An Interview with Christina Quay and Chase Griffin

First off tell us about your new book How To Play The Necromancer’s Theremin and its character psychedelic sci-fi writer Rocco Atleby

Griffin: How To Play A Necromancer’s Theremin is about a cult classic author named Rocco Atleby and his literary world called the Patasphere. Rocco is this archetypal mid-century wise old sci-fi author sage and the whole world, that he may or may not have created, is obsessed with him. There are Rocco-themed bars, Rocco pilgrimages you can purchase, and much more. The world is littered with his face and words. 

The book is about the cult of personality, our clout-obsessed showbiz culture, and the search for authenticity and spiritually-meaningful living in our techno-infused carnival of political horrors called late capitalism. 

Quay: Rocco Atleby was born in the middle of the pandemic when Chase and I were both laid off from our jobs. We went on a lot of walks together to pass the isolated time, especially late at night when we were restless and didn’t have any jobs to get up for in the morning. 

I don’t remember exactly when Chase started talking about Rocco and his admirers, it was like he had always been there, like someone we were remembering together. He is definitely Chase’s brain child.I feel so lucky that we have the kind of relationship where Chase always wants me to word play with him and live and interact within his imagination with him. 

What was it like writing a character from back in the days of fringe drug culture when we now see that psychedelics have fallen more into the mainstream for mental health treatment?

Griffin: Writing Rocco was like having a kooky old uncle move in with us. It was a bit of a sitcom episode. But instead of dividing the house in half with duct tape, the Griffin-Quays on one side and Rocco on the other, we sequestered Rocco to a mother-in-law suite located above the detached garage. And he was only allowed into our home when we gave him permission. So, I guess it was like a sitcom about a friendly, kooky vampire uncle. Man, I gotta pitch that to someone. We could call it Vuncle.

We’d ask Vuncle questions about the old days and his excessive toxic creative behavior and then when Vuncle came to be too much and we politely asked him to go back into the suite he politely went back into the suite.

Quay: As someone who decided to begin the journey of total sobriety when the pandemic started (no alcohol and no cannabis, and coffee has been my only vice for 3 years now) it was very therapeutic for me to write about these wild characters who totally distorted and bastardized the magic of words and used them for drug-like purposes. It almost made me feel even more sure in my decision to live life sober and uninhibited by mind altering substances. And saying all this isn’t to knock anyone’s lifestyle by any means, but it was a good way for me to find perspective personally. 

It was really fun to write about a character from back in the days of fringe psychedelia because I have always been fascinated by the stories of Carlos Castaneda, Philip K. Dick, and Terrence McKenna to name a few. I have always been drawn to tales of the otherworldly and breaking through our reality into shared realities. The way Chase used [these] books as that vehicle in our novel was just so creative to me, I’m literally astounded continuously by his unmatched imagination.

How is it like looking at the work of those sixties and seventies psychedelic sci-fi authors, whose ideas were celebrated by readers for being avant-garde and then one sees video of Philip K. Dick speaking at the 1977 Metz SciFi Convention and he presented the VALIS trilogy as possibly real? How does your work deal with the Borgesian conundrum questioning “whether the writer writes the book or it writes them”?

Griffin: Whenever people ask Alan Moore where his ideas come from he says, “I have no idea. A voice just shows up and does the work.” When I sit down at the old desk and write, not much happens for the first hour or so. Some verbs and nouns tumble onto the page and dance like a herky jerky robot. Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes the herky jerky robot can be a fun spectacle for both myself and the reader, but that robot dance along with all the various types of fiction dances must be on our terms and on purpose. 

I think this Muse, VALIS, is what PKD was hearing (and seeing sometimes) and because the notion of positive “support system” didn’t quite exist back then and because the psychology world was in the midst of rapid transition and constant change back then and because of whatever the underlying mental health issues he suffered from his whole life and because of the amphetamine use, he sometimes took his Muse experiences to be very real.

I guess when I watch that video of PKD at the Metz, I feel lucky. I feel lucky to have a modern perspective. I feel lucky to not take myself so seriously (whether it’s on purpose or not). I can for sure understand PKD’s Metz exuberance. Sometimes when I have a creative breakthrough I feel like I want to hold a press conference too. I won’t lol but sometimes I want to. 

Quay: Chase and I definitely don’t take ourselves so seriously as to think anything we write has any basis in this tangible shared reality. Do artists create realities? Absolutely. But do we think in some multiversal plane Rocco Atleby is hurtling through time in a fat tornado clock? Not likely. I have always been tickled by the juxtaposition of the writer and their intentions versus how their work is received. Intention versus reception and interpretation is an animal all of its own.

And when it comes to the psychedelics and admiring their groundbreaking strides, we can love and revere their work without considering it as a religion of truth. 

As far as the Borgesian conundrum, it’s a paradox that Chase inserted I think quite intentionally into our book in a few different ways. My favorite example is the character Holger, because while we wrote the book, I asked him, “So did Rocco write Holger into existence, or is it more of a Stranger than Fiction situation where Rocco is omnisciently narrating and guiding the fates with his pen?” And Chase has still remained mysterious, even with me, in his answers, because I think maybe it’s a little bit of both. 

What is it like for you two writing a book together as a couple with a family together? What is your process?

Griffin: Christina and I Yes-Anded this book during the pandemic as a way to pass the time, jokingly muse about the nature of things, flirt with each other, and try our dang hardest to make each laugh so hard we piss ourselves

Quay: Writing a book with Chase was a purely magical experience. It was like he invited me to live in his head for a while, because Chase deserves full credit for the birth of the Roccoverse. Writing this book with him was like being invited on a road trip. And he handed me this wild map that only I could interpret and we hopped in a flying clown car and I played navigator on this wild ride to another dimension where occasionally I would completely take the wheel. It really says a lot about Chase’s ego, he genuinely wanted my voice to be present in his work, and it became ours. It started off as me just “editing” and “taking a look” but I started asking if I could tweak things or add sentences and then scenes, and before I knew it I had written so much that I said “Chase, I don’t feel comfortable not having my name on this, what if this gets published and someone quotes my words and the by line says Chase Griffin? And he said, “Scroll up to the top of the document,” and he had already put my name under his. He’s quite devilish really. 

We wrote the book like a conversation in a Google document. That way we could both work on it at the same time and even see where the other person was in the document while we wrote. We heavily got into writing when I found out I was pregnant with our first child in 2021. My stepson was 7 at the time, so I would go to work, come home, cook dinner for us while Chase was at work, put our son to bed, and I wouldn’t start writing until 9 o’clock at night some nights. It was really hard work, and especially since I was pregnant writing this felt like a happy fever dream. 

Kelvin Matheus writes that your book is “some type of esoteric improv that explores Borges’ theory on causality as the main problem of the literary arts”. We discussed Borges and psychedelics, fringe sci-fi but improv have more connections than people know when you look at the biography, tall tales and teachings of improv guru Del Close. How familiar are you both with Close’ work, bio, and this teaches of “yes and”, truth in comedy” & “working at the top of your intelligence”?

Griffin: Del Close is another one of the great psychonautzzzz. He’s almost never credited as one, but he is. He was even a Merry Prankster and the SNL crew’s house metaphysician. Del Close was from that long line of, from High Weirdness, “subcultures…united in their desire to affect a complete discontinuity with the conventional reality.”  

Improv comedy is one of the big themes, concepts, and engines of our book. Christina and I were constantly playing Del Close’s game, The Harold. And Wasteland has been a big inspiration on my creative life. The Harold and Yes And are like spells. Improv comedy has always fascinated me. It is like the creation of brief anarchic pocket universes. Improv comedy, in my opinion, is a modern day esoteric magickal ritual. 

Quay: I am extremely well read, but Chase is the comedy manual, philosophy nut so this question is admittedly a better target for Chase. I’m more of a historical fiction, fantasy reader. But I think that’s what makes our novel so fascinating. If you’re an avid reader of philosophy and improv comedy, you’ll see so much behind the lines that Chase put there on purpose, but if you aren’t, like me, you can still totally understand and interact with the book. 

What sci-fi writers of this time period do you wish more readers would rediscover? What draws you to their work?

Griffin: Ursula Le Guin, Octavia Butler, Samuel R. Delany, and Michael Moorcock. Borges isn’t sci-fi in the traditional sense and he’s older than the new wave sci-fi we’ve been discussing but I think he kind of counts because he had a renaissance towards the end of his life in the 60’s and 70’s when he was discovered in the US by this generation of writers and readers. 

I always recommend Borges (Borges and Mary Shelley are probably my all-time favorite writers) and his trippy brain-wrinkling reality warping tales like The Library of Babel, Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, Funes, His Memory, The Immortal, The Aleph, and so many others. And yes, if anyone was wondering, more than anything else, How To Play A Necromancer’s Theremin is our attempt to write a full length Jorge Luis Borges novel.

Where can readers find you online and check out your work?

Griffin: How to Play a Necromancer’s Theremin will be published by Maudlin House on September 28th. Long Day Press published my debut novel, What’s On the Menu?. That book is about sunbaked restaurateuring and tainted water supplies. My Instagram @sleepcook_ is where one can find all the updates and extra nuggets.

Quay: My paintings and drawings can be found on my Instagram @qualien_

A Review of The Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei

*SPOILER ALERT* The following review contains plot details about The Deep Sky.

The Deep Sky by Yume Kitasei is everything you’d want from a whodunnit murder mystery set on a space station hurtling towards Planet X. Think Portrait of a Thief by Grace D. Li mixed with Dune by Frank Herbert. The world-building, the mechanics, and cultural nuance, all come together in The Deep Sky.

Asuka has woken up from a decade-long hibernation. Now, deep in space and 11-months into their mission, the monotony of the ship’s routines is setting in. The A, B, and C shifts of sleep, work, and study are starting to wear her thin. Add the complication that Asuka is supposed to be pregnant—very pregnant—by now in order to give birth before arriving on Planet X and this means she’s more than a little stressed. Her shipmates are pregnant, the captain included, but not Asuka. Not yet, and she doesn’t know why.

Asuka spent her early life on Earth training to be one of the chosen members of the Phoenix. Flashbacks throughout the novel give us glimpses of Asuka’s strained relationship with her mother and brother and the trauma that still lingers there. Her mother is a constant in the present narrative because of the letters that the DAR AI is constantly prompting Asuka to read. The novel explores themes and feelings of diaspora because Asuka is Japanese-American yet was chosen to represent Japan, despite not being fluent in the language. The trials and schooling to become one of the elite members of the Phoenix were grueling, and we see the political intrigue and investment of countries such as the US, China, and Japan when preparing the space station’s mission.

With her estranged familial relations, Asuka has sacrificed everything to be part of Phoenix. Readers are plunged into life on the ship by experiencing DAR, Digitally Augmented Reality. When Asuka’s DAR becomes buggy, we see the canvas beneath the virtual reality. White walls, endless sterile halls—the ship is colossal, but without the DAR Asuka starts to notice things, such as damaged dispenser hatches in the medical unit, and she starts to see into other people’s DARs. In a strangely intimate moment, Asuka can see what her shipmates choose to live in, day after day.

Alpha, the ship’s omnipresent AI, is part parental, part therapist, part organizational unit. Alpha is a constant voice in Asuka’s ear, programmed to be entirely confidential, and so Asuka trusts them. She confides in them and would rather speak to Alpha than her weekly therapy sessions.

When a mysterious object is detected on the outside of the ship, Asuka and her shipmate Kat are tasked with a spacewalk, so they go out into the dark. First, they are racing and making the best of life in space. Then, there is an explosion, followed by static, followed by running out of oxygen. Asuka barely makes it back to the ship alive. Others are not so lucky. Now, the Phoenix is damaged and pushed off course, Planet X is drifting further out of reach, and the question of who bombed the ship threatens the success of the mission and the survival of humankind. Asuka is thrust into action to find the bomber before they strike again.

It’s these stakes and the mysteries behind them that kept me reading late into the night. The pacing in this novel builds steadily as relationship tensions unfold and past traumas are triggered. I was keen to follow Asuka in both her past and present timelines in order to discover what was going to happen next. Readers who enjoy the heavy worldbuilding of science-fiction and the fast-paced thrust of a thriller, will not want to miss The Deep Sky.

July/August Staff Picks:

Amber Sullivan

In August 2021, Esther recommended Link Click. Listen to them; watch it. I need people to join me as I slip back into a fan-crazed madness because season two is here!

But I’m not recommending the show. I’m here for the soundtrack that’s releasing alongside season two. I don’t care if you don’t watch the show (that’s a LIE) but don’t skip the full versions of the music.

白鲨JAWS and 饭卡 return for the ED in “The TIDES.” It’s eerie, it’s melodic; the discordic blend of guitar and lofi beats hits so right, and it escalates to a very different place than where it began. Why start with the ending song? Because we’re time travelling!

And because the ending of “The TIDES” blends pretty seamlessly into the beggining of the OP, “VORTEX,” where 白鲨JAWS not only created a desperate and impassioned melody but one that’s just as emotive when it plays in reverse, which it does–because we’re time travelling.

“Flash” by Gorilla Attack continues the trend of mathmatic tracks with strong narrative structures playing with time. I can’t get enough of the way the hectic beat messes with the time signature throughout the song.

Even though we’re time travelling, I don’t know what’s next for this soundtrack. It could be good, it could be amazing, it could only be these three songs, but I’ll still be listening for the rest of the summer.

Dominic Loise

I am excited for Si Spurrier’s upcoming take on The Flash (DC Comics) in September, but before the writing torch is passed, I would like to celebrate Jeremy Adams’ run on the book. Adams reestablished Wally West, former sidekick Kid Flash, as the title character of the book and reminded readers that the classic Mark Waid Flash in the nineties helped draw comics out of the grim and gritty era of the eighties.

There is a difference between a superhero grinning with superiority and smiling with the joy of living their dream and Wally West was the first sidekick to take the mantle of the hero after Barry Allen sacrificed himself to save the universe in Crisis of Infinite Earths (1985). Wally West was The Flash in comics from The Flash #1 (1987) until Barry Allen returned in The Flash: Rebirth (2009-2010). It felt like DC was treating Wally as a duplicate to the original when Barry returned, instead of red ribbon racing around the DC Universe in a blur that tied everything and everyone together.

Adams got Wally West ties to the DC Universe from his Teen Titans family, to the pantheon of the Justice League and how the Speed Force connected a multiverse of multiple characters to Earth Prime. The Adams’ Flash comic also understood that the character of Wally West was his most powerful when he stopped running and talked to other people.

The Flash wasn’t a comic about urban crime fighting but community engagement even to the point of Wally knowing the Rogues and talking with them.The communities of the twin cities of Keystone and Central City, the people Wally knew and his family have always been at the heart of the books. Wally knew his strength was honest dialogue about his limitations, asking others for help when he needed it and learning to be yourself- not just the hero.

Jeremy Adams wrote all this in his Flash comic which had open conversations about mental health awareness, thrilling action stories and hit the core notes of each character Wally West ran into.

Asmaani Kumar

Revenant (2023)

TW: Suicide, Child Abuse, Death.

I’ve been the biggest fangirl of Kim Taeri and Oh Jungse, and have been amazed by Hong Kyung in Weak Hero Class 1 early this year. So when I heard that all of these brilliant actors are going to lead a drama which cuts across horror, folklore and the vices of mankind, I was gripping the edges of my seat. I could not wait!

With only 4 more episodes to go, this series has been a rollercoaster ride. The attention to detail when building characters, the incredible pacing of the story, it’s stunning cinematography and the twists and turns taken so far has been grounded solidly by this one myth of the Juvenile Ghost. It has been fascinating to watch our leading characters slowly discover the origins of this ghost across decades as they work together to not only free Kim Taeri of her possession, stop her vengeful deaths but to also understand her traumatic past. It isn’t our usual story of exorcising a possession, because there are so many layers to it that slowly get unfolded at times in dangerous ways. There is also a very intelligent insertion of class dynamics done along with a sensitive exploration of disturbing emotions.

Deeply painful at times to watch, but also a very real portrayal of the deep and dark desires people tend to carry, this is a riveting story that leaves you shaken to the core and impresses on your mind for days. You cannot stop thinking about Revenant once you start!

Simon Kerr

Outer Wilds from Annapurna Interactive

Micro-planets you can circle in a matter of minutes, each with its own aesthetic, tricks, and gravitational pull. Quiet yet expansive storytelling, told through ancient spirals of alien writing.A story in fragments for you to discover. This is what the video game Outer Wilds can promise—breathtaking views and a singular experience.

Outer Wilds is best explored contextless, so if you need no more convincing to check it out, spare yourself the following details and go launch.


You live on a planet spotted with geysers, in a solar system so small the surface of other planets is visible to the naked eye. You’re also adorable, and an astronaut. Everywhere are signs of the Nomai, an enigmatic race of visitors that crash-landed in your home system long ago in search of a great mystery. Surrounded by these relics, your people have developed a space program long before the materials to do so. You’re about to launch into space in a wooden rocket.

On your first day, stay in orbit and visit your planet’s moon, with its drifting spiral of campfire smoke. Or investigate the strange image you awaken to by risking the dense cloud cover of your neighboring planet. Or approach the sun to see two planets intertwined in each other’s orbit, trading a column of sand back and forth. Or watch a brittle geode planet collapse in on itself. Or stay well away from that creepy gnarled tree planet, for now.

Then comes your second first day. And your third first day. And your fourth first day. And the supernova that ends them all.


The complete joy of solving the mysteries of Outer Wilds is second to none. Annapurna Interactive is home to other stunning and atmospheric games, stories that grip you the same way the teleportative novels of your childhood did: Stray (yes, the cat one!), What Remains of Edith Finch, Journey, and the upcoming Cocoon.

If your interests include space, archaeology, and the bittersweet awe of feeling like one small speck in the universe, Outer Wilds is yours. (Specifically, on Nintendo Switch, Playstation, Xbox, or PC.)

Nate Ragolia

Blank Check with Griffin & David

As an avid and ceaseless consumer of podcasts, and a lover of movies, my feed overflows with mic’d cinephiles sharing their takes (of various temperatures) about movies new and old. Somehow, only recently, I took a dip in the warm waters of #theTwoFriends, with Blank Check. The podcast is hosted by actor Griffin Newman (Draft Day, The Tick) and film critic and writer David Sims (The Atlantic). The theme of the show revolves around directors and their oeuvres, and the title refers to how auteurs early successes afford them the rare ‘blank check’ from Hollywood to produce passion projects.

To kick things off, the podcast is all about George Lucas’ Star Wars prequel trilogy, and Griffin and David (and producer Ben Hosley) devote multiple episodes to each of those films. The early eps are replete with bits, including our hosts pretending to not know about the existence of the original Star Wars trilogy. Following that series, they pivot toward the aforementioned director-focused course, tackling films by M. Night Shyamalan, The Wachowskis, Cameron Crowe, James Cameron, Christopher Nolan, and more.

Griffin and David are clearly passionate filmgoers who provide thoughtfully hilarious breakdowns of each and every film, and deliver wildly interesting facts and figures along the way. I have been binging this show for two weeks straight and loving every minute of it, and if you love movies, goofy hosts, silly bits, and inside stories… this one might be for you.

Dominic Loise

Paul Giamatti’s Chinwag with Stephen Asma

As a child of the seventies, I was exposed to more of the unexplained than I could wrap my head around. Every year for a while, the same house on our block would be up for sale with each owner having the same ghost story. My older brother once pointed out John Wayne Gacey’s house as our family drove past the street during weekend errands. Saturday afternoons were spent watching Rich Koz (then just Son of Svengoolie) and monster movies on local UHF. And the drive-in where my parents took me to see ET was buzzed by the odd lights from the local naval training base.

With this upbringing, it is a rickety dam against a raging river to see things as a skeptic. It is still a daily struggle especially for someone who works on their mental health. One day that metaphorical dam came down and I went inpatient. Since then, it is best to avoid material on the topic of the paranormal, which can be triggering. But through talk therapy, I also have been doing exposures, which is about watching or listening to anxiety inducing media in a safe environment (like during the daytime on a day off) and processing the thoughts and feelings.

Paul Giamatti’s Chinwag with Stephen Asma is a podcast that has been currently helping me. The podcast is hosted by one of the top actors working today, Paul Giamatti and Stephen T. Asma, author of On Monsters: An Unnatural History of our Worst Fears and a Professor of Philosophy at Columbia College Chicago. The podcast deals with a wide range of topics and takes many divergences and looks at  different perspectives on the topics like aliens. ghosts and cryptozoology. Guests are either researchers in those fields or writers & actors with an interest in the topic.

I like that people are bringing their own research and reading to The Chinwag. The speakers try to cite materials if listeners wish to check them out for themselves. But mainly, I like that, when possible, that people are telling their own stories and accounts of what happened. The Chinwag has an organic conversation style that unfolds as this podcast continues the talk about the topic. And this style of talking about what comes to mind totally works for me.

The hosts and guests will step off the original path of conversation as a new topic comes up but bring it back with a deeper perspective and appreciation for the main themes of each podcast. They know that if you are walking in the woods, you have to stop to see a deer that comes along instead plowing through on the man made forest pathway. The natural conversation is what makes The Chinwag a deep experience, which I find different and comforting each time I listen.

Check out Paul Giamatti’s Chinwag with Stephen Asma on Apple Podcasts or where you listen to podcasts.

How to Raise a Proper Young Lady

The following piece is the flash fiction winner of F(r)iction’s Fall 2022 literary contest

As it is the duty of every rational creature to attend to its offspring, and … it is necessary to be prepared to conquer nature’s brute instinct. The first thing you must attend to … is her exterior accomplishments…

-Loosely borrowed from Thoughts on the Education of Daughters with Reflections on Female Conduct, Mary Wollstonecraft, Grandma of Frankenstein’s Monster

Take your sweet brown girl. To the field. Grease her pate like she’s a fine filly. You’ve been telling her so. Let her laze in her favorite spots. Only greens she can eat until she’s almost sick. Wrap a braided choker round her throat and guide her now swollen body to the house.

Shield her eyes from the cool metal, the easy leads of flesh. Button her ears against the sounds of production. She’s meant for better things. Take her to her own little sweet space to rest. Nuzzle her nose. Pet her crown. Don’t look into her eyes.

Now comes the messy part.

Line her up with the others. She blends in except to you. You see the Cameroon-shaped birthmark above her gut and know it’s her. Guide her through the line. Shock her if you need to. It’s nothing compared to the gun. Look away when the bolt of lightning hits her skull.

Collect her. Hook her. You may see yourself in her brown eyes but don’t worry it’s just a reflection. She’s dead. Blood-let her for good measure. Keep the blood away from your shoes otherwise you’ll leave a trace. Cover your nose when her foulness slips out.

Start your work. Dissect her into sections.

Fuck the Chuck and round. They’re both for poor people.

Locate her tender parts. Be gentle here. It sells for your whole month pay, making it worth 1/12th your life.

Finish with the plate, flank and shank.

Take her parts to be weighed. Notice how her insides look like all the others but argue for more because she’s been fed. Wash her blood off.

Take the cast-offs of her you’ve been allowed to take home. Grill her. Notice how her ends now curl up into a tough bowl. Put her on a white plate. Ignore how bland she tastes. How she sticks between your teeth, tweeks your jaws. Swallow her whole if needed.

Shit her out re-born brown.

Her Lost Village

The following piece is the poetry winner of F(r)iction’s Fall 2021 literary contest

splinters her weathered skin,
plums rotting under the sun. Colors

on her skin fissure into roots,
sweetness, dormant in her veins eroding into dirt.

Gabled roofs wrangle her hands as
they become limp, harvested into

withered seeds and chipped in the wind.
Chopsticks and brushstroke fracture, fashioning

into lifelines sprawled like limbs, crooked paths;
the cobblestones fork into diverging omens, slashed

with concrete roads and creases in her palm. The Yangtze River spills into roots, flooding
porcelain bowls, suffocating the plums— sour yet sweet, buried

like proverbs in the dirt.