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Interview: Iori Kusano

Iori Kusano is a queer Asian American writer, competitive Yu-Gi-Oh! duelist, and Extremely Ordinary Office Gremlin living in Tokyo. They are a graduate of Clarion West 2017 and their fiction has previously appeared in Apex Magazine and Baffling Magazine. Their debut novella, Hybrid Heart, is forthcoming from Neon Hemlock Press in 2023. “can i offer you a nice egg in this trying time” is their first story to appear in Uncanny, a moving tale of trauma and healing, with eggs cooked—incorrectly—to order.

 

Uncanny Magazine: This is an emotionally powerful story where Matt is struggling to move on from a world he’s lost. What was your inspiration or starting point?

Iori Kusano: In the summer of 2020 there was an /r/relationships post from a woman who was rightfully alarmed by her boyfriend repeatedly going to Waffle House, receiving an incorrect egg order, and getting into fistfights with the cook about it. I think it was later revealed as fiction but it absolutely fascinated me. The author of this post had just invented a whole new type of guy, and I wanted to pop the lid on that guy’s brain and see what gasket had blown out to make him behave this way. And, as it usually is with me, the answer was “isekai trauma”!

In the first iteration of this story Gary was in a closer place to Matt’s mindset, but that was way too heavy and bleak. The version of Gary that has healed from the trauma and self-actualized is a lighthouse for Matt, even though Matt reacts to it with hostility. I think of them as two monks in an unusually violent koan.

Uncanny Magazine: If you could go to Hirekkyo, but only once—would you want to?

Iori Kusano: Who’s to say I haven’t?

Uncanny Magazine: I love the bit where Alice is leaving and the only thing that Matt can think of to say is that he can’t eat all the tomato sauce alone—it is such a great character detail. How do you come up with your characters? Do they ever do things you don’t expect?

Iori Kusano: Rather than my characters behaving in unexpected ways, I struggle most with their inclination towards inaction. The vast majority of my protagonists just want to be left the hell alone; even when their status quo is rotten, changing their circumstances or healing themselves requires so much vulnerability (materially and/or emotionally) that it is more comfortable to crawl under the covers and pretend they’re not unfulfilled-at-best. I spend a truly horrible amount of time trying to wrench the plot around to force them into action despite the risks and consequences that they’re afraid of.

Uncanny Magazine: How do you like your eggs?

Iori Kusano: I’m an omurice junkie, but it has to be served in curry or beef stew. The omurice at Jonathan’s is pretty good—I have a deep and abiding spiritual attachment to a particular booth where I get a lot of my writing out.

Uncanny Magazine: “can i offer you a nice egg in this trying time” opens with a great fight scene. Do you have some favorite action sequences from fiction or other media?

Iori Kusano: I love Sammo Hung’s fight scenes, and that’s a strong influence on how I block fights. He was the action director for Games Gamblers Play and The Private Eyes, two 1970s comedies starring the Hui brothers; the kitchen fight from The Private Eyes lives rent-free in my head. I find fights that incorporate the environment as either hazard or tool to be vastly more interesting (and fun to write) than two guys swinging at each other in an empty warehouse.

Uncanny Magazine: What are you working on next?

Iori Kusano: I try not to talk too much about projects in progress because I feel like that sucks energy out of them, but I am yet again elbow-deep in one of the four recurring themes that I’m obsessed with. My debut novella, Hybrid Heart, will also be out from Neon Hemlock in 2023, and I’m really looking forward to that!

Uncanny Magazine: Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us!

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Caroline M. Yoachim

Caroline M. Yoachim is a three-time Hugo and six-time Nebula Award finalist. Her short stories have been translated into several languages and reprinted in multiple best-of anthologies, including four times in Best American Science Fiction and Fantasy. Yoachim’s short story collection Seven Wonders of a Once and Future World & Other Stories and the print chapbook of her novelette The Archronology of Love are available from Fairwood Press. For more, check out her website at carolineyoachim.com.

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