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Literary Hill: An Interview With Richard Agemo

This month, Literary Hill editor Michelle LaFrance interviewed Richard Agemo, longtime resident of Capitol Hill, who writes ghost and sci-fi stories. His stories often involve his deep interest in the consequences of scientific innovation gone awry, especially as technologies and tricks-of-the-mind overlap in questions about reality. 

LaFrance also reviews Agemo’s newest short story, below.

Michelle LaFrance: What first attracted you to writing speculative fiction?

Richard Agemo: Growing up, I was into monsters, model rockets, and reading Bradbury, Clarke, and Le Guin, so when I began writing, I naturally gravitated to speculative fiction.

MLF: Speculative fiction is known for its imaginative backgrounds, plots, and characters. What inspires you and how do you develop your initial ideas into a story?  

RA: Inspiration can come from anything ranging from a zoo animal to an obituary to a historical event, followed by, what if? Next, I’ll decide about plot, characters, and scenes, then dive in!

MLF: What do you hope people will take away from your work?

RA: I’m a Shakespeare addict. One theme I love from his work, which I hope readers grasp in mine, is how people can be tricked into seeing things that aren’t really there, leading them to jump to conclusions with unforeseen consequences.

Review

Change of Light (reprinted in Black Sheep Magazine, December 2023)

Richard Agemo’s sci-fi romance with a twist imagines a future where accelerated DNA reconstruction allows people to permanently change their physical characteristics. Set in 2058 Japan, the story takes a shockingly literal turn when the protagonist changes his facial features to appease his traditional mother-in-law.

Set against the backdrop of the anniversary of Fukushima, complete with simulations and undercurrents of societal anxiety about scientific advancements, the short story manages to take on racial and cultural divides, identity, and the line between reality and perception. Did I mention there is a twist?

If you enjoy a mind-bending trip, as well as grappling with the past, love, loss, and ethics, you’ll enjoy this short, savvy read.

Agemo’s story was first published in Silver Blade Magazine.

Black Sheep: Unique Tales of Wonder

Black Sheep magazine can be purchased online at https://darkhorsesmagazine.mystrikingly.com/. Fans of Agemo’s short fiction may appreciate his blog about all things Shakespeare: https://www.richardagemo.com/shakespeares-mirror.

Michelle LaFrance is Associate Professor of English at George Mason University. She teaches creative nonfiction, life writing, and civic writing at the Hill Center and blogs about writing, her upcoming writing classes, and writing retreats at writinglostriver.org.

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