With Miniatures: The Very Short Fiction of John Scalzi about to start shipping, we thought we’d bring you a suitably brief interview with Scalzi and artist Natalie Metzger, who did the dust jacket and many interior illustrations for the volume, conducted by our own Gwenda Bond.
We doubt you need an introduction for Scalzi, but here’s one anyway. John Scalzi is a New York Times bestseller in fiction, and his work has won the Hugo, the Locus, the Seiun and Kurd Lasswitz. He was a recipient of the 2016 Governors Award for the Arts in Ohio, and his works have been translated into 20+ languages.
Natalie Metzger is an illustrator with over a decade of experience working in a variety of mediums. She is the cartoonist behind several webcomics including Cthulhu Slippers and Over-Encumbered. Her illustration work focuses on creepy cute comic style drawings with a preference for pen, ink and tentacles. Each piece in Miniatures features a header illustration.
Without further ado, the interview…
Gwenda Bond: John, my first question is for you. What challenge or freedom is there in writing short rather than long?
John Scalzi: The best thing is that it doesn’t take much time at all. I can write a short piece in two hours. Part of that is my training from my early career when I was writing columns and short pieces to deadline. So it became a part of my muscle memory to write short. It’s a return to what I was doing when I started out. And most of the pieces are funny. Writing short, you don’t overstay your welcome. Which is easy to do with humor.
GB: Similar question for you, Natalie . . . how did you approach doing the art for the book? Was this different than your other projects in any way? Did you work together on choosing illustrations for various pieces?
Natalie Metzger: We happened to both be at Westercon and so we were able to have a back and forth in person and work out most of the details. There was no email tag saying, ‘What do you think of this idea?’ or ‘What about this idea?’ We were able to spend half an hour talking most of it out. But with these very short things, you’re limited to one or two options for images. There is some difficulty in finding the right image.
JS: This was more challenging for Natalie than me in that way. When I was asked who I was thinking for the artist, Natalie was at the top of my list. She had done some other pieces that I loved, including one of me riding a churrocorn (a churro unicorn). Her work is whimsical but clean. It was fun seeing everyone fight over versions of her illustrations during the process. I just got the finished book and Subterranean Press always does really good production, but I was looking at the cover and it’s absolutely perfect. It’s one of my covers that makes me happiest.
GB: Do either of you have a favorite piece in the book, both of your own and of the other person’s?
JS: My favorite piece also has my favorite illustration. “The AI Are Absolutely Positively Without a Doubt Not Here to End Humanity, Honest” is the most recent piece in the book, so it’s fresher to me. And there’s this very nervous-looking eagle, which is such a contrast to how eagles are usually presented.
NM: There are so many pieces I love in the book. The one about yogurt, the one about life on Earth. I can’t pick. My favorite illustration is the mechacat.
GB: Okay, now it’s going to get tough. Lightning round. Tacos or pie?
JS: Pie. If you’d made it burritos, that would have been tough.
GB: I felt like that would be too dark and might trigger an existential crisis. Next question: Cats or dogs?
GB: For the record you both love dogs; we don’t want to bring down the Internet on you. And, finally, yes or no?
GB: Perfect. Thank you both for taking the time to do this.