One Word Interview: SILENCE

April’s One Word Interview is doing something different this month. We’re exploring a word that makes no sound through two separate interviews: Images and Words.

The One Word Interview has gathered a host of dark fiction and horror writers to participate, responding in 50 words or fewer to the word SILENCE. As we move from winter to spring, let us pause, taking a moment to listen to the sounds or lack thereof that surround us. What truths and what meanings can we find in SILENCE?


Silence – what you really hear when the goldfish die – the notes Miles Davis and Bill Evans did not play—and the length of time they did not play them – the poetry of Bill Wantling and his lines “It’s cold for August” and “How far to the next enemy camp …” and for me, the technique learned from the folks mentioned … when I discover the silence and use it right in my work, it’s that moment of held breath in a story … or after it …
Mort Castle


Silence=death is the slogan created by six AIDS activists in 1987

Silence=death for the vulnerable whether they are women with no voice in societies where women have no rights or children in the US with abusive parents or caretakers.

Silence is the unnatural quiet of a dark street, a dark forest, a dark place. Silence is where horror grows.
Ellen Datlow

Silence: It escapes me, always. And were it not to escape me, it would terrify me. There’s no silence, not here inside my head. White noise and broken calliopes and shattered bottles, but no silence. If silence has a smell, it must be a sharp smell, like kerosene. We keep each other at arms length, silence and I. And if I believed in Hell, I would imagine it a very silent place, absolute zero.
Caitlín Kiernan

Silence is the page, backstage before the curtain rises.
Kathe Koja



If SILENCE is golden, I’m not interested. SILENCE is silver. A slivered moon alone in a darkened, cloudless sky. The lonely knife blade, honed, piercing flesh. Chains, crosses, metal studs cutting the night. Silverweeping silently. It always has.
Nancy Kilpatrick

When the subway stops, and the lights wink out, there’s a moment of silence no New Yorker dares to shatter. Thick-fisted dark and all the geologic layers squeeze: between each breath, only eternal void. And the lights burst on and the train moves forward, a little of us left behind.
Livia Llewellyn

Silence, silence—it’s one of those words that gets louder when repeated. What are we supposed to talk about here as horror writers? The silence before the floor begins to creak in the night or some other cliché? I’m more interested in that old critical turn of phrase: a writer who “falls silent”, which means that they either no longer publish or can no longer be published. What a relief it would be to be able to fall silent, to have written something that will actually stay in print, perhaps even provide an annuity through backlist sales or frequent reprinting in a textbook. Ah, and to write something that doesn’t turn embarrassing two or five or ten years later, to come up with some literary trick that doesn’t get old after a single performance. Then I could be silent, then I could choose silence. SILENCE SILENCE SILENCE, shout it from the rooftops! If only!
Nick Mamatas

Silence happens in the in-between, that moment when noise fades away. When scuba diving, the magic of whale song is heard in-between the raspy intake of breath and the explosive bubbles of an exhale. In meditation, God speaks in-between the noise of everyday thoughts. In silence exists all the wonders of the world.
D. Lynn Smith

Silence is something fiction could use more of—those reflective rests in which a character discovers his or her new context. As a writer I crave it—it’s what I need to do my work. As someone who is aging, and seeing friends dying, it’s what I dread.
Steve Rasnic Tem

Silence is my father, refusing to acknowledge my existence, refusing to react either to my happiness or anger. He shuns, ignores, and rejects me. And silence is how I will answer the news of his eventual death.
Matthew Warner


I need silence to live. In silence, I hear the universe, hear my heartbeat, listen to life. I am relaxed. I am present. I am full of energy, ready to fill that silence with thoughts, words, images. In silence, I am me.
Morven Westfield


Be sure to also view the companion interview,
The One Image Interview: Silence

About Erin Underwood

BIO: Erin Underwood is the senior event content producer for MIT Technology Review’s emerging technology events. On the side, she reads, writes, and edits SF.
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2 Responses to One Word Interview: SILENCE

  1. Pingback: Matthew Warner: Blog

  2. Silence is where the stray stories lurk, ready to pounce.

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