Exclusive Interview: “Many Worlds” Co-Editors Cadwell Turnbull & Josh Eure


When assembling a short story collection, some editors start with a theme or a concept. And if they do start with a specific setting, it’s usually one that’s already established, like the fictional universes of Star Wars or the Halo games. But for the new sci-fi short story anthology Many Worlds: Or, The Simulacra (paperback), co-editors Cadwell Turnbull and Josh Eure have created a new universe — or, more accurately, a new multiverse — which their contributors are helping design through their short stories. In the following email interview, Cadwell and Josh discuss what inspired and influenced the assembling of this anthology, and the construction of this universe.

Cadwell Turnbull Josh Eure Many Worlds

Cadwell Turnbull (Photo Credit: Anju Manandhar), Josh Eure


To start, what is Many Worlds: Or, The Simulacra? I know it’s an anthology of sci-fi short stories, but what connects those stories? Are they connected by a theme? Something else?

Josh: Many Worlds is both a collective of authors creating story-worlds that can and do interact, and a metanarrative binding the worlds together, allowing them to be traversed.

Cadwell: Some stories are stand-alone, while others are linked. But all story-worlds are part of the multiverse we’re building together. As a collective, we’re invested in taking this experiment as far as we can: short and long fiction and eventually any multimedia forms we can take the leap into.

Who came up with this idea of having all of the stories connected by a shared multiverse?

Josh: Cadwell came up with the concept and developed its foundational bible and pitch documents to draw in other writers.

Cadwell: While that’s true, I don’t think it would’ve worked if it wasn’t for the ingenuity of members of the collective. I have been often surprised by just how far we’ve managed to take things in such a short time.

So then Cadwell, where did you get the idea for Many Worlds, and specifically the multiverse aspect? What inspired it?

Cadwell: It was a personal interest of mine. I’ve been working on my own singular multiverse for a while. But it occurred to me that a multiverse was an excellent conceptual framework for shared short fiction; the opportunities for expansion are endless. There are a lot of multiverses in popular culture, however, so I wanted to come up with one that felt unique. This anthology might already give you a sense of its uniqueness, but I am very excited for what we’ll reveal down the road. Our multiverse is very strange.

And then Josh, what was it about this idea that not only made you want to work on Many Worlds, but also thought you were a good person to work on it?

Josh: Cadwell mentioned this project to Craig Lincoln, who I’ve been friends with for a long time. I’ve known Cadwell for a while, too, and have cheered his successes. When I heard he was looking for stories, I had just completed one I was happy with. I asked Craig what the theme was for the project, and he told me, and I thought my story fit pretty well. So, Craig asked Cadwell if I could submit and he said yes. I sent him “To The Bottom” and he accepted it. From then on, I was hardcore Many Worlds.

What excited me the most about the project was the notion that anything I wrote for Many Worlds could be used by another writer of the collective. A character from one story could show up in a world I created for a story of my own. Or my character could be lifted from my story and dropped into the story world of another author’s. And so on. And a massive entity governing all of this. Or failing to govern. Just great stuff.

contributor Rebekah Bergman (Photo Credit: Phoebe Neel)


Aside from having to fit the theme, did the stories in Many Worlds have to follow any other parameters? Like, was there a word count limit, did the stories have to be written for this collection…?

Cadwell: The collection was a jumping off point. We originally wanted stories under 5,000 words. That limitation flew out the window almost immediately. The first stories we acquired were brought into the collection, but that also quickly became an unnecessary limitation. We’ve published additional stories on our website. We have metanarrative stories (both published and not) that came out of people’s interests and passions.

In terms of fit, there are two types of stories. Stand-alone stories just have to feel right. Metanarrative stories have to be consistent with the physics and lore of our multiverse. Either type is valuable and goes a long way towards building the strength of the shared project.

As I mentioned earlier, these stories are sci-fi. But what other genres or subgenres do they also incorporate?

Josh: We have slipstream stories, magical realism, horror, straight sci-fi, and dystopian.

Cadwell: While this is true for now, I do think we’ll eventually branch out into our genres. Our interests have been pretty far-ranging and I think that will continue to be so.

And how did you decide who would contribute to Many Worlds? Did you approach people, did you have an open call for submissions…?

Cadwell: I did a little bit of both. I approached some authors I liked in a more official way, but I also talked about the project on social media, and received recommendations from writer friends. More than a few members I reached out to because they came highly recommended by a member. Many I approached because I knew them from the community and was already a fan of their work.

It felt like the best approach was to take things slow to start. We haven’t had an open call yet, but that’s mostly because our resources for doing something like that are still growing. Someday we’ll hopefully have enough infrastructure to cast a wider net. But we’ve been very lucky with the organic approach we’ve used so far.

In terms of the people you approached, how did you decide who they’d be?

Cadwell: It really was random. A conversation at a convention. A response to a post on social. A story I read from an author that I really loved. A few of the members were people I knew from my MFA. I’d read their work for years, so I knew they’d be great for the project.

contributor Ted McCombs


When you were talking to potential writers about contributing, did anyone say to you, “Y’know, you should really talk to this person, they’d be perfect for this?”

Cadwell: This happens all the time. So much so, I can’t remember all the occasions. As he mentioned, Josh, who is now an essential part of the collective, came to the project through another member, and I am so grateful to Craig for encouraging him to send in his work. Recently, we’ve had meetings where members just make recommendations. A few of our most recent inductees have come out of that process. We’ve been really lucky here too. Members vouch for other members.

Now, aside from being the editors, you also contributed to Many Worlds. What are your stories about?

Cadwell: “Notes On The Forum Of The Simulacra” was a short story I wrote explicitly to introduce the meta-narrative for the multiverse. It underwent a few iterations before its final form. It is so much better thanks to collective members that workshopped the story with me. The story itself is about an internet forum of people that have been noting changes to reality. It gets weird from there.

And then “Shock Of Birth” was a story that I revised to bring closer to the meta-narrative. It is about a person that wakes up in a different time and place as a different person. Soon enough he begins to notice changes to reality as well. That story I wrote many years ago, inspired by a dream. The Many Worlds meta-narrative was just what it was missing; it just didn’t work until I integrated it into the project.

Josh: As I mentioned earlier, I offered “To The Bottom” to Cadwell when I first heard about his project. It is a story in which an underwater earthquake reveals a new trench in the Pacific. Technologies are developed to allow greater exploration, and two scientists are making a descent to the bottom to investigate an anomaly. The motivations of one scientist drives her to extremes, and what is found at the bottom exposes just how deep one’s grief can be. I was inspired to write this story when studying the Mariana Trench with my then 8-year-old daughter. I wondered what would happen if a new trench arrived, a deeper one. How might the world react? As I wrote this, I found that research left me with too many unanswered questions, so I contacted the National Oceanic And Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and one of their directors, I forget who, was gracious enough to answer them. I was able to find a reasonable depth (considerably deeper than Mariana) for a new trench, should an underwater earthquake create one. I wondered which units were best to use and was told that any and all are used equally. It was awesome how willing to answer questions they were, question from a fiction writer of a science fiction story. Let’s go, NOAA.

And then “Arrivals And Departures” is about a man who wakes up every birthday in a different world. He has a new partner or has lost one altogether. His kids are gone or he has new ones or worse — his last year was spent enduring far worse. Convinced the universe and its architect are toying with him, he is unable to escape by even the most drastic means. But what he learned in that last world has given him a means to undo the cycle. Yet there are people hunting him with plans of their own. I’ll say that what inspired me with this story is directly tied to the Many Worlds meta-narrative: traveling our story worlds. Also, Cate Blanchett.

M. Darusha Wehm (Photo Credit: Steven Ensslen)


You guys also collaborated with Ben Murphy, Craig Lincoln, and M. Darusha Wehm on the story “Blink,” which you credited to “Darkly Lem.” What is that story about, and how did it come to be?

Josh: “Blink” is the story of a person who travels to a new world every time they blink five (or seven) times. In an attempt to control their fate, this individual makes a drastic decision. The choice leads to peace for a time, but soon they find that their actions have disastrous, unforeseen consequences.

We wanted to put the idea of collaborative writing into practice while also writing a story that moves through many of our story worlds. Our protagonist blinks through several worlds from stories in this anthology and some from stories on our website. It’s a multiversal traveler’s story. So is “Arrivals And Departures.”

Hollywood loves turning short stories into movies. And you mentioned wanting to take this multiverse into, and I’m quoting here, “…eventually any multimedia forms we can take the leap into.” I assume then that you think these stories could be turned into movies or TV shows…

Josh: Ted McCombs’ “The Phantom Of The Marlee Valley High Auditorium For The Performing Arts” would make a moody, bingeable show. “Shock Of Birth” would make a great X-Files type mystery movie or show. “On The Spectrum” by Justin C. Key would require some epic effects I’d love to see. And trying to bring that world and those characters to life, trying to get at what that story does in film would be great. I think all of them would make excellent adaptations.

I will also say, with extreme bias, that “Arrivals And Departures” jumps out to me…because Cate Blanchett.

Cadwell: Honestly, I’d love to see an anthology series using many of our stories. I think some of them can span multiple episodes, while others could function as a stand-alone. Our linked stories could be the glue that holds everything together. I’ve never seen anything like it. I hope one day we get the opportunity.

Cadwell Turnbull Josh Eure Many Worlds

Finally, if someone enjoys Many Worlds, what sci-fi short story anthology would you each recommend they check out?

Josh: One that has been around a while and was required reading for many of us in the N.C. State MFA program is Feeling Very Strange, which was edited by James Patrick Kelly and John Kessel. The anthology includes stories by Michael Chabon, Karen Joy Fowler, Jonathan Lethem, Carol Emshwiller, George Saunders, and others. I think it has a similar feeling of uncertainty with reality that our anthology embraces.

Cadwell: Josh’s answer is perfect. Anthologies are tough for me, but I can think of some collections and books that give me the same vibe. If we’re talking collections, I’d make the comparison to Kelly Link’s short story collection Get In Trouble or Anjali Sachdeva’s All The Names They Used For God (which I’m currently reading). Both match the vibe in terms of weirdness and range of offerings. On the book side, we’ve talked a lot about Jeff VanderMeer’s Southern Reach Trilogy as a comparison in terms of the reality-bendy-weirdness.



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