August 31, 2022

Behind the Zines with Clara Madrigano, co-editor at THE DARK

This month’s Behind the Zines interview features Clara Madrigano. She is co-editor at The Dark, and I am so grateful to get a chance to talk to her about her work at the zine!

More about Clara Madrigano:

Clara Madrigano is a Brazilian author of speculative fiction. She publishes both in Portuguese and in English, and you can find her fiction in The Dark and in Clarkesworld.

On to the interview!

Q. First up, what is your background, as in: where are you from, where are you now, and what do you do inside and outside the world of speculative fiction?

Clara Madrigano: I was born in Brazil; in Rio de Janeiro, more specifically. And I still live in Brazil, but now I dwell in the city of Curitiba, in the occasionally cold-as-hell South of my country. I love it here, with all of its problems. I’d say I live a very Dickinsonania, Brontëania life: I enjoy being inside, I enjoy my room, my writing desk, the company of my books. Being surrounded by them, I can let my imagination roam free, chasing stories wherever they are.

Outside of speculative fiction? Is there an outside?

(I practice calisthenics. There you go, a random fact about myself).

Q. What attracted you to horror specifically, and the speculative fiction genre in general if applicable, when you were a child or young adult (or adult)? What lured you into genre fiction, and are there some specific books, movies, TV-shows or similar that you feel were responsible for pulling you into the world of horror/SFF?

CM: Fantasy has always been a big part of my life, as well as horror. My parents never stopped me from watching or reading anything I wanted, which means that, by age 10, I was both a fan of The Princess Bride and Alien; or Labyrinth and A Nightmare on Elm Street. I grew up with this mix of fantasy and horror, first as movies, and then as books. Inevitably, that diet made me what I am today. Ray Bradbury’s The October Country, which I stumbled upon as a child, haunted me for years. And, of course, there was Harry Potter—a series I nowadays think about with less and less nostalgia, but that had a huge impact on me at the time it was being published, introducing me to the world of fanfiction—which is how I began to write in the first place.

Q. What do you love about the horror genre, and why does it appeal to you as a reader and writer?

CM: I’d say terror is what is so appealing to me. Not knowing what it’s happening. Or knowing, but suffering from the anticipation of getting there. The raising of the hair in my arms, the cold sweat; that’s what always glued me to my metaphorical chair—as a kid and as an adult. And it’s the feeling I try to impart in my stories.

Q. Who are some of your favourite writers or creators in any medium right now? (Both living and working today, and older works and creators?)

CM: There are so many people I could name. I’ll focus on the authors working today, because I think we live in such a wonderful age for spec fiction—so many great writers are working right now, I even have trouble keeping up. I have to name Kelly Link, of course, Audrey Niffenegger, who wrote my favorite book of all time, The Time Traveler’s Wife. Eugenia Triantafyllou, Suzan Palumbo, A. C. Wise, Stephen Graham Jones, you—yes, you, Maria [my note: I AM BLUSHING]—Tananarive Due, Octavia Cade, Angela Slatter, Carrie Laben, Gemma Files, Kaaron Warren…

Q. You have recently picked up the reins as co-editor of The Dark Magazine. How did you first get involved working at The Dark, and what are your thoughts on this new role for you. What do you do as co-editor on a day-to-day basis, and what are some of the best, and worst maybe?, things about being a co-editor?

CM: The first magazine to ever publish a story I’d written in English was The Dark, so I feel like I’m coming full circle now. I feel like it’s an honor, really—to be able to publish authors who sometimes are just starting their writing careers. There’s a particular joy in finding a good story—recognizing that talent—and then having it published, so others will feel the same joy you did. My days as a co-editor are spent reading good stories. I have no complaints there. But the hardest part is always having to reject some of those stories—because most of them are really, really good. They just don’t fit the magazine’s theme, most of the time. I wish I could publish it all.

Q. What advice would you give to writers submitting stories to The Dark, and publications in general? What do you look for in a story, and how do you approach the process of selecting stories for the zine?

CM: First: read the submission guidelines. I can’t stress enough how important that part is. As I mentioned before, we get a lot of good stories, beautifully written stories, that simply don’t work as horror or dark fantasy. In approaching the magazine—any magazine, really—I’d recommend reading a lot of what they have already published—so you get the idea of what they work with. As for myself, I’m a terror girl. Everything that keeps me on the edge through the entirety of the tale—that’s my drug of choice. When we get these types of stories, those are always my favorite moments.

Q. Has your work behind the scenes at The Dark affected your view of the world of speculative fiction publishing? What do you see as the main challenges of running a zine like The Dark.

CM: I always knew the market was very competitive, and that there are a lot of great writers working today. So this hasn’t changed. The main challenge is letting people know they are wanted—their stories are wanted. Some minorities, because they’ve already been shunned by the market—in one way or another—will sometimes shy away from submitting their stories; they think they have to be really, really good, when they already are really, really good. I try to encourage minorities to send us their stories (white men don’t need encouragement, believe me). I want them to realize how talented they are, and that they deserve to be published as much as any other author they admire.

Q. You are a writer yourself and you have had work published in both English and Portuguese. What are your thoughts on the sometimes rather English-speaking and North America-centric focus in speculative fiction when it comes to SFF publications, awards, cons, publishing, etc.?

CM: I think I started publishing in English at a time when things were already changing. Of course, there’s still a prevalence of certain types of fiction and tropes—but all in all, I feel like the market is becoming more diverse by the day. All one needs to do is check the last ballots for the major spec fiction prizes. Things are changing. People opposing that change, trying to keep the status quo intact, will lose—like old men yelling at clouds. You simply can’t contain so much talent, so many voices, all the stories being written and published; you can’t, and you won’t.

Q. For people out there who might be thinking about getting involved with a podcast or a zine in any capacity, what would you say to them? Any tips or advice?

CM: I hope you love reading. Because you’ll be doing a lot of it. Passion for fiction is a prerequisite. And so are kindness and patience.

Q. What’s up next for you, both as a co-editor and as a writer?

CM: For editing, I have a feeling I’ll be staying in The Dark for a while (unless Sean Wallace gets tired of me and locks me in the dungeon). I simply love what I do there. As for fiction, I have a new story in Nightmare this September; and a few other stories, in other venues, I still can’t speak about.

Huge thanks to Clara for talking to me about her work!

About Behind the Zines:

In this interview series, I talk to people working behind the scenes at various speculative fiction publications. My goal is to highlight the work that goes into keeping these publications alive, and to share insights from the people doing that work. Each interview is available exclusively on my Patreon for one week, and is then posted here at Maria's Reading

If you want to support my work, check out my Patreon or Ko-Fi.

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