Kathryn Fritz’s poem in the current issue [on sale now] is her first for Analog, but it might not be the last, considering her present focus on space-related themes. If so, we look forward to them!
Analog Editor: What is the story behind “Collisions”?
KF: I was listening to Science Friday on NPR in 2017, and learned about scientists detecting gravitational waves from a kilanova that happened over a hundred million years ago. This particular kilanova may have been the source for most of the gold we have on our planet. I thought about how wild it was that this one collision of two neutron stars so long ago changed how our entire financial system developed. This felt like it could serve as a metaphor for the small things in our daily lives that change our world in powerful ways we can’t predict with our short-term perspective.
AE: Is this piece part of a greater universe of poems?
KF: I am developing a constellation of poems relating to the topic of “space.” Other subjects I have explored include Pluto’s demotion to a dwarf planet, the most recent time we had a panic about an asteroid approaching Earth, 2017’s solar eclipse, and Jupiter’s Great Red Spot. My goal is to eventually have a poem for each planet in our solar system and work my way out from there, but for right now I am just writing on subjects as they catch my interest.
AE: What made you think of Analog for this story?
KF: My poems tend to be science-curious/adjacent so Analog felt like a good fit.
AE: How much or little do current events impact your writing?
KF: At my office job, I’m usually listening to either NPR or music. Several of my poems would not exist without the little spark of inspiration provided by a short segment about Pluto, or the coverage of Eclipse 2017. As far as the more heavy news, I hope to reach a point where I can write about those topics as well, but I am working on developing my range and starting with the lighter topics first.
AE: What is your process?
KF: When I write, I tend to use something I am interested in or excited about as my “way in.” In the case of “Collisions,” I heard about the kilanova on NPR, and the story was interesting. I didn’t know why, but I knew I wanted to write something about that subject. So, I researched the kilanova and took notes as I did. After I had a couple pages’ worth of notes, I stopped and read back through my notes to see if I could pick up a pattern. Was there a theme in the notes I was taking? In the case of “Collisions,” I realized from my notes that I saw the kilanova as a metaphor for the unexpected aftershocks that happen because of things that seem insignificant. Once I knew that, I pulled the information from my research that supported this metaphor and worked on building a poem around that connection.
AE: How do you deal with writer’s block?
KF: If I find myself researching a topic for more than a week, and I have pages and pages of notes, but no clear idea of why I think the subject is good fodder for a poem, I scrap it. That cuts out most of the potential for writer’s block. For me, knowing the “why” of what I’m writing is critical and if I don’t have that ”why” clear in my mind, the project’s not going to work out.
If I know why I’m writing a poem, and I know roughly where I want to end up but I’m stuck with how to get there, then I just make sure to keep writing something. If I don’t know what to write in the poem itself, then I’ll open up a separate document on my computer and have a chat with myself. Why am I stuck here? I’m having trouble finding a word that sounds right here, or I don’t think this description is a good connector here. What else would work? This ensures that I am doing something and not losing my momentum.
AE: What is the weirdest research rabbit-hole that working on a project has led you down?
KF: I needed to know if anyone had ever made a violin out of human bone and if that violin functioned like a normal wooden one. Preliminary research showed that violins have been made out of human bone, but they were only for display.
AE: What inspired you to start writing?
KF: I’ve always written on my own, but it was not until I was in college at Truman State University that I started to believe that I might be able to write for publication. I had several very supportive professors, including one that encouraged me to present my poetry and explain my writing process at our student research conference.
AE: What SFnal prediction would you like to see come true?
KF: I would love to see the transporters in Star Trek become a reality, not only because of the convenience, but also because of the ethical debates that would ensue. Transporters basically download humans, then copy them over to another transporter. So, there has to be a copy of a complete human that is deleted somewhere in that process. Also, there would be a whole new sub-genre of B-Grade horror movies about haunted transporters.
AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?
KF: The most important thing (aside from just sitting down and making the time to write) is to find support. My writing really took off once I joined a writer’s group. They don’t have to be writing in the same genre you are. My writing partner only occasionally does poetry and mostly does short stories. Sometimes, if the people in your group are writing things that are completely different, they’ll have suggestions that no one else would have ever thought of. The key is having someone you are accountable to for your writing. You can plan and dream about the awesome things you’re going to do, but if you don’t have that feeling of obligation that comes when you tell your writing partner you will have x amount of work done by x date, it becomes too easy to let life get in the way.