Next up in our line up of author profiles from Dead of Winter is KT Wagner, who wrote the dystopian thriller "Slipped Stitch". Her story is an uncomfortable look at what the justice system could become and the struggle of an individual within the system to continue accepting things as they are.
Read on to find out what moves KT as a writer and then get an excerpt from "Slipped Stitch".
How did you get started with writing?
I wrote non-fiction for many years. Decades actually, and I mostly focused on politics and policy. My first published piece was a letter-to-the-editor in my early teens. I started reading science fiction around the same time, but did not try my hand at writing it (or any other fiction – not even bad poetry in my teens!) until about six years ago. Almost immediately, I realized I had a lot to learn and started taking fiction-writing workshops and programs. It’s been a fun and fascinating journey.
Do you tend to write in just one genre or do you like to write across multiple genres?
I primarily write science fiction and scifi/horror. In some ways, it extends my interest in politics, human nature and the engines of social change.
What made you decide to write "Slipped Stitch"? Is there a particular backstory to it?
I read an article about a group of women visiting a prison for men and teaching the inmates to knit. It was supposed to a form of therapy. The program was lovely, but it got me thinking.
What do you like to do when you're not writing?
I spend a lot of time building our local writing community. I help put on monthly writing events and once a year I organize a three-day, ghost story writing retreat. Literacy issues interest me and I love working in my garden. Of course, I like to knit…
Where is the best place for readers to find out more about your work?
Thanks, KT! And, now, here's an excerpt from "Slipped Stitch".
Daggers of late afternoon sun slice through high windows, swirling fiery highlights into the hair of the naked men. Their fists clench around bamboo sticks as they bend over their knitting. Perched on tiered and tiled benches, row upon row, with sweat dripping from corrugated brows, the men do not look at the ones lying prone before them.
I pat my side arm, reassured it’s still there. My job is to deliver the winner. By historical standards, the prize isn’t much—an easier death—but most work hard to win.
This spectacle occurs five times a year. It used to be once. Maybe that was better; I can’t remember with any certainty.
My regular job title is Prison Guard. On spectacle days, I’m the Designated-Executioner. The temporary reassignment is an honor with extra pay and privileges. Last year, my appointment came down from the Chief Justice, days after the last Designated-Executioner went home and shot herself in the head. At least that was the whispered rumor. In the staff room, we sniggered and rolled our eyes at her weakness.
I try to forget that I know these men. Catfish in particular.
Sympathy is considered encouragement, especially with so many watching. Every day, we are warned. At home, I practice a still expression, mimicking the terracotta masks mounted high on the walls.
Across the chamber, Sammie, a new attendant, moves to wipe condensation and gore from the triple layer of reinforced glass. She clears the view for two elderly women in the front row and the looming mob.
I remember when I was like Sammie. The orgasmic rush of power and righteous retribution.
Sammie’s proud and wants to hold up a fist to her friends in the crowd, but it’s against the rules. Her flashing eyes reflect in the glass, their glow a fever I know well. A shrug of her shoulder toward the condemned and a slight nod to the crowd. A smirk twitches her lips—definitely against the rules—and she turns from the glass barrier.
As the date for this spectacle approached, for the first time in my life I had trouble sleeping. In the quiet of the night, treasonous thoughts burrowed into my brain. I’m no longer sure all prisoners deserve their fate.