Carmen Maria Machado, "Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead"


It's December 5. Carmen Maria Machado, author of Her Body and Other Parties, chips in a buck or two whenever she can.

How would you describe your story?

CARMEN MARIA MACHADO: A Kickstarter-shaped liminal-fantasy story about two sisters and the land of the dead.  

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

CMM: I first wrote “Help Me Follow My Sister into the Land of the Dead” in 2014, after it was commissioned by John Joseph Adams for his anthology Help Fund My Robot Army! I’d always wanted to write a crowdfunding-website-shaped story, and suddenly I had an excuse to do just that. The title came first, which is not unusual with my work. I spent a lot of time looking at crowdfunding platforms to get a sense of how to “break into” the form. The actual story I wrote in just a few days—like so many of my form stories, the plot just sort of fell into place.   

What kind of research went into this story?

CMM: Ha! Literally nothing, unless you count “clicking on random Kickstarter pages for several hours” as research.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing can't?

CMM: It can play with form more radically than the novel; it can leave you bruised in under 15 pages.

Where should people go to learn more about you and your work?


What's the best gift you've ever been given?

CMM: For my birthday this year, my wife gifted me octopus cooking lessons. She knows me better than anyone on this planet.

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Michael Hingston