Q&A With Steve Toase

Steve Toase discusses how covid lockdown procedures gave inspiration for his story, his advice to new writers, and more. Read, “The Taste of Sound” in our [July/August issue, on sale now]  

Analog Editor: What is the story behind this piece?
Steve Toase: Early on during the first lockdown, vans with loudspeakers drove around our neighbourhood announcing the restrictions. This led to me writing an article for Fortean Times about Emergency Population Warning Systems (EPWS) in all their forms. This included a lot of research into systems like the Broadmoor Hospital warning system, the use of The Purge siren by US police forces during the lockdown, and the various announcement networks in place for use in case of a nuclear war. (I have a playlist at, https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLFtFKdMhiXoX-8jLYb9w5xbl19e_GXSQ5 )
I’m really interested in the work of researchers like Professor Rachel Armstrong who study how to combine living systems with architecture and technology. This set me off thinking about semi autonomous living EPWS.

AE: How did the title for this piece come to you?
ST: Because the EPWS is a living system, I wanted to emphasise the sensory way it experiences the world. This is relatable but closer to a form of synesthesia, so the idea of tasting sound captures the protagonist’s experience of the world.

AE: What made you think of Analog for this story?
ST: “The Taste of Sound” is grounded in science (the cutting edge work around the use of biological systems in architecture, for example), but takes it in a new direction. This seemed to be a good fit for Analog’s remit.

AE: What is your history with Analog?
ST: Analog published my story “Dendrochromatic Data Recovery Report 45-274,” a story about a tree used as a data server, told via a report of attempts to investigate why the server crashed. Sections of the Dendrochromatic are in hexadecimal code, and can be translated using an online translator to add an extra dimension to the narrative.

AE: Who or what are your greatest influences and inspirations?
ST: Angela Carter, Thomas Ligotti, Neil Gaiman, Robert Holdstock, China Mieville, and Jeff Vandermeer are all huge influences on my writing. For this particular story Catherynne M. Valente’s Silently And Very Fast was a huge influence.

AE: Are there any themes that you find yourself returning to throughout your writing? If yes, what and why? 
ST: I write a lot about grief and loss in my work, as well as experiences of homelessness. I think, for me, horror and science fiction are ways of approaching the human condition from a different angle allowing me as a writer to tackle personally difficult subjects at a slight distance.

I write a lot about grief and loss in my work, as well as experiences of homelessness. I think, for me, horror and science fiction are ways of approaching the human condition from a different angle allowing me as a writer to tackle personally difficult subjects at a slight distance.

AE: How did you break into writing?
ST: I started writing for motorbike magazines, then book reviewing for Fortean Times where I now have a regular review column. From there I began writing fiction.

AE: What are you reading right now?
ST: At home I’m reading The Starless Sea by Erin Morgenstern. When I’m traveling I have my Kindle with me loaded with short story collections from Undertow Publications (Like Sing My Sadness Deep by Laura Mauro, and All the Things We Never See by Michael Kelly). I’m also just starting We Are the Martians: The Legacy of Nigel Kneale (edited by Neil Snowdon and published by PS Publishing).

AE: Do you have any advice for up-and-coming writers?

ST: When you’re submitting your work don’t self reject. Always submit to the professional paying markets first, and plan a route of other places to submit if they do reject. Keep all submission letters short, succinct and polite. All editors want to find the next undiscovered writer.

AE: Many of our Analog authors are interested in science. Do you have any scientific background, and does it impact your fiction?

ST: I’m an archaeologist by trade with an MA in Landscape Archaeology, and my experience incorporates both the academic and practical side of the profession (I have worked all over England on archaeological excavations ahead of development.) Archaeology is an unusual discipline in that it incorporates the three aspects of laboratory based science (such as C14 and pathology) and social sciences, as well as the physical side of digging.

As well as inspiring several of my stories (my previous Analog story “Dendrochromatic Data Recovery Report 45-274” was inspired by Dendrochronology dating), my studies of embodiment in the landscape has led to me using a lot of sensory description in my work to try and capture the physical experience of place in my stories.

AE: How can our readers follow you and your writing?
ST: You can find me at:
Twitter @stevetoase
Facebook facebook.com/stevetoase1
Patreon patreon.com/stevetoase
Instagram http://www.instagram.com/steve.toase

Steve Toase was born in North Yorkshire, England, and now lives in Munich, Germany. His fiction has appeared in Nightmare Magazine, Shadows & Tall Trees 8, Analog, Three Lobed Burning Eye, and Shimmer amongst others. Five of his stories have been selected for Ellen Datlow’s Best Horror of the Year series, and one for Paula Guran’s Year’s Best Dark Fantasy and Horror Volume 3. His debut short story collection To Drown in Dark Water is now out from Undertow Publications www.undertowpublications.com/shop/to-drown-in-dark-water. From 2014 he worked with Becky Cherriman and Imove on Haunt, the Saboteur Award shortlisted project inspired by his own teenage experiences, about Harrogate’s haunting presence in the lives of people experiencing homelessness in the town. He recently worked with astrophysicist Dr Chris Harrison on a script for a planetarium show designed for people with a vision impairment. He also likes old motorbikes and vintage cocktails. You can keep up to date with his work via Patreon www.patreon.com/stevetoase, www.tinyletter.com/stevetoase,facebook.com/stevetoase1, and @stevetoase on Twitter

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