On Midnight in the Month of June, On Fiction

At some point I decided this was my main blogging space. This is recent. What happened was I found myself dissatisfied with a return to Tumblr and casting about for a space that would by name and content give me the most latitude to blog what I wanted–personal stuff, true crime, history, weirdness, you name it.

I realized that space was sitting here all along, I’d already established it, and I’d been ignoring it since September of last year because–no lie–I forgot the elaborately complicated password I made to sign in to WordPress.

I know how dumb this is, don’t give me shit about it.

Anyway, I feel like one feature of my decision to focus on this space as my only blog, the place where I’ll put everything (I plan to eventually get a standalone URL, too) should be me giving myself permission to just randomly blog my inner monologue. At least once in a while. Ello is a good space for that too (shut up, it is. I like Ello), but today I’ll say it here.

I’ve been writing poetry and fiction for longer than I’ve been writing nonfiction or journalism. As my paid work has entirely been in blogging/journalism/nonfiction, that’s easy for even me to forget.

And regarding fiction, I’ve developed a concern: what if I’m geared toward short fiction? WHAT IF I’M A SHORT STORY WRITER?

This may sound silly, but it’s a legit concern if you ever want to sell your fiction to anyone.

I mean, I don’t think the short story is dead (I swear I’ve read musings contemplating this very thing in the last few years) but I do think that unless you’re George Saunders (whom I love, and keep your contrary opinion to yourself), short fiction is not the thing that punches a writer’s ticket these days. Everyone wants to be–thinks they are–a novelist.

And hey, I am fairly sure I have a novel in me. But not yet. When I write fiction these days, it’s always short.

Is this a function of having a ferocious case of ADHD? A limited set of functional, fictional, interesting ideas? I don’t know. At least partly, re: ADHD. I don’t think so, re: limited ideas. But I do think this maybe true, for me.

What I also think is that in general, the short story isn’t appreciated these days for its fundamental power, its ability to grab even the most random reader and draw them into an imaginary world.

Many of the stories that hit me hard at an early age were short fiction. One example that always comes quickly to mind when I’m thinking about this stuff: Ray Bradbury’s amazing “At Midnight, in the Month of June.”

I first read the Bradbury story in a collection of horror fiction when I was 12, and it blew me the fuck away. Passages like this:

She stood against the door in the dark. If moonlight could have struck in upon her, she would have shimmered like a small pool of water on a windy night. He felt the fine sapphire jewels come out upon her face, and her face all glittering with brine.

Or this:

He remembered that sometimes when he played hide-and-seek they did not find him at all; he would not let them find him. He said not a word, he stayed so long in the apple tree that he was a white-fleshed apple; he lingered so long in the chestnut tree that he had the hardness and the brown brightness of the autumn nut. And God, how powerful to be undiscovered, how immense it made you, until your arms were branching, growing out in all directions, pulled by the stars and the tidal moon until your secretness enclosed the town and mothered it with your compassion and tolerance. You could do anything in the shadows, anything. If you chose to do it, you could do it. How powerful to sit above the sidewalk and see people pass under, never aware you were there and watching, and might put out an arm to brush their noses with the five-legged spider of your hand and brush their thinking minds with terror.

… Were to me the quintessence of great scene painting. Everything about this story sang of the blue-lit and silent watches of the night, of silence, of madness. I had been that secret boy high in the tree, hiding as the summer night blued then darkened to indigo, studded with stars. Bradbury was painting a portrait of wrath and murder, yet I was reading it and immersed in and sympathetic to the memories and mind of the killer. No matter how psycho crime blog readers once assumed I might be, that’s not me. Yet Bradbury put me there.

That’s magic. And the story is what, maybe 10 pages long?

God. Damn. To me, Bradbury becomes a wizard in those few pages. He invokes the scents, the taste, the light, and the howling vacuum in the soul of his essentially psychopathic protagonist.

So maybe I’m a short story writer, when we’re talking made-up stuff. Maybe that’s my general bent.

If so? If I can get even one story out there one day that in a mere 2000 words does what Ray Bradbury did for me reading his cold poetry of murder for another reader?

Well, fuck yeah. Good enough. Let’s go.

#blah, #fiction, #short-stories, #writing