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Bewildering Stories

Bewildering Stories Interviews

Bertil Falk

Associate Editor interview synopsis
Bewildering Stories was first conceived as a way to break the bottleneck of print publishing in science fiction. It soon expanded its scope to include all “speculative” writing, however loosely it may be defined. It has long had a kind of educational mission, to encourage new and aspiring writers. Our Associate Editors’ work for our regular issues is mirrored by that of the Review Board for our Quarterly and Annual Reviews. The Review Editors are our flag-bearers; they ensure that Bewildering Stories holds its own with the best current literature on line and in print. This interview expresses our appreciation to one of our Review Editors.

How did you become involved with Bewildering Stories, and when?

I began to read Bewildering Stories and found so many good stories and realised that this was the best magazine on Internet without any real competition. I think it still is.

Is there anything you’d like to tell Bewildering Stories authors to do or not do?

Who am I to tell them anything except keep writing!

What are your favorite and least favorite parts of working as a Review Editor for Bewildering Stories?

Lack of time. This week I have spent two days at the University Library of Lund, I have been to my annual checkup at the care centre in Anderslöv, been to two exhibitions my granddaughter Iris Brinkborg has been involved in, had food at a shushi resturant in Malmö where my grandson Nicholas Reilly is working for the time being, and picked up a few books I have promised to review for the mag I once was the editor of. And Rotary meetings once a week of course.

What do you do in real life?

In real life as opposed to what???? Ever since I picked up making out letters, words and sentences, I have been reading and the same thing goes for writing. I have written poetry on flights to Japan, in buses through Malmö, at cafés in Nice, etc.. I have interviewed people, I have written articles. In short I have done everything you can do when it comes to writing, including captions for comic strips. I have worked for newspapers, weeklies and been a TV script writer. What’s left? To do crosswords.

What is your occupation?

Edmond Hamilton and Bertil Falk
Edmond Hamilton and Bertil Falk, in 1975
Photo by Leigh Brackett
At the age of 9 I stumbled upon Superman and found that I wanted to be a journalist like Lois Lane and Clark Kent. Though my first published thing was a science fiction story at the age of 12 — title: “Tripp i rymden” (Trip in Space), shamelessly inspired by Edmond Hamilton and Eando (Otto) Binder.

I began as a stringer-like freelance reporter for a local newspaper north of Stockholm at the age of 17. It was never my intention to become an author, even though I wrote stories now and then for the fun of it.

There was no academic journalist education in those days. The only thing was a private evening school two times a week in Stockholm. I attended the classes but skipped them on occasion, as when Charlie Parker played at the Concert Hall and similar more important things.

I became a journalist. I got my pension at 65 and I have been on my own ever since, reading, writing, being editor for a magazine, writing a couple of books on literature, etc, etc. I also produce a radio programme every second week for my Rotary Club in Trelleborg. You can hear it on Internet, but since it is in Swedish and most of it is talk radio (interviews about local stuff) you’d better skip it.

What do you like most and least about it?

I find everything worth doing.

What advice would you give to a young person going into your line of work?

We are all individuals. The only thing I can think of is that if you are not specializing in sports, politics etc., take an interest in anything and everything and you will find that anything and everything is interesting.

Another thing if you are doing news: remember that news is not, as some people think, what happened two hours ago. News is what your readers did not know until you “wrote it on their noses” (Swedish for blurting out something to somebody).

Who are your favorite authors, and what about their works appeals to you most?

I no longer have favorite authors. There are so many great writers. If you force me to mention one author, I say Jane Austen.

What’s your favorite book?

The same thing. But let me mention a few novels that inspired me: Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Captain Future and the Seven Space Stones by Edmond Hamilton, The Sword of Rhinannon by Leigh Brackett and The Stars My Destination by Alfred Bester. Not to mention the many great short stories by famous, unknown and forgotten writers.

If you could invite any other writer to dinner who would you ask and why?

Emily Brontë. I think that a conversation with her would be enlightening.

What’s the last book that you read and really enjoyed?

It was a non-fiction book about an arsonist who was at large in the city of Ystad not far from where I live. Everyone knew it was him. He even promised face to face with the police to burn down the whole city, but it took between hundred and two hundred burning houses before they actually could nail him. But even then he was not caught redhanded, but too many people saw him leaving the burning house plus technical evidence.

If you could be any character other than one of your own from a book or movie who would it be? Why?

No I am happy to be who I am. But the “I” in “Under the Green Sun of Slormor” is me — but only about 30 percent.

How do you think literature might be used in education, especially in the age of the Internet?

I am not sure that literature should be used in education, but literature is for sure educating. As a matter of fact I am not at all convinced that all people should read “literature.” It is essential that every individual be taught reading and writing, but that’s it.

In connection with plumbing I had a craftsman in my house. He looked at all my books and told me that he had never read a book in his life. He did not seem to suffer. We are all different.

Do you write yourself? What kind of stuff?

Anything and everything. I consider myself to be first a journalist; many of my books have been non-fiction. Second I’m a writer of fiction.

How long have you been writing?

As soon as I knew ABCDEEFGHIJKLMNOPQRSTUVXYZÅÄÖ and how to combine them into words and the words into sentences.

Some authors have said that their parents were supportive of their efforts when young, and some have said they had to sneak around and hide. What was the case with you?

My parents were not of an intellectual kind. I had to hide my sf-mags. They were dangerous to the mind. The teachers hated them and my beloved mom believed the teachers.

Where do you get your ideas?

From many things that happen in my life, from the news and from reading of course. It happens that I read a mystery and when I read the solution I suddenly know another not necessarily better solution but different.

Where do you write?

Everywhere. When travelling I am scribbling down ideas with a pencil on anything, be it Wall Street Journal or a paper napkin. At home I am stuck to the computer. Depending on circumstances, I may not write more than a few lines one day, because other things ask for my intervention. On the other hand it is not uncommon that I write a short story in a day or one or two articles.

Do you ever have a problem with writer’s block?


Who proofreads and critiques your work?

I have been very bad at that but I am trying to be more careful nowadays.

Do you have a favorite among your works?

Yes. (ha, ha!)

Do you have a favorite character? If so, who is it, and what makes it your favorite?


Who drives a story: you or your characters?

I think I am the pilot.

What do you consider the strangest thing you’ve ever written?

I think it is the novel that Don hesitates to publish.

[Editor’s note: I believe Bertil is referring to “Infranet,” which is on the schedule. Ever the gentleman, Bertil has politely insisted upon waiting his turn and even yielding it to others. But enough is enough: “Infranet” shall have priority.]

Every second chapter is normal prose, every second strange because it is about:

  1. What happens inside a damaged brain.
  2. What happens when that brain and another brain affects the Internet.
  3. How the brain damaged man’s mental shape or whatever is sucked back through the bardo of Tibetan Buddhism.

I am very happy with the structure of that story for it is my own structure, neither Shakespeare or Marcel Proust have had a finger in that pie.

Almost every writer is inspired by someone or something else. What inspirations have you found?

I am inspired by most everything surrounding me.

What do you do in your spare time (aside from reading Bewildering Stories stories)?

A little bit of gardening in the summer.

Where do you live, if you don’t mind saying?

I live in a small cottage in small village in the sourthernmost community of Sweden. It is called Trelleborg and is the big port of big ferries to continental Europe.

Where do you think you might like to live, either in reality or in your imagination?

Slormor would have been an interesting place.

Falk with children and grandchildren
Bertil, daughters and grandchildren; Christmas 2011

Bertil at Rancon 2003
Bertil talks about Charles Fort at Rancon, 2003
Photo by Anders Hultman

Copyright © 2012 by Bertil Falk
and Don Webb for Bewildering Stories

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