Steven John, Associate & Features Editor, interviews Lou Beach about his micro fictions in New Micro (W.W. Norton & Co, 2018)
SJ: In both your micro flash fictions ‘Humanity Services’ and ‘Shot by a Monkey’ (New Micro, published by W. M Norton) you create wide vistas in less than one hundred words. Can you tell us what inspired you to write these particular stories?
LB: I have no idea. That was in 2011. I am not responsible for anything I’ve said or done beyond last week.
SJ: The devil’s in the detail as the saying goes. In your stories the treasure is in the detail; ‘the stretch in your panties’, ‘some candy bars and a Desmond Morris book’. How important are fine definitions in short fiction?
LB: Oh, I think they are essential. You need a high calibre load if you’re using a derringer.
SJ: The six sentences of ‘Humanity Services’ are the tip of the iceberg. The bulk of the story is submerged and that’s its genius. How do you write absence or ‘white space’ into a fiction?
LB: I like jumping into a story, then jumping out. I leave a lot for the reader to fill in, and assume they are imaginative enough to do so.
SJ: Your two stories in the Norton Anthology first appeared in ‘420 Characters’ collection based on the Facebook status update character limit at the time. Please tell us about your drafting and revision process in writing these stories.
LB: They began as a personal challenge and boredom crusher. I would just bang out a tale with a general sense of the character limit, and then chisel away the least necessary bits. Editing is the meal after the cooking.
SJ: ‘Shot by a Monkey’ has a surreal, almost dystopian, feel to it, but written as reportage. You are known primarily as a visual artist whose artworks are surreal. Do your illustrations in any way inform your writing?
LB: No. I spent enough time as an illustrator.
SJ: Do your collages and writing come from a similar place?
LB: The art and writing come from the same urge to create a narrative, a vivid picture/story.
SJ: You’ve said that writing has come to you as a miraculous 2nd act. Who inspired you to begin writing?
LB: No one person, though I’ve been influenced by many writers, artists, musicians to tell my stories, both pictorial and literary. I’d give you a Top 10, but then feel bad later for leaving someone out.
SJ: For those of us who’d like to write surreal stories, where do we go for our ideas?
LB: LSD could be a start. Seriously, the hypnagogic state, if you can remember what occurs, is a super box store of images and ideas.
SJ: Have you been tempted to write anything longer than micro-fiction?
LB: I’m not sure what exactly constitutes micro-fiction. I have written stories that are pages long. It’s writing short pieces that link with other short pieces, sort of like Legos.
SJ: Can you update us on any of your current writing projects?
LB: Lately I’ve been wearing my visual art pants. Having fun though, writing dialogues. Worked on a script for an animated series last year and it’s fun pushing a narrative via a character’s voice.
Lou Beach was brought to Earth in 1947 in the rural village of Sdeslova, in the Tatar Mountains. His parents were traveling circus performers – jugglers and high wire acrobats. His early years were spent among elephants, monkeys, and dancing dogs, bearded ladies and dwarfs. This may have informed his world view: a suspicion of most humans and their feeble endeavors, and that much of what we assume to be true is merely an illusion.