September 2017. A fatburg the size of 11 buses was dragged out of London’s sewers, and scientists discovered a jellyfish that sleeps! In the US, hurricane Irma left 7 million homes without power, while in Bangladesh, over 500,000 Rohingya were living in dire conditions. In Africa, a tree-planting initiative was actually reversing desertification. Guillermo del Toro won an award for The Shape of Water, while The Handmaid’s Tale won eight awards! including Outstanding Drama Series.
It was also the month that Flash Fiction Online published “Listen and You’ll Hear Us Speak” by A.T. Greenblatt. The far-future setting might be unfamiliar, but the desire to escape exploitation is all too familiar. Whether it’s the “sharing economy” or “wage-slavery,” we’ll always need stories about those who refuse to be underestimated. This story makes me shout hooray!
We hope you’ll be cheering as you read all our July stories of escape.
“Listen and You’ll Hear Us Speak” by A.T. Greenblatt
There’s this story we like to tell on Deck 3—we, the quiet ones. The voiceless dishwashers and short order cooks and house musicians who scrub and busk in grimy bars on a space station full of grimy bars. It’s about a girl who was quiet too.
One night, this girl met a trader, just like you, wearing cuts that were too expensive for his pay grade. That all but said, “I’m a stealing bastard.”
CATCHING UP WITH AUTHOR A.T. GREENBLATT
FFO: In the years since your story was published in Flash Fiction Online, what other writing goals have you accomplished? Which publications, awards, or successes are you most proud of?
ATG: “Listen and You’ll Hear Us Speak” came out in Fall 2017, right when I started getting published consistently as a short story writer. My writing career has taken off in the years since, with about a dozen publications in magazines like Uncanny, Clarkesworld, Tor.com, and Asimov’s. I’ve been a finalist for the Nebula, Hugo, Locus, and Sturgeon Award and won the Nebula Award in 2019 for best short story. My work has been reprinted in a bunch of Year’s Best anthologies and translated into a dozen languages. Honestly, as I look back at all that’s happened, I’m still stunned.
FFO: Looking back on your story, is there anything about it that surprises you? Anything that you would have changed or done differently if you’d written the same story now?
ATG: I’m surprised I was able to weave together two different points of view and two different stories in under a thousand words. Rereading it for the first time in years, I noticed there were sentences that I could have made sharper or places where I could have added small details. But I try not to overanalyze my previously published work – no good will come of it. I’m still not a great flash fiction writer, as in, all my attempted flash pieces usually grow into full length stories. So I’m pleased that this one managed to stay at flash length.
FFO: What do you think are the most valuable lessons you’ve learned about writing in the years since this story was published?
ATG: The lesson that’s been drilled into me over the last few years is patience. A writing career is a long game with many ups and downs and all you can control is what you write, what you learn, and how to push yourself creatively. I’m constantly reminding myself to wait, to keep finishing stories, to keep revising them and sending them out. Because writing is slow and strange and when success comes, sometimes it shows up unexpectedly.
FFO: How have you changed in the years since this story was published—as a writer and as an individual?
ATG: As a writer, I have a better feeling for when a story is done, and which markets will like it. I’m also writing more ambitious stories and finishing some of the stories I didn’t have the skill to write when I attempted them years ago.
As an individual, I think I’m a little more confident and a little braver. I got better at time management and at not being a hermit all the time.
FFO: Are there any writers, poets, artists, or other creators whom you’d like to recommend to those who enjoy your work?
ATG: Most of these writers’ styles and stories are nothing like mine, but I really enjoy the work of Dominica Phetteplace, Nghi Vo, Akwaeke Emezi, Samantha Irby, Kathleen Jennings, Lavie Tidhar, and Meg Elison. I’m also on a Phoebe Bridgers music kick and have been enjoying the podcast Musical Splaining.
FFO: How can readers support you in your current endeavors?
ATG: The best way to support me as a writer is to support SFF magazines like Flash Fiction Online, Uncanny, Clarkesworld, Locus, Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Asimov’s, Nightmare, etc. Short story markets cultivate the next generation of writers and they can’t do that without reader support. You can also follow me on Twitter at @AtGreenblatt or on my blog at http://atgreenblatt.com for new publication announcements. Thank you!