Blurring lines in short fiction
Thursday, Apr 09, 2015 06:00 am
Former reporter and current music teacher Katherine (Stoddart) Fawcett is celebrating the recently release of her short story collection The Little Washer of Sorrows.
The 19 stories are shaped around what happens, “when the expected and unusual are replaced with elements of the rare and strange … a world where science fiction and fantasy fuse with reality.”
Fawcett’s 19 stories run a large gamut of fabulist fiction, from the unbelievable to the highly plausible, with the reoccurring theme of characters coping with relationships existing within the stories.
“I’ve always loved to write and play with words and the short story collection came about by playing with words and ideas. I love the juxtaposition of everyday life with average people and everyday struggles in surreal situations,” said Fawcett, who once reported for the now-defunct Canmore Leader.
One story, BLK MGC looks at the cultural craze of network marketing. Fawcett takes the reality of that business world to dire extremes. “That world, which is a huge world that people get sucked into, I explored as to what happens if the consequences are quite deadly. It’s a contemporary issue, but ends up having some voodoo in it and death threats,” Fawcett said.
Another story entitled Your Best Interests looks at the contemporary issue of fundraising for a private school, which leads to an extreme outcome for its students.
“Some of these stories come first from the weird and then I’ll put in the issue, and other times it comes the opposite way, such as in Lenny and the Polyamphibians,” Fawcett said. “What if a middle-aged man in a bit of a stale marriage discovers a little mermaid on the beach and brings it home in his thermos? What does that do to a marriage?
“If a man is nursing a mermaid in secret back to life and health, what impact does it have on a relationship that was a bit stale anyway? There’s the fantastical idea and then bring it home.”
The collection started for Fawcett as she sent the individual stories into magazines such as Event and Prairie Fire. At times, the magazines would offer contests, which Fawcett would use as structure for motivation and as a deadline to finish.
“I collected some wins, shortlists and long-lists, that would encourage me and I kept writing and soon I thought it could be a collection and sent it around to publishers,” Fawcett said. “I had plenty of encouraging rejection letters and one of them said they liked it and wanted it and it was Thistledown Press, and they’ve been great to work with.”
She says putting the two worlds of the believable and the unbelievable together is actually the easy part; she just looks at the world around her for inspiration.
“The balance between the real and the surreal is kind of like life, I think it helps to be a bit of a worrier and always be thinking what could go wrong here?” Fawcett said. “Your imagination goes while still being optimistic enough that situations could turn in real surreal ways and generate an outcome that is completely unexpected but very interesting and I think difficulty is really interesting, it can be a voyage into the imagination.”
Not all of the stories are necessarily filled with fantasy and bizarre surrealism. Some, such as Suburban Wolf and All-Inclusive have probably occurred to someone you know, or the reader themselves.
“Some are more grounded in reality, but the reality is taken somewhere else,” Fawcett said. The author pointed out the literary work in fabulist fiction has gained more momentum and acceptance over the last decade due to the work of writers such as Karen Russell and George Saunders.
“People are into that and I think want to explore different worlds in their real life,” Fawcett said. “This kind of fiction, fabulist, if you will, or magical realism, has become much more popular.”
Join Fawcett for her book launch of The Little Washer of Sorrows on April 13, at Canmore’s Good Earth Café.