a pantser? Do you come up with ideas spontaneously or you lay some groundwork before you actually start writing?
I think everyone writes with an outline—pansters just calls theirs “the first draft”. Discovery writers will inevitably need to revise large structural problems; I’d rather save myself the trouble and sort some of these things out in the planning stage.
What are the steps in your creative process? How many drafts do you go through until you’re satisfied with the end result?
For me the creative process depends on the story. Some stories need more research than others, and some stories need more planning and outlining than others. As far as drafts, it really depends. With short stories, I will revise until I think it’s ready, then I will submit to a publisher and wait until I hear back before looking at it again. If a story is rejected, I will usually take another look at it to see if there is anything that can be improved before I send it out again.
Is your family supportive about your creative endeavors? Who is your go to buddy when something goes wrong and you need a shoulder? Do you belong to any awesome writer circles?
I belong to the Toronto Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers group. It is a supportive and encouraging group that values positivity, diversity, and equality. There are more than 660 members, and there are usually two-or-three meetings a week. The main meetings we do are beta-feedback sessions, but we also do writing sprints, workshops, and social events. Since writing is normally a solitary enterprise, it’s great to be part of such a supportive, encouraging, and friendly group of writers.
You’re a terrific writer. What writing tips would you like to give to upcoming writers? What is the most important rule of fiction? What makes a story brilliant?
Besides the obvious tips, which are to read a lot and write a lot, it’s also important to maintain a growth mindset and to engage in deliberate learning. A growth mindset means recognizing that putting effort into something will lead to increase in your skill; no one is born as a talented writer—talent is the outcome of sustained and regular practice, and the more you put into it, the better you will get. A growth mindset also means that learning is never done; there is always room for improvement. Deliberate learning means setting yourself particular learning goals and doing exercises to achieve those specific goals; while you will improve just by reading and writing a lot, you can improve more quickly by focussing on specific skills and developing them through directed exercises and challenges.
I don’t know that I could summarize what makes good fiction. I think it depends on the type of story and the taste of the reader. But “keep the reader turning pages” is probably close to a good rule.
Let’s now talk about your Unreal story. Tell us what it’s about. How did the idea come to you?
Abrama’s End Game is about an AI NPC, named Abrama, who lives inside of a MMORPG called Land of Legends. When the US government passes a law restricting digital currencies, the virtual market inside of Land of Legends becomes illegal, and the server has to be reset. Abrama discovers that her world is going to end, so she takes steps to defend it.
The impetus for this story was an interest in artificial intelligence, virtual worlds, and digital currency. I wanted to explore ways in which an entirely virtual entity might nevertheless gain power over the real world, and under what conditions a digital world might be considered a sovereign nation. Borders, after all, are artificial creations—imaginary lines supported by some combination of laws and power—so there is no reason in principle why we could not recognize borders around virtual spaces, if the right conditions are met. The story doesn’t really answer these questions—it only raises them and lets them play out, and hopefully gives the reader something to think about.
It definitely did give me something to think about. A really well written story, David!
Now tell us about your upcoming projects!
At TDotSpec, we’re currently working on the next few issues of Speculative North magazine, and are in the early stages of producing our next major anthology, tentatively titled Strange Warfare, which will be a collection of science fiction and fantasy stories that look at war in interesting ways. Information on both of these projects, and our other titles, can be found on our website, www.tdotspec.com.
That was a great interview. Thank you so much for your time, David. And all the best for your upcoming projects!