the Little Red Reviewer

Archive for the ‘Erica L. Satifka’ Category

Stay Crazy by Erika L. Satifka

Published in 2016

Where I got it: purchased new









Erica Satifka’s Stay Crazy came out in 2016, and while I was lucky enough to get to interview Erica back in 2016, I’ve not had a chance to sit down and read the novel until now.  Stay Crazy won the 2017 British Fantasy Award for Best Newcomer, and Satifka’s short fiction has appeared in Clarksworld, Shimmer, Fireside, Lightspeed, Nature, and elsewhere.


If you’ve never read Philip K Dick, but you’re kinda interested in his stuff,  you should read Stay Crazy. (just like if you’ve never read H.P. Lovecraft but his stuff sounds interesting, you should read Lucy Snyder because she writes it better than he ever did). Satifka took her enjoyment of Dick’s working class characters, grey morality, unreality and paranoia, and put it through her own filter of sarcasm and dark humor.   I’ve just read that sentence, and it doesn’t sound like a fun thing to read, does it? Well, i’m a shitty sentence writer, because Stay Crazy was hella fun to read, so much so that I read the last 100 pages in one sitting because I needed to know what happened, and I needed to know right now! The book is a pleasure to read, it is paced very well, the plot is tightly designed, and every time I finished a chapter it was a foregone conclusion that I was going to read the next chapter.


The story opens with Emmeline coming home from a mental institution. She’d had a mental break while at college.  She’s now at home, complete with stacks of medication for her diagnosed schizophrenia, twice weekly appointments with her shrink,  a sister who has immersed herself in the local cult church, and a mom who has no idea how to talk about mental health issues but does truly care for both of her daughters.


Em needs to get out of the house, so she gets a part time job at the local big box store, Savertown. Savertown is an over the top, gloriously ridiculous, patriotism obsessed satire of Wal-Mart.  Even so, Em finds a quiet peace in stocking frozen food. She can get in the groove of unloading pallets, no one is bothering her, no one at work stares at her like she’s just home from a mental institution.


It’s all going great until a box of frozen food starts talking to her, and telling her his name is Excodex and he is an intelligence from another dimension who needs her help to stop an evil entity. He promises her that if she helps him that he’ll tell her where her father is. Is she hearing voices again? Is a box of frozen food talking to her because she needs to up her meds? And then seemingly happy and well adjusted people at work start committing suicide.


There is a ton of “drinking the kool-aid” happening in this book, and my sick sense of humor always gets a kick out of this kind of thing.  There’s a sign in the breakroom at work that “no outside reading material allowed”. Long term employees at Savertown don’t seem to have any life (or want a life) outside of work. The work therapist who is brought into the store due to the recent rash of suicides seems to give worse advice than a talking box of frozen chicken nuggets.

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Erica L. Satifka has been steadily writing short fiction for over ten years, with stories appearing in Clarkesworld, Fireside, Lightspeed, Ember Journal, Daily Science Fiction, Shimmer, Nature, Intergalactic Medicine Show, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, and elsewhere.    Her debut novel, Stay Crazy, comes out this week from Apex Publications.  You can learn more about Erica at her website, and be sure to say hi over on twitter, where she is @ericasatifka. If you find yourself in Portland Oregon, you can sign up for her SciFi/Fantasy writing classes!

stay-crazy-coverWorking in a big box store, and just home from an institution, is Emmeline just going crazy all over again when the frozen food starts talking to her? Are her friends dying from natural causes, or is something darker happening?  How can Em save her friends and family, and save her sanity at the same time?

“Had Philip K. Dick lived through riot grrrl and the collapse of the America’s industrial economy, STAY CRAZY would be his memoir. Erica Satifka is a prophet.”
—Nick Mamatas, author of SENSATION and I AM PROVIDENCE.


“Stay Crazy is dark and intense sci-fi with a twist, in turns disturbing, amusing, and enlightening. It’s not a book that fits into tidy genre boxes, so kudos to Apex for publishing a book that is that complicated—and good.”
—Beth Cato, Nebula Award-nominated author of DEEP ROOTS


(and can I just say how much I dig this cover art? it’s got a neat graphic novel feel, and Emmeline looks like a normal human woman!)

Erica was kind enough to let me pick her brain on this novel’s creation, binge reading Philip K. Dick, writing neuro-atypical characters, fiction that defies categorization, teaching speculative fiction writing, and more.


Little Red Reviewer: Em is a unique heroine. Just out of an institution, she’s got her own mental health issues to deal with, but she’s also got to save her friends and co-workers from an evil entity. What can you tell us about how you developed Emmeline’s character?


Erika Satifka: Em didn’t have schizophrenia in the first imagining of the book, I don’t think. Her base personality is loosely based on me: angry, bitter, sarcastic as hell. The idea to give her schizophrenia came when I realized that it would add another layer of unreality to the story, which was already dealing with multiple layers of reality. After that, the story clicked in a way it didn’t before, and I started reading a lot of memoirs written by people with schizophrenia to get into the character’s voice (I had still not written a word of the novel at this point).
One thing I noticed when I wrote the first version of the book is that there really aren’t very many positive portrayals in the media of people with schizophrenia. In 2016, there still aren’t that many. So while I hate calling my own writing unique because I’m not a special snowflake, at least when it comes to this one thing, it kind of is. If Stay Crazy can fight against stigma in some small way, then it will have been worth writing.


LRR: Where did your ideas for Stay Crazy stem from?


ES: After college graduation, I was working in a well-known big-box store that shall not be named, bored out of my mind. And when my mind wanders (which it does on a more or less constant basis) I make up stories. I’d also discovered the writing of Philip K. Dick a few months before that and was tearing through at least two of his books per week, because rationing is for chumps. All of this combined into one giant mega-story that I worked on in my mind over the few months I worked there and for quite a while after.

Erica Sat

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.