Our Beautiful Reward Mini-Interviews: Riley Tao

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To celebrate the official print release of Our Beautiful Reward on March 16th (virtual release party Sunday the 19th, you’re invited!), I asked some of the contributors a few of the questions foremost on my mind. It’s been too long since we’ve run many interviews here, and I’ve missed it; getting to know writers and how they think and feel has been one of the most rewarding aspects of Reckoning for me since the beginning. I hope their answers prove as enlightening to you as they have been to me.

We’re posting one mini-interview a day til we run out.

Riley Tao’s “Hangs Heavy On Their Head” (which you can read online here) is a delightfully inventive flash story narrated by some human hair motivated to make both the attached body and the earth a healthier, more nurturing place.

Michael: How do the tools of speculative writing help you to think and communicate about what’s being done to personal freedoms around our bodies?

Riley: It’s painful to think about the specifics of how trans bodies (or bodies in general, but this is where my knowledge is most personal) are being policed, and wrapping that pain in the vehicle of fiction allows me to handle emotionally difficult topics in more depth and with more objectivity than I would otherwise.

Michael: What are you reading and thinking about that helps put this issue in perspective for you?

Riley: Strangely, it helps for me to read the actual text of laws that are being passed. Sometimes they are disturbingly short; other times their length exceeds my ability to care about. But either way, the bone-dry language in which they are written also helps me achieve that distance that I need in order to clearly think about the situation.

Michael: Tell us, if you’d like, about something you’re doing, outside of writing, to make the world a less hostile and dystopian place for human beings with bodies to exist in?

Riley: Some internet communities make the world better than they make it worse. I’ve tried to grow a couple of my own.

Michael: Thank you!


Author: Riley Tao

Riley Tao (they/them) is a Californian college student who has been rejected by eighty-five literary agents while seeking representation for their YA fantasy novel, who turned to writing short stories after deciding that maybe they should walk before they run. They spent six months updating a creative writing blog with short stories on a weekly basis at rileyriles.wordpress.com before deciding to focus on a second novel. They also love computer science and mathematics, and in their free time they play homebrewed RPGs and hug their cat.


Author: Michael J. DeLuca

Michael J. DeLuca is the publisher of Reckoning. He's also involved with the indie ebookstore Weightless Books, and his short fiction has been appearing since 2005 in markets such as Beneath Ceaseless Skies, Mythic Delirium and Apex. His novella, Night Roll, was a finalist for the Crawford Award in 2020. He lives in the rapidly suburbifying post-industrial woodlands north of Detroit with wife, kid, cats, plants and microbes. Find him on twitter @michaeljdeluca.

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