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Life Arts    H4'ed 5/14/13

National Short Story Month: Five Questions with Stephen Graham Jones

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Lorrie Moore's "Lawns." That's the story I've read the most of any story. Over and over and over. Joe R. Lansdale's "The Night They Missed the Horror Show." It's flat-out one of the best stories ever written. You might think you know horror, but, if you don't know this story, think again. Octavia Butler's "Bloodchild." She makes it look so easy, what she's doing in that story. But it's so, so difficult. Nobody can touch that story. All of which are stories probably in anthologies, on classroom desks already. And deservedly so. Really, we should wrap them up and mail them on the next Voyager, to prove to other systems that we've got a clue. But your readers are maybe here for the stuff they don't know about. So: David James' Keaton's kind of title-story to his brand new Fish Bites Cop, "Nine Cops Killed for a Goldfish Cracker." I mean, it's not exactly friendly to the guys in blue, no. But this story, it's alive in the same way Alexie's "South by Southwest" is. I've read it a few times now, and each time through, I'm learning, and learning. Cribbing down notes for how I can pull off something just in this general arena of storytelling. And how about Jeremy Robert Johnson's "Persistence Hunting," from his recent We Live Inside You? I mean, every story in that collection, it hurts it's so good--hard for me to pick just one--but this story, it's playing with genre in some very cool ways, very quiet ways, but ways that spin everything just slightly better. And, since I'm assuming everybody else is going to be cheating, I'm going to cheat too: two more stories. I'm excited, talking about all this, I mean. Erin Almond's "In the Realm of the Casual Gods: A Dungeons & Dragons Love Story," from The Normal School (Fall 10). I'm going to have a really hard time thinking of a more perfect story than that. Well, okay: Brian Evenson's "The Munich Window." I've read this one so many times as well. Am so, so, jealous of it. "After the Stations of the Cross," by Peter Tsyver, from one of the Pushcart anthos. This story's about me, I'm pretty sure, and I'm kind of bummed not to have got a byline. But I feel the same about Joe Hill's "Voluntary Committal," at the end of 20th Century Ghosts. If I could, I'd rub his name off that one, sneak mine in. And, for an illegal fifth, which I guess brings this paragraph of a list to, what, eight? there'll always and forever be John Vanderslice's "Wedgewood Blue," from, if I'm half-remembering even close to correctly . . . Western Humanities Review? Like, ten years ago, or more? Does anybody have a photocopy of this one? Every single time I lay pen to paper, I'm trying to write that story. And every single time, I fail. And I'll keep on failing. I'll insist on failing, just for that outside chance of, once, making it.



If you could fight any character in a short story who would that be?


Hm. That's a different question from "Who in a story would I most like to beat up?" But that's a trick as well, as there's so, so many. Like, all the weepy characters just being trotted through a pre-made plot, say. And all the characters who are in stories that end before the ending. And all the characters who 'wake up' at the first of a story, or die at the end, or look at themself in the mirror, or force me to follow them into their stupid useless ridiculous flashbacks that hardly even begin to matter. All the characters who don't have hard decisions, who aren't in jeopardy, who are (un)lucky enough to be loved but not also hated by their writer. But, who would I like to fight. Maybe the protagonist--or's he the narrator?--of TC Boyle's old "Greasy Lake" story. I've always felt kind of like I am him, so, I mean, it would be somewhat evenly matched, anyway. And we'd take breaks to eat manwich and three musketeers, and talk about why that car that just drove by had these rims instead of those rims, and how we saw a car once with these other rims, and the world kind of just stopped and pivoted around that car for a few turns, and we were in the moment with it, and if we close our eyes just right, we can go back some nights.

Stephen Graham Jones has some hundred and fifty or hundred and seventy stories published? A lot, anyway. Most recently, he got to run all the genres at Mixer Publishing . He's also got eleven novels and three collections out. Mostly horror. But there's also other crazy stuff (giant, time-traveling caterpillars, alternate versions of the Great Plains, and on and on). His most recent three books are Three Miles Past, The Last Final Girl, and Growing Up Dead in Texas. His next few are Flushboy, Zombie Sharks with Metal Teeth, Floating Boy Meets the Girl Who Couldn't Fly (with Paul Tremblay),The Gospel of Z, and Not for Nothing. With a secret one probably there in the third/crime-y slot. And another secret one in what would be the fourth/flash-fiction slot. Find Stephen at , or @stephengjones72 . Or at junkyards or farm sales or pawn shops or buffets or bookstores. He's usually the guy trying real hard to look like he's not stealing something. 

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Bill Wetzel is Amskapi Pikuni aka Blackfeet from Montana. He's a former bull rider/wrestler turned writer and a coauthor of the short story collection "The Acorn Gathering." His work has appeared in or is forthcoming from the American Indian Culture (more...)
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