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Q and A

Oct 06, 2009; izi Asks:

Not really a question but just a thanks for making our English 2 classes filled with great stories. It's not a boring class, but coming across your work made me giggle. I am horrible at writing stories and essays so I detest all of my classes (art student) but I have chosen your story, "The Land of Pain" because you allow the reader to interpret your stories to the fullest and because you verbalize situations that I have a hard time explaining, like the karma people and dealing with pain. My lower back gives me hell too ;}

Stacey answers:

Oh Izi, I hope your back feels better. Thanks for the great note. Really, all I've ever wanted in life is to be admired by art students. Now go start a band.

Oct 05, 2009; Creative Writing PM Asks:

How's it goin', Stacey? We're chilling at Great Neck North Creative Writing PM. We were just wondering, while eating a bag of burritos (and after reading your story The First Men), about its ending. There was quite a bit of debate over the ending... How did you know how to end it? By the way, we loved the story, and thought you had a strong voice. The class ends at 8 on Monday evening; no school next week. If you could, we'd appreciate it if you'd answer.

Stacey answers:

Hi chillers,

I didn't know burritos came in bags--like bags of chips come in bags? Oh wait, I'm not supposed to ask questions in my answers. Okay, well: as for endings, all I can say is that ideally the ending should be lurking somewhere in the beginning. But endings are tricky. Sometimes it's better not to end exactly at the end. Sometimes it works better to put the ending at the beginning, or somewhere in the middle, especially with literary fiction, which relies on a certain amount of ambiguity for its power and mystery, the same way that the bag hides the burrito. Until you remove it from the bag. And eat it. Or maybe you already ate it.

Sep 30, 2009; Wag Asks:

Have you seen this?

Stacey answers:

No, I hadn't seen it, but now I have. My old friend Lana Rebel! That's great.

Sep 29, 2009; Aboriginal Penis Splitter Asks:

I think that water chugging for your health is bullshit, unless you're really really thirsty. That said, what is the connection between believing (or not believing) in evolution, and mythology? Are you saying that people are so drawn to myth that myth trumps the scientific method in their heads? Because that's like "paper covers rock," which always confused me.

On this very web page, someone asks what the "argument" in your fiction is, and you gently remind them about the fiction part. I think people ask you those questions because discrete concepts (like creation myths) are easier to grasp than mutable constellations of ideas (like those contained in works of art and in scientific theories that contain variables).

The concept of evolution requires a very long time frame, whereas a myth is already formed and neatly pre-packaged.

All of which is to say that I think you're on the right track with your answer # 2 (they are fucking idiots). Do you like cupcakes?

Stacey answers:

Dear Aboriginal Penis Splitter,

Thank you so much for your follow-up question! Yes, I like cupcakes.

I am sort of saying that people are so drawn to myth that myth trumps the scientific method in their head, though I too am very fond of the idea that people who don't believe in the theory of evolution are fucking idiots.

I actually think that people who choose the bible over evolution probably don't let themselves seriously consider the science. Maybe science doesn't trump myth in their heads because the two are not weighed against each other--I'm sure you know these types. The don't want to talk about it, they just want to be right. But they want to be right because their mythology means so much to them! It's easy to be angry with the closed-minded, and to fear them as well, but I have to say, I find it kind of adorable to see grown-up people believing so fervently in imaginary beings. And I do think we all partake of this sort of thing to some extent. I myself was a devout Barbie player as a child and I still believe that very beautiful women, correctly dressed, can conquer the world, despite a great deal of evidence to the contrary.

Sep 28, 2009; Purpleisahealingcolor Asks:

What is your favorite season of the year there in Arizona? Do you have a favorite vacation destination?

Stacey answers:

Hi Purple. I like spring. February is spring here and it's lovely. I don't have a favorite vacation destination but I'll try to make up something.

Sep 22, 2009; Wag Asks:

I recently heard that a new poll says only 39 per cent of Americans believe in the theory of evolution. I find this rather disturbing. To what do you attribute this fact(iod) to and what can be done about it?

Stacey answers:

Dear Wag,

Thank you for asking me a question about science. I like science, especially biology, but I don't want to see any actual blood, okay? Wait, what was the question? Oh yes, evolution. I have three hypotheses as to why Americans don't believe in the theory of evolution. 1) They don't understand what the word "theory" means. In popular usage, a theory is something like a notion or an idea, rather than a rigorously tested hypothesis, which is what the word means in the scientific sense. For example gravity, which most people refer to as "gravity," is known in scientific literature as the theory of gravity.

2) They are fucking idiots.

3) Humans have a need for mythology. We might even have neurological pathways in our brains that are receptive to mythological notions. Though many observers have commented on this, like Freud, Jung, Joseph Campbell, and Shakespeare, there's something opaque about the mythology of one's own culture that makes it seem normal, or even non-existent. It's easy to look at some aboriginal penis-splitting ritual and think, "Wow, that's bizarre. What the hell are they thinking in their superstitious heads?" but it's harder to look at our own culture and see that we have our own strange, violent, and nonsensical mythology. In other words, Wag, people believe in the bible. They believe in the biblical creation myth. Some people believe in crazy shit. They always have. In a way, I think it's sort of cute, like playing Barbie, but on a grand scale, and by adults. I always approve of playing! Just as long as none of the players has any political power.

I'm not sure what should be done about it. It does occur to me that if the creation people were not allowed to breed, evolution would take care of the rest. Quickly.

Sep 22, 2009; KKB Asks:

Stacey Richter! I keep thinking about something you said here. (Yes, in addition to what you've said about water.) I love the strange advice of seeking out your own special subject matter. You said yours is that suburbia is a fairyland. That's so cool! And looking back on your stories, I have to admit: yes, it's true. But did you find this thematic clarity in advance? Or did you just write about a bunch of stuff you liked, and then later realized that these ideas had something unusual in common? I love this idea of seeking it out. But it sounds hard to make it be true. I mean, themes are so mysterious, you know?

Stacey answers:

KKB! I just wrote about a bunch of stuff that I liked and realized how it came together later. I do think you have to seek it out, and I agree that themes are mysterious, slippery, and weird, but that's the wonder of having a personality. You are really you, you are not empty, and even if you are empty, then that's what you are and it has its own internal logic and diction and structure and loves and hates, and getting this to emerge in your writing is (probably) the reason you're writing in the first place. Or part of the reason. Yes, it's hard, but all of writing is hard. Though this Q and A isn't really that hard, so maybe I'm not totally on the right track with that. Well, if you find an easy way, please let me know how you do it.

Sep 22, 2009; Chrissy Asks:

What exactly would you say the overall argument is in your story "The Beauty Treatment?" What can society learn from it?

Stacey answers:

Hi Chrissy. I don't know what the overall argument is in "The Beauty Treatment." Was there an argument? I say that because to me, an argument is one side of a debate or a strident point-of-view. Most literary fiction is not really concerned with taking sides or stating things so starkly. If I wanted to make an argument or teach society something, I'd write an essay that said exactly what I meant to say. Maybe something like, "Guns are bad," or "TV causes teenage violence." Then I would say what I thought should be done to fix the problem: "Guns should be seized by the government," or "TV shows should only be about pretty rainbows and nice unicorns." But a short story is more about what it feels like to be alive and what it is in life that creates meaning.

As a writer, I am not trying to argue or teach. I'm trying to reveal and share. And make you happy. In sort of a sad way. But still happy.

Sep 22, 2009; KKB Asks:

Really? You think the health-thing about chugging water all the time isn't true? At least it's a cure for hangovers, in advance no less! PS. Have you read Emily Carter's Glory Goes and Gets Some? I think you would love it. She only has one book, but boy it's great.

Stacey answers:

Yes, I really think the health-thing about chugging water all the time is total bullshit. We are sophisticated creatures with a primary function of maintaining internal homeostasis. I don't believe we've spent millions of years evolving from the briny deep just to have a whacked-out thirst system that leaves us dehydrated all the time. I mean, wouldn't that be the first thing our bodies would work out? And the whole logic of always pushing additional fluids through one's system (in order to remain sufficiently hydrated) seems flawed, if not sort of crazy. Why not push additional food through the system all the time in order to remain sufficiently nourished? Or apply lotion incessantly in order to remain sufficiently moisturized? You see where I'm going with this. I suspect this is an artifact of the whole body/mind dualism theme of our judeo-christian outlook. Our bodies can't know what we need, we are a nation of fat pigs who would eat all the time if we did not use our minds to control our bodies, in fact we don't even know if we're thirsty or not and need written instructions (8 glasses a day) in order to figure out how much to drink. I don't buy it. I don't even really even truly think that water is much of a hangover cure. For me, the salient point seems to be how much booze I drink, not how much water. It might be fun/miserable to test this sometime.

I haven't read Emily Carter. I'll get it!

Sep 11, 2009; Wag Asks:

Dear Stacey, I think I might have forgotten 9/11. What should I do?

Stacey answers:

It's okay. Don't panic. There are plenty of other disturbing tragedies in the world for you to go over and over in your head, some of them much more recent than 9/11. I suggest you remember one of them instead.

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