I Didn’t Break the Lamp: Interview with Jennifer R. Povey

Cover art for Daughter of FireBeginning today, we’ll be interviewing some of the authors who contributed stories for I Didn’t Break the Lamp. You can learn more about the authors and their stories as we prepare to publish this anthology! Today’s interview is with Jennifer R. Povey, whose story in I Didn’t Break the Lamp marks her third anthology appearance with us!

DV: Tell us a bit about yourself!

Jennifer R. Povey: I’m in my forties and I live just outside DC, although I grew up in the UK. (If you ask why? Course of true love is why). I ride horses and am a full-time freelance writer. Which often means writing boring stuff, but it beats working for a living. I’m a bit of a space geek and a history geek (my degree is in archaeology, which is surprisingly useful for a SF writer).

DV: What inspired you to write “The Voice” for I Didn’t Break the Lamp?

JRP: I wanted to subvert a trope. If I say which one, it will spoiler the story. But suffice to say I wanted to take a story in a direction that is seldom used.

DV: The imaginary acquaintance in “The Voice” is an unusual choice. Without giving too much of your story’s plot away, how did you decide on the characterization for the imaginary character?

JRP: It boils down to the same thing I said above. Also, the character concerned does fill an emotional gap for the MC, who has some, well, family issues going on.

DV: Your story paints a somewhat bleak image of humanity’s future, but also includes inklings of hope as well. If you were to take this story further, to the next phase that the story hints at, would it wind up with a happy or unhappy ending?

JRP: Happy. Absolutely. I know what they find in the end, even though it isn’t in the story. And it’s not a bad thing at all.

DV: What’s on the horizon for you?

JRP: Right now, I’m working on a book tentatively called Arana, which is basically a space exploration book in the grand tradition of Star Trek, if way more Enterprise than TNG. I also have a historical fantasy in the works, Arthurian based, The Lay of Lady Percival, which I’m hoping to get out there sooner.

Thanks, Jennifer!

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Fiction: Behind Closed Doors

An essay by Emilia O. Anthony, as provided by Johanna B. Stumpf
Art by Luke Spooner

I swipe my key card in front of the keypad and wait. A short beep and a small green light indicate access has been granted. A hydraulic hum sounds almost inconceivably, and the two metal doors in front of me slide aside swiftly.

My heels click sharply on the tiled floor as I enter through the doors and walk along the corridor. The neon lights on the low ceiling bathe the scene in merciless white light. On both sides of the hallway are more doors exactly like the one I just stepped through. No signs or markings. Just impenetrable steel doors with keypads to one side. I only have access to some of them, and sometimes I try to guess what might be behind the others. The projects, the experiments, the prototypes. On other days, these thoughts fill me with excitement, but today I’m not in the mood for guessing games.

My destination is the eleventh door on the left. I don’t have to count. I have been there almost every day in the last four months, and my feet carry me to the right door without a second thought.

I stop and swipe my key card absentmindedly. The door remains closed. Lost in thoughts as I am, it takes a few seconds before I realize the door won’t open. I swipe my card again. A red light blinks once on the keypad. My heart skips a beat. I try one more time, putting the key card carefully in front of the card reader. This time the light turns green and the hydraulic motors start humming. I step forward eagerly.

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Strange Science: Inventions for 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

Design of the Holland SubmarineWhen filmmakers decided to make a movie of the classic Jules Verne novel 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea in 1916, they faced a few challenges in rendering the scenes from the book into film. But with the help of three inventions, they were able to create one of the iconic scenes of the film!

The first invention was a submarine tube, which allowed people to work on submarines and salvage shipwrecks while in a watertight chamber with helmets and arm casings. While not invented for the movie, it allowed for the possibility of filming underwater.

The second invention was the photosphere, which could be attached to the submarine tube and used to shoot the film.

The third, and most iconic, invention (since it actually saw screen time) was the giant cephalopod. For this, the filmmaker designed a submersible device that relied on rubber tubes and halved rubber balls to simulate tentacles.

You can read more about all three of these inventions (plus how they made the cephalopod’s ink) here!

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NASA Kids’ Club

Child wearing goggles interacting with an astronaut in a full suitIf you’ve got younger kids who are interested in space, check out the NASA Kids’ Club! It’s full of games and information about space and NASA, geared towards kids in the primary grades (up to American 4th grade). The activities adhere to National Education Standards, and there’s a whole page that details how the activities meet those goals for individual grade levels. So you could use the activities here as part of a continued summer learning project, or, if you’re a teacher, within your curriculum.

There are both online activities and printable activities available, so no matter if you prefer your kids to have no screen time or limited screen time, there are neat options!

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Alumni Exploring Solarpunk Winters

Snowy scene with a parabolic antennaLast year, we reviewed Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Summers, which featured a number of MSJ alumni. Now, World Weaver Press is putting out Glass and Gardens: Solarpunk Winters, and once again, the table of contents is chock full of our alumni! Wendy Nikel, Holly Schofield, Steve Toase, and Jennifer Lee Rossman will all have stories in this anthology, and the editor, Sarena Ulibarri, is also an MSJ alum!

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Awesome Finds: Stormhaven Techs

Illustration from Stormhaven Techs featuring a ghostly figure, a dark skinned woman in a lab coat, and a white male gnome in a lab coatWe love graphics novels, so we were excited to find Stormhaven Techs, which is currently funding for a print graphic novel on Kickstarter!

Stormhaven Techs is about two technicians who work in the magic department at a high school for mages and knights. One of the characters has a history as an adventurer, which comes back to haunt her now and then. The comic blends humor and action into a fun romp.

If you want to get a taste of this comic, the individual issues are free here. But if you prefer reading graphic novels over web-based comics, check out the Kickstarter and see if it’s something you might like to back! It runs through August 9th with a modest goal, so check it out soon!

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Fiction: In Hindsight

An essay by Decatur Scott, as provided by Shana Ross
Art by Justine McGreevy

July/August 2055


Q: What technology or scientific advancement was the biggest mistake in human history?


Carey Murphy, research and development, Kinetic Informatics

Using quantum entanglement to power garage door openers. I mean, I hate changing batteries on a transponder as much as the next guy, but it’s just irresponsible to have a remote that opens and closes the door to your house from anywhere in the universe.

Continue reading

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Strange Science: Prehistoric Island Construction

Loch LomondArchaeologists studying crannogs, constructed islands in the Scottish lochs, have found evidence that suggests that these islands are far older than originally believed.

Originally, the crannogs had been dated to approximately 800 B.C. Newer investigations point to an origin of roughly 3640-3360 B.C., or more than 5,500 years ago. The crannogs are constructed from immense rocks, some of which weigh more than 550 pounds individually. The level of labor required to construct these islands points to their significance to these prehistoric peoples.

You can read a brief summary of the research here, and the full article on the research is in Antiquity (available here).

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Awesome Finds: Weaponized Cats

Illustration of a cat being launched from a catapultOur feline interns (a.k.a. feline overlords) would like for us to tell you about this awesome find of a Kickstarter for the Weaponized Cats comic book. While our feline interns find themselves well-equipped with built-in weapons, they know that not all cats are so equipped, and that some cats need outside assistance.

More seriously, this Kickstarter is set up for the creator to launch a comic series about cats who help cats in need. And if it funds and the series is launched, he plans to use some of the income from the series to help out cat rescues and specific cats in need. So if you like cats, scientific ingenuity, and comic books, check out Weaponized Cats. The Kickstarter runs through July 27.

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Review of The Imaginary Corpse

Cover art for The Imaginary CorpseThe Imaginary Corpse by Tyler Hayes (Angry Robot, 2019) mashes up a noir detective story with a world peopled with imaginary friends and ideas their creators have abandoned. In doing so, he’s created a vibrant world filled with whimsy, but also a place in which deep subjects, such as trauma and loss, can be explored in a profound way.

In the Stillreal, the place where abandoned ideas and imaginary friends reside, death is rarely permanent, until it is. Detective Tippy witnesses the death of a Friend, and uses his detective skills to crack the case. Of course, Detective Tippy is a plush triceratops with a fondness for dryers and root beer, as is befitting the former imaginary friend of a young girl.

Detective Tippy’s voice sucked me straight into this book, and I was more than happy to follow him through the twists and turns of this mystery novel. The setting was wonderfully detailed, with bits and pieces of all sorts of different imaginary worlds blended together into an amazing tableau. I particularly loved Avatar City, the abandoned superhero city with the usual slate of heroes and villains, as concocted by a teenage boy.

While this book might seem like one that could be enjoyed by all ages due to it being about imaginary friends and plush critters, I definitely would not recommend it to younger readers. It’s dark and scary in a lot of places, and bad things happen to good Friends. But for adults who want to recapture some of their youthful imaginings, while reading an excellent book about trauma, forgiveness, and acceptance, The Imaginary Corpse will definitely fill that niche. The book will be out September 10, but can be pre-ordered now.

The author provided us with a free copy of this novel in exchange for review consideration.

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