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Unstuck #2


[Unstuck‘s first issue, which came out last November, was big: 352 lavishly illustrated pages, and incredible fun to read (stories from Joe Meno, J. Robert Lennon, Matt Derby, Aimee Bender, Rachel B. Glaser, Amelia Gray, Lindsay Hunter, Meghan McCarron, Matthew Vollmer, and many more). With some help, their second issue is going to be even bigger (disclosure: it will feature one of the longest stories in Critique of Pure Reason), “over 500 pages.” They’d like your help with that, and I think you should help them. Here’s a link to their just-launched Kickstarter. All of the money will go to printing, distribution, and paying their contributors.]

Here’s the word from Unstuck’s Executive Editor, Matt Williamson:

Unstuck is gearing up for its first Kickstarter campaign, which will begin on July 30th and run for a month. For a limited time, we’ll be offering rewards like lifetime subscriptions, signed print copies, signed originals of artwork from the magazine, and more.

Each weekday during the drive, our website will feature a new interview with one of our fiction contributors. We’ll tweet a link to each interview as it goes up. (Follow us @unstuckmag, and keep up with us on Facebook at facebook.com/unstuckbooks.)

Here’s a complete schedule of interviews:

Monday, July 30th: Arthur Bradford

The author of Dogwalker and the forthcoming Benny’s Brigade (McSweeney’s) chats with us about Eraserhead, giant carrots, house museums, antique typewriters, and the charm of the highway strip.

“In Maine I remember a giant hill of sawdust that my father discovered beside a dirt logging road.  It was on the way to our fishing camp in the north and we made a point of stopping there after we discovered it.  Us kids would run down and roll in the dust and it was quite satisfying.  After a few years, plants and other vegetation took hold, and that was the end of it.”

Tuesday, July 31st: Karin Tidbeck

The author of Vem är Arvid Pekon, Jagannath and Amatka talks with us on the eve of the release of her first book in English.

“[English and Swedish] lend themselves to different moods and ways of presenting a story. I began to figure this out while attending the Clarion Writers’ Workshop in 2010; that’s where I started really realizing what the differences are, and how this works. It’s hard to say what part of translating between the two languages is me and what’s my cultural heritage, but my Swedish stories, if written in Swedish originally, tend to be more terse, and my English stories longer and with a more, hmm, florid prose. … You take on slightly different personalities depending on what language you’re using.”

Wednesday, August 1st: Aimee Bender

Topics include Caryl Churchill, Louis CK, Ray Bradbury, and the modern fairy tale.

“[My] favorite moment was at Reed College, which is super liberal and very academic and a little pressured because of that.  Great place, but a little pressured.  I read a story called ‘Debbieland’ about junior high school girls beating up a girl, and after, someone asked why I wrote about such broken women and girls.  And as a woman, didn’t I feel a responsibility to write strong women? I loved it as a question because it set me up so beautifully to contradict that assumption.  A perfect pitch to an eager bat.  Because who wants to write strong all the time? Or read strong?  Who is strong all the time?”

Thursday, August 2nd: Joe Meno

The author and playwright chats with us about independent publishing, the book as object, the 1990s, his new novel (Office Girl), and the advantages of writing stories set on public buses.

“Short fiction is all about compression. Compression of time, event, dramatic arc. And most important of all, the use of opposites. So public places work well, because there are usually lots of different kinds of people forced up beside each other. There’s Flannery O’Connor’s majestic bus story ‘Everything That Rises Must Converge.’  …  I don’t take the bus. I take the subway. For some reason, at least in Chicago, there’s a very different atmosphere on the El. The bus—and this is terrible to admit—is way more like a doctor’s waiting room. There is a sense of frustration, confusion, disappointment, and rage. Most people who ride the bus are not doing it because they want to, which lends it the place to be particularly dramatic.”

Friday, August 3rd: Lindsay Hunter

The author of Daddy’s on anthropomorphism, “catropomorphism,” the taste and texture of Spam, and the allure of the short-short.

“I love the immediacy of [flash fiction]. I love how an entire world can be shown in just a matter of moments. … There is a world in every sentence. I love the stakes of short fiction. I love how it seems—to me anyway—that word choice is just as essential as plot. … I had an argument with a professor once about whether or not a story I had written was a poem or a story, and I feel like that is the tension I want in everything I write or read.”

Monday, August 6th: Leslie What

Nebula Award-winning author and editor What on non-mimetic fiction, the Berenstain Bears, and ghostometry.

“I think children feel comforted by easy answers and feel secure believing in absolutes like right and wrong.  As an adult, I’m more interested in the inexact perimeters of shadow.  I find complexity challenging and interesting.  Perhaps I find eBay more exciting than Sears because at Sears you always know the price, but on eBay, you neither know what you’ll end up paying nor what you’ll actually end up buying.  I am fascinated by insecurities and uncertainties about relationships, morality, death and life.  I feel compelled to explore ways each of us is complicit in our own stories—how our mistakes contribute to our shared experiences, and how we can understand our the reasons for our fallibility, whether or not we can forgive it.”

Tuesday, August 7th: Matthew Vollmer

The author of Future Missionaries of America and the forthcoming Inscriptions for Headstones talks with us about Seventh-day Adventism, dentistry, and the otherworldliness of Gatlinburg, Tennessee.

“In a town of 1,600 people, you sort of have to make up your own fun, and part of that involved visiting my dad’s patients or employees. A woman who sold Avon and whose skin was as dark as any I’d ever seen gave me cowboy shaped bottles of cologne; her husband, whose name was Junior, had retired from the railroad and spent his days in a room of sports and celebrity memorabilia watching Cincinnati Reds games via satellite. We traveled deep into the mountains, to the houses and farms of old men in overalls—men who had never married. These men let me crank rusted machines that de-cobbed corn. I was bucked off a horse, chased by a yak, and pulled down a gravel road on a wooden sled by an ox.”

Wednesday, August 8th: Meghan McCarron

The acclaimed SF/F writer on ekphrasis, ectoplasm, and the “death industrial complex.”

“One of my favorite things about the history of photography is how quickly ‘ectoplasm photos’ showed up—and how crappy they were! A similar logic—we have captured this with technology, which is conflated with it being ‘scientific’—is a big part of the ghost hunting scene. And just the fact that people now go on ghost hunts says a great deal about the conception of hauntings. That we need to track ghosts down to begin with, and then perhaps exterminate them, is a sad thought on one hand. On the other, who wants to be haunted? Nobody.”

Thursday, August 9th: Julia Whicker

The short story writer and poet on the Mars rovers, headhunting in Borneo, and Aleister Crowley.

“I guess, when I think of the space shuttle programs, I think of something that seems utterly insanely impossible but is nonetheless possible—to go in that little craft away from the world—and that really does seem like magic . . . and of how easy that would be to mythologize in a different time. I recently got into a discussion with a friend about the merits of the space program, and he was of the opinion that he would go to space if given the chance but he thinks it’s silly. I feel like I would have a mind-break or go space-mad if I were actually off the planet, but I think the idea of going into space retains some kind of weird hope, and it seems like a natural human inclination.”

Friday, August 10th: Judson Merrill

The author of The Pool on spiders, shale, sonar, and prisons of the future.

“I am fascinated by our relationship with oil. We’ve spent a century finding new ways to get it out of the ground. Increasingly elaborate. Now with shale gas and tar sands, we’re digging up oil we never could have accessed before. I want to believe that technology can swoop in and provide clean and renewable energy, but I think human nature is more likely to steer technology toward maximizing the resources we already use, digging up more and more remote fossil fuels. Eventually we’ll go do this in space.”

Monday, August 13th: John Maradik and Rachel B. Glaser

Pee on Water author Glaser and Bamby Holmes Award winner Maradik discuss disco mega-churches, The Pillow Book, and the process of writing collaborative fiction.

[Glaser:] “I think the awkwardness of adolescence is also what’s so exciting about it—trying to figure out who you are, and who you want to be. At a certain age, teens’ looks and personalities combine to become a reputation. Do I wear make-up? Would I ever smoke a cigarette? I feel that someone in their early teens is trying to choose who they want to be, but that it is colored by who they guess they will be.  Having a close friend is this real merge—by association and influence. There is a freedom in the separation between adults and classmates. I remember feeling this ‘kid feeling’ really early on in life, watching Nickelodeon and MTV. It felt like they were channels for my brother and I and not for my parents or other adults. This apartness is a sort of wilderness.”

Tuesday, August 14th: Matthew Derby

The author of Super Flat Times on nonlethal weapons technologies, talking dolphins, and his imaginary work with Stanley Kubrick.

“The thing that’s lame to me about writing something set in contemporary America is that I’d almost certainly have to write things like, ‘Starbucks,’ ‘Applebee’s,’ and ‘Spotify.’ I can’t really articulate why I don’t want to write about those brands. But it bums me out. But I don’t have a rule about it. Someday, if I’m still writing, I’m sure I’ll end up setting a story in modern times. But there are so many people already doing it way better than me. So I may just stick to the future, actually. There are only a couple people writing about how boring the future will be. So I feel like it’s easier for me to stand out in a crowd if I become a subject matter expert in that arena.”

Wednesday, August 15th: Sharona Muir

The poet, fiction writer, and memoirist discusses invisible beasts, posthumanism, and the personalities of bacteria.

“It began as a game. I decided that I was going to make imaginary animals. I’ve always loved animal stories and stories about animals in biology. I thought: I’ll make them invisible; that way, everyone knows they’re imaginary. But I wanted to base them in scientific facts. So I began inventing imaginary animals with a little bit of real science in them and I went to my scientist friends and asked, ‘Is this fact true?’ and ‘What about this creature that I’ve invented around this fact?’ And they would always say, ‘There is something like this!’ I would go back and sweat my neurons trying to come up with something really good—and then they’d say again, ‘Yes, yes, there’s something like this.’ Finally, I came up with the creature of the Golden Egg, which lives on cold nuclear fusion—and I’m thinking: come on, nuclear fusion! So I went to my biologist friends and said, ‘Here’s the creature,’ and they said, ‘Well, in principle it is not impossible for there to be such a creature.’ No matter what, I would always be at Mother Nature’s feet sweeping around her big toe. I could never imagine anything that is as good as what she’s done.”

Thursday, August 16th: J. Robert Lennon

The author of Mailman, Castle, and the forthcoming Familiar on Stephen King, haunted houses, and the dangers of “loving extravagantly.”

“It hasn’t escaped my attention that the stuff of mine that people seem to like the most is the stuff that seemed at the time of writing to be the most personal, the most trifling, the least obviously marketable. I try to tell students this: don’t try to write something acceptable, try to write something that expresses your obsessions. This is hard for some writers, who are embarrassed by, or dubious about, their obsessions. But it’s important to break through that wall. Your self is the only thing you have that nobody else can give to the world. That pure, unrefined ore—that’s the stuff.”

Friday, August 17th: Helen Phillips

The author of the collection And Yet They Were Happy and the forthcoming children’s novel Here Where the Sunbeams Are Green on doppelgangers, dogs, and the strange power of wigs.

“There is a certain similarity among all bald women, though there aren’t so many of us, and I’ve had people swear they saw me in a neighborhood I’ve never even been to. I’m sure they just saw their local bald woman and assumed it was me. I wore wigs for many years, then graduated to scarves, and now I go bald all the time, so I spent a good bit of time dealing with the logistics of fake hair! I still sometimes wear wigs to parties or for fun—it’s very interesting how much one’s appearance changes based on hair. I think I might act a little differently when I wear a blonde wig.”

Monday, August 20th: Amelia Gray

The author of AM/PM, Museum of the Weird, and THREATS on graveyards, micro-presses, and street art.

“What’s interesting about the term ‘innovation’ is that it’s not just about uniqueness—it’s about uniqueness being accepted in the culture at large. So, I’m in love with these unique Thierry Lasry sunglasses I saw this past weekend, but I wouldn’t say they’re a mass-market kind of product. Talking about true innovation in fiction means bandying about some familiar names, because you’re talking about the people who have managed to slip something better into the standard practice, like Joyce Carol Oates.”

Tuesday, August 21th: Marisa Matarazzo

The author of Drenched: Stories of Love and Other Deliriums on memory loss, juice cleanses, and gender-nonspecific narrators.

“I think the gender-ambiguous narrator can be an exciting choice because it leaves room in the reader’s mind to project his or her understanding of the situation, or to identify with the narrator. My experience as a reader is to cast the characters I read, as I read, assembling a play in my mind. And I guess who I cast is representative of my familiarity with and interpretation of the world. First-person narrators can lend themselves to gender ambiguity because that narrator is ‘I’ and not ‘she’ or ‘he.’ English is tricky, because we don’t have any gender-neutral pronouns for people. Except, of course, in the first person. And there’s fun to be had with that.”

Wednesday, August 22nd: Charles Antin

A wide-ranging interview with the author of the dystopian satires “The Iraq Show” (in VQR) and “Second Grade” (in Unstuck).

Thursday, August 23rd: Andrew Friedman

The fiction writer and scholar on Hart Crane, strategic catechresis, and his obsessions with ice, lightning, and the cinema.

“Movies, I guess, seem like the ultimate version of an object that is more animated than the living. Sometimes people seem to suggest that movies only simulate life and cheapen or flatten real emotion. But these characters experience a more focused moment of emotional clarity watching the movie, or being in the movie theater, than they do ‘living their lives’ in the more ‘real’ settings in the story. That’s interesting to me. The idea that a movie distills, rather than dilutes, emotion.”

Friday, August 24th: Rachel Swirsky

An interview with the Nebula-Award-winning (and Hugo-nominated) fiction writer and poet.

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