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Author Interview: Marie Vibbert
2016-08-11 · by Kerstin
Marie Vibbert is an IT professional from Cleveland, Ohio. She is a member of the Cleveland science fiction writing workshop, The Cajun Sushi Hamsters, attended Clarion in 2013, and joined the SFWA in 2014. She has ridden 17% of the roller coasters in the United States and plays for the Cleveland Fusion women’s tackle football team.
Marie is the author of this week’s story, “Space Princess Coronation.”
This interview was conducted by email in July 2016.
Kerstin Hall: One of my first assumptions was that “Space Princess Coronation” was coded in Twine 2. But you did the whole thing in HTML? That sounds hard.
Marie Vibbert: I started writing HTML when there was no way to do it other than in a text-only interface. I’m one of those Unix nerds who thinks learning all the commands in vi is more practical than downloading [Microsoft] Word. The funny thing is, I was originally going to use Twine, but ran into time constraints while learning the program. So I switched to just typing it out as straight HTML.
Kerstin: Had you written any interactive fiction before “Space Princess Coronation”?
Marie: This is my first! I loved those ‘pick-a-path’ books when I was a kid, but it was learning of the existence of sub-Q that inspired me to try my hand at it.
Kerstin: Are you tempted to move into the Twine interface? In fact, are you tempted to write any more interactive fiction at all?
Kerstin: Your bio mentions “Cajun Sushi Hamsters.” What can you tell me about that?
Marie: Once upon a time, in a dark age known as the 1980s, George Lucas visited a horror upon humanity known as the Howard the Duck movie. Howard the Duck takes place in my home town of Cleveland, Ohio (though the film was made in Hawaii—marking the only time in history someone looked at Hawaii and said, ‘Gee, this is just like the Midwest.’) In the movie, there is a scene in a Cajun Sushi restaurant—just one long sad gag. The Cleveland Science Fiction Writer’s Workshop was looking for a catchier name and someone suggested “Cajun Sushi Hamsters.’ No, I don’t know where the hamster part comes from.
Kerstin: As I have Internet-stalked you, I have gone through your blog, which features a multitude of adorable little illustrations.
Marie: I’ve always been a huge comic fan and dreamed of writing a comic strip. I drew and wrote a strip for my high school paper, and even got a few strips in the local community paper growing up. I’ve never been much of an artist, but I love doodling. The Space Princess and her Protocol Droid are two of my favorite doodles and I’m super happy with how they look against the awesome backgrounds you created!
Kerstin: You attended the Clarion Writer’s Workshop in 2013. How was that experience and in which ways did it shape your writing?
Marie: I cannot overstate the impact of Clarion. It was an intense, life-changing experience. People had told me it would be, but I thought that was, well, exaggeration. People say going to see Springsteen is life-changing! But this… it forced me to really look at my work, at short fiction itself, and see the bare bones of what works and what doesn’t and why.
Not to mention giving up six weeks of your life and a significant amount of money really invests you in your writing career. I can’t let that go to waste!
Kerstin: What are your current writing preoccupations or themes?
Marie: I’m working on a story about collective bargaining and memory-transfer. I have a novel about a girl biker gang in outer space. If there are spaceships and robots or blue-collar people, I’m into it.
Kerstin: What are you most proud of?
Marie: My story “Keep Talking,” which blends a single father trying to communicate with his autistic daughter and humanity trying to decipher a message from outer space, won Apex Magazine’s best short story of 2014, but what really makes me proud are parents of autistic children thanking me for telling their story.
Kerstin: Space Princess is probably one of the most lighthearted pieces sub-Q has hosted. Is this a departure from your usual style?
Marie: I seem to have two modes: lighthearted and dark. I enjoy writing funny stories. At Clarion, my first two stories were comedies, and then for the rest of the six weeks I presented ever-darkening dark stories that made people say, “Well! Another light-hearted romp from Marie!”
Kerstin: Where did the inspiration for Space Princess come from?
Marie: I owe the whole thing to the [Global] Game Jam. It’s an annual event where you have a weekend to write a video game. My husband and I have teamed up for this twice now, and it’s a great couples’ activity! This year’s theme was “Ritual,” and we decided to go with a coronation. Brian suggested that I write the game’s outline as a text adventure. I budgeted eight hours to get the story done while Brian created 3D models and we argued over what Space Princess looks like. The game itself was not a huge success, but at the end of the weekend, I had this small text adventure!
Kerstin: Give me one unusual factoid about yourself.
Marie: At the age of 35, with no athletic ability to speak of, I tried out and made Cleveland’s women’s tackle football team, the Cleveland Fusion—now ranked #5 nationwide in the largest women’s league ever!
Kerstin: Describe yourself as a writer.
Marie: I’m not the best, but I work hard. Between procrastination breaks.
Kerstin: What are your goals for the future?
Marie: I have a lot. I’d like to publish one of the novels I’ve written. I’d like to sell a story to Clarkesworld. (There’s a bet on the line.)
I want to be cool enough that someone else writes fanfic about my stories.
Kerstin: When you were six years old, what did you want most in the world? What do you want right now?
Marie: I wanted to live in New York City and be a Business Lady with high heels and pin-striped miniskirts.
Shortly after that, I became obsessed with writing and would carry my stories in a shopping bag I pretended was a briefcase.
These days I just want to write. There are so many stories inside me and not enough time to get them down!
Kerstin: Dragons or mermaids?
Marie: Channing Tatum Merman.
Kerstin: If you had the power to time travel, what would be your first stop?
Marie: I’d like to think it would be something less self-serving, but… no. I’d go to Dijon in 1470. For the fashion. (I was a medieval re-enactor for a while and did heavy research on Burgundian costume. It’s all about the hats.)