Interview: Alex Shvartsman (FISH)


Name: Alex Shvartsman

Age: 37

Author of: “Life at the Lake’s Shore”

Current Geographic Location: Brooklyn, NY

Original Hometown: Odessa, Ukraine

Twitter: @AShvartsman

Website: List of published stories, and blog

Recent publications: 3 reprint stories in the 2013 Campbell Award consideration anthology; “The Miracle on Tau Prime” at Daily Science Fiction; “The Tell-Tale Ear” in the Journal of Nature.

Which zodiac sign where you born under? Scorpio.

If a magic fish granted you one wish, what would it be? Eternal (or, at least, very long) life and health. Given that, I can achieve just about anything else on my own.

What inspired your story? “Life at the Lake’s Shore” is based on Alexander Pushkin’s fairy tale “Fisherman and the Fish.” This fairy tale is extremely popular and well-known in Russia – as popular as Little Red Riding Hood or Cinderella are in the English-speaking countries.

I wrote a modern retelling of that story, set in the Soviet Union. The main character is born on the same day when the Bolsheviks come into power in 1917. He dies in 1991, as Soviet Union is collapsing. The events of his life are, in many ways, an allegory for the history of my troubled homeland.

Did you listen to music while writing it? Most of the time I write with no music on. Occasionally though I set to play songs similar to “Hey, Jude” by the Beatles while I write.

How many rewrites did you do before submitting? This story took forever to come together. I worked on it, on and off, for about two months, before I massaged it into shape. Early scenes underwent 4 or 5 rewrites, while later scenes only 2 or 3.

What is your favorite bit?

His father had returned home a broken man. He had lost both legs on the battlefield, which in itself was a tragedy Fyodor could cope with. Worse yet, his father seemed to have lost his soul. The man who returned wasn’t at all the same person that Fyodor had remembered. He became short-tempered and crude, perpetually angry at the entire world. In his eyes, anyone else’s happiness was a personal affront. He drowned his sorrows in moonshine when he could afford it and settled for shouting abuse at his family when he couldn’t. Although Fyodor felt deeply ashamed by the thought, he sometimes dreamt of a better life where his father had never returned at all.

Want to read the rest?

Get the ePub (for nook and other readers) here and mobi (perfect for your Kindle) here. Only $4.99 each, instant downloads.

You can also get FISH as an ebook through Barnes & NobleAmazon, or Kobo.

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Have you been waiting for a place to buy our titles in person? Kings Games of Brooklyn, NY, is now carrying a selection of our books. Look, here we are:

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Interview: Alex Shvartsman (IN SITU)

Name: Alex Shvartsman

Age: 35

Author of: “The Field Trip”

Current Geographic Location: Brooklyn NY

Original Hometown: Odessa, Ukraine


Recent publications:In Service of a Greater Cause” – Schrodinger’s Mouse issue 1; “The Skeptic” at Absent Willow Review; “Good Advice” at Every Day Fiction

Do you think alien life exists in the Universe? Given that the universe is infinite, it stands to reason that there should be infinite variety of life out there. If we travel far enough, we should encounter every science fiction cliché ever conceived. Of course, it’s much more likely that any intelligent beings humanity meets in the Milky Way are so very different from us, we might not be able to comprehend them at all.

If you could travel off Earth, would you? What if it meant you could never come back? If it ever becomes relatively easy to travel to other planets, I think I’d rather go as a tourist, return ticket in hand. Having already experienced moving to a strange and exotic new homeland once (to Brooklyn, NY from former USSR), I don’t think I have it in me to do it again.

What inspired your piece? I wanted to explore the concept of just how difficult it would be for historians to comprehend an extinct alien society, especially if they had to learn about it solely from the fragments it left behind. For example, imagine what aliens might think of us, if all they had to go on is a pack of Twinkies and a “Spongebob Squarepants” DVD? On second thought, that would probably give them a reasonably accurate snapshot of our culture.

What music or movies helped you to write this essay? “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” was probably more of an inspiration to me in writing this story than any movie or song. There is never enough humor SF out there, and while I am no Douglas Adams, I enjoyed the opportunity to contribute to the genre.

How many rewrites did you do before submitting? I found out about IN SITU just a few days before the anthology deadline. Normally I am a slothful writer who likes to go back and change every paragraph seventeen times before even my cat gets to see a draft, but this time I did not have that kind of luxury. I was excited about this anthology and really wanted to submit something, but that meant writing fast and completely out of my comfort zone. I wrote the story in two sittings, revised it the following morning and then revised again in the evening. I submitted it at 11:45pm, 15 minutes before the deadline.

What is your favorite bit?

The planet in question had been populated by tool using bipedal mammals who learned to split the atom a little too soon for their own good and went boom. The scenario was so common in this part of the galaxy that there are entire digital storage units full of examples, and they are all filed under “Boring.”

Buy IN SITU now!

EPUB for nook and other readers, $3.99: Click here to buy DRM FREE

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Trade paperback, 5″x8″, 248 pages, via Amazon, $9.99: Click here to buy ISBN-10: 0983137323

KINDLE edition via Amazon, $3.99: Click here to buy ASIN: B008J4ZBLW

Official Table of Contents for FISH

Table of Contents, FISH (due out February 8, 2012)

  1. Alexa, Camille “The Skin of Her Skin”
  2. Bennardo, Matthew “The Fish-Wife’s Tale”
  3. Blake, Polenth “Thwarting the Fiends”
  4. Darrach, Shay “I Know a Secret”
  5. Davis, Amanda C. “O How the Wet Folk Sing”
  6. Dixon, Paul A. “One Let Go”
  7. Duyvis, Corinne “The Applause of Others”
  8. Englehardt, Megan “Anansi and the New Thing”
  9. Fleming, Sam “What the Water Gave Her”
  10. Fuller, Andrew “A Salmon Tale, 2072”
  11. Fullerton, H.L. “The Fish Are There On Land”
  12. Gardner, Cate “Too Delicate for Human Form”
  13. George, Zachary “You, Fish”
  14. Hendrix, Sarah “Never to Return”
  15. Kane, Tim “Vanity Mirror”
  16. Kneeland, Andrea “Becoming Human”
  17. Kwak, Jessie “Needlepoint Fish of Azure City”
  18. L’Orange, April “Quick Karma”
  19. Lalumière, Claude “Xandra’s Brine”
  20. Liu, Ken “How Do You Know If a Fish Is Happy?”
  21. McBride, Tracie “The Touch of Taniwha”
  22. McIntyre, T.J. “How Did the Catfish Get a Flat Head, You Wonder?”
  23. Nakayama, Timothy “Fallen Dragon”
  24. Obedoza, Mel “The Fisherman and Golden Fish”
  25. Palmer, Suzanne “Lanternfish In the Overworld”
  26. Povey, Jennifer R. “Water Demons”
  27. Rambo, Cat “The Fisher Queen”
  28. Romasco-Moore, Maria “Fisheye”
  29. Ruby, Jacob “The Talking Fish of Shangri-La”
  30. Shvartsman, Alex “Life at the Lake’s Shore”
  31. Spencer, A. D. “Fish Tears”
  32. Wood, Mjke “The Last Fisherman of Habitat 37”
  33. Zup, Andreea “Maria and the Fish”

Please note the Table of Contents is currently listed alphabetically by author’s last name, and does not reflect the final order of stories.