(Note: To celebrate the launch of Interfictions 2, the IAF's second anthology of short interstitial fiction, Christian Desrosiers from Small Beer Press interviewed several of the anthology's contributors. The fourth of these interviews was with Ray Vukcevich, author of "The Two of Me". For more interviews with Interfictions 2 contributors, please visit our Interfictions 2 Interviews page.)
How did Ms. Rose's drawing inform your story? Do you think that visual & written arts can accomplish similar feats?
The challenge was to write a story inspired by the drawing. It kicked everything off. I propped it up and looked at it for a moment and then wrote the first line. One thing led to another. A boy and a girl and some wings. Visual and written arts might ultimately come to similar places, but I think they are very different. Written art depends fundamentally on language. In a way, it is all talk. I don't think you can tease out the abstraction "story" from the words in any but the most trivial ways. This is one of the reasons there is little point in comparing movies and novels.
You write that a story is simply a story do you see much of a useful dialogue between stories and life as we live it? Is storytelling, for you, ever more than just the creation of a fictive space?
If you are a reader, there is strong and important dialogue between stories and the life you live. The relationship is extremely specific to the stories and the particular reader. Even when you meet someone like me who like you has read all of Buzzati (for example) and the two of us are whispering together like members of some kind of wacky secret society, what the stories mean to you and what they mean to me are probably surprisingly different! My fiction is really about what it's like to be me trying to figure out life and love and stuff.
Did "The Two of Me" always occur to you as a comic story? The physical scene of the story can readily be described as grotesque (in the distortion of the protagonists' bodies) yet much of the action bears a resemblance to slapstick humor. It seems as if the narrative could have just easily gone in either direction and, in fact, it kind of straddles both paths. Was this particularly difficult? Make the grotesque play out as the comic?
Everything is comic, I guess, or maybe everything has its comic side, and everything is sad.
In the same way, your story is a kind of reverse engineering of the fantastic, which is in many ways a common mode of our age; the anti-heroic, the meta-heroic, the mock-heroic have all proliferated rapidly in scienfiction and fantasy settings (e.g. the Watchmen comics, Smallville, etc.). How do you interpret this modern need to satirize and humanize formerly unreachably fantastic characters?
I don't know!
When you write are you conscious of these other ways in which writers have made the fantastic mundane?
There is a constant linguistic rumbling going on in my head all the time, narrative mutterings, and I draw from this source to make stories. An important part of the process, though, is to look it all over and throw out the boring parts. In other words, I make no effort to make the fantastic mundane. Just the opposite, I think. Also important, I try to only think about other writers when I'm reading, unless I'm trying to do something specific I've learned from someone.
What are your influences (literary and otherwise)?
Very early it was Heinlein and Farmer. Today, I'm thinking of Dino Buzzati, Borges (specifically the short short called "August 25, 1983"), Clarise Lispector, and William S. Burroughs. Oh, and Emmanuel Carrère and Ron Carlson. If you had asked me about religion, I might have said that I was a follower of Kurt Vonnegut. It's likely I'll mention different writers the next time you ask, but I'll still be thinking of Vonnegut.
What is interstitial writing for you?
I have never paid much attention to categories. Oh, maybe after something is done and I'm trying to sell it. Like lots of readers, I'm often in the mood for a particular category, and it's good I can always find what I want. But just as often, or even more often, well, actually most of the time, I'm looking for a peek into a very different mind from mine. I want to be surprised. I want to read something only that writer could have written given there is no one else standing where she's standing at any particular time. This is what I'm trying to do with my own work, too. I am not so much combining categories or crossing boundaries as I am ignoring the categories and boundaries altogether. I'm glad there is a term for the stuff that falls through the cracks. I'm glad there is a theory about such stories. I'm happy some people think I might fit in here. I taught a workshop for young writers not long ago, and I told them they must know all the rules, but they must not let the rules own them.
Did you write this story intending for it to be "interstitial"?
No, this is just the way I work. I've been writing this kind of stuff for quite a long time. If you ask me to do a story, you should be aware my take on the subject will probably be "interstitial". Just saying...
What is your next project?
I'm working on a short novel for short readers (well, some of them will already be getting up there). I'm working on a novella which if I could tell you about it, you'd be all oh, that's so interstitial! I'm doing a short story I promised to someone. I promised myself I wouldn't put it off until the last moment. There isn't much time left to keep those promises! I intend to start another novel soon, and I have couple of ideas in the queue that will probably be short stories.
About Ray Vukcevich
Ray Vukcevich's fiction has appeared in a wide variety of magazines. Some of the stories have been collected in Meet Me in the Moon Room. Read more about the fiction at sff.net/people/RayV.
How to Order Interfictions 2
Interfictions 2 is now available from Small Beer Press, Powell's and Amazon, and via IndieBound. The book was published on November 3rd, 2009 from Small Beer Press and was named one of Amazon.com's Top 10 Books of 2009: Science Fiction & Fantasy.