March 2016

Q & A with Pauline J. Alama

1. Can you tell us a little what your story, "Surplus Army," is about?

It's about garbage. How's that for telling a little? The title is a two-way pun, squinting at "Army Surplus" with one eye (supplies the army didn't need) and "Bonus Army" (World War I veterans who marched on Washington during the Depression) with the other.

2. How did you come up with the idea?

When I read your anthology description of things that might be happening beneath the surface or below the radar, it was the greatest writing prompt I've seen in a long time. It immediately got me thinking about landfills. We throw things away and act like they pop out of existence, but of course, they don't. Our trash is changing the world, and just because you don't see it in your own neighborhood doesn't mean it's not happening. The other side of it is that I'm kind of neurotic about throwing things away. I have always had a childish tendency to view things as having personalities, which makes it hard to throw anything out. What do our things think about us when we abandon them?

3. What is your inspiration for writing as a whole?

I feel most alive when I'm writing--but not if I force myself by saying, "I must write every day." It only seems to work if I can surf on the active currents of ideas strong enough to move me. I can't always come up with ideas when I want them, which is why I was so grateful for the inspiration of your theme.

4. Could you tell us a bit about yourself?

I come from New Jersey. I left as a young adult, saying I would never move back, but here I am, not only firmly rooted in my native state but finally owning that I am New Jersey deep down to my dioxin-infused bones. And you want to hear about landfills? When I first moved back to NJ I lived downwind from the one in the Meadowlands. Euccch. I'm a freelance grant-writer by trade and a medieval scholar by education.

5. Where can listeners find more of your work?

My fantasy quest novel, The Eye of Night (Bantam Spectra 2002) is available from Amazon and Barnes and Noble. I have stories in several volumes of Sword & Sorceress and other venues. Please see my website for a full list of past publications and news of new ones. If you're on Facebook, please "like" my new author page,

6. Any new work we should keep an eye out for?

I have stories forthcoming in the ezine Abyss and Apex, an anthology of Just So Stories from 18th Wall Publications, and Warren Lapine's Dragon Super Pack anthology. I've also been unofficially informed of another acceptance, but the contract isn't signed yet. I will announce it on Facebook when it's official.

7. (And just for Juli's curiosity: What are you reading now?)

I always have a few reading books in progress at once. I've begun reading first-level nominees for the Mythopoeic Fantasy Award in the Children's category. I'm not supposed to make the list public, so I'll leave it at that. At the same time (or intermittently) I'm also looking up books about fortunetelling as research for a story I'm writing; re-visiting some favorite Lois McMaster Bujold stories with my husband; and waiting eagerly for the next installment of Maggie Stiefvater's Raven Boys series. Also, I recently finished a book about public policy issues, Bob Herbert's Losing Our Way, which has a great deal to do with disturbing things that have been happening off the radar: infrastructure deteriorating, poverty deepening, and other sobering trends.

Editor's Note: If you enjoyed this story, you might be interested in reading the whole anthology, It's Come to Our Attention, with many more great stories. It's available on Amazon and Smashwords.

Copyright Third Flatiron Publishing 2016