Rappahannock Review Fiction Editors: “From the Sea” begins with all the promise of a story about espionage and politics, but there is a distinct shift when Adem says, “I need honey.” This surprise switch of genre was part of why we chose your piece to publish. Can you tell us what inspired the turn?

Al Graham: As a kid, I once encountered Herodotous’s story about gold-digging ants in a far-off land. Many years went by, and I never gave it a second thought.

Then I heard about a brand of application-specific integrated circuits called “Antminer.” I’m guessing that company drew inspiration from the same story. That got me thinking about how gold-mining ants might actually exist in the world today, which set everything else in motion.

Wikipedia now tells me that the story Herodotus heard may have actually gotten lost in translation; Himalayan marmots, not ants, may be responsible for the gold-digging myth. When the marmots dig tunnels in gold-bearing soil, they sometimes unearth gold dust. 

RR:  This story is rich in narrative and carries a story within a story, so to speak, and though we are curious enough to want more, we still felt the story was satisfying. Did you find compressing such a rich narrative into this short form a challenge?

AG: It was a challenge to get this down to a manageable length. The story felt a bit like an accordion—easy to stretch out further.

RR: You included details and aspects of the legalities of entering the country as a refugee and how to legally turn ant gold into money. How much does being an attorney inform your work?

AG: I’ve heard the advice, “write what you know.” Writing about my day job helps me anchor the story to some real elements, which hopefully make the fictional elements more believable.

RR: We’re so excited to publish your first piece of fiction. What are you working on now?

AG: Venture capitalists occasionally get referred to as “vampire capitalists.” I’m currently writing a short story about vampires who are venture capitalists, but I’m not sure if it will ever see the light of day.

RR: We’re curious about what inspires you. Have you ever experienced something in the real world that you would call magical, and if so, will you tell us about it?

AG: Absolutely—I’ve seen magical snowstorms, sunsets, advanced medical devices, and so many other amazing sights. As the final panel of Calvin and Hobbes put it, “It’s a magical world out there, Hobbes, ol’ buddy.”


Read “From The Sea” by Al Graham in Issue 11.1.