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Q and A

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.

Sep 06, 2009; bruce halper Asks:

picked up a signed copy of your book, My Date W/ Satan...enjoying very much so far. I'm on the beach at Newport. Best, Bruce

Aug 31, 2009; Mr. Blue Asks:

Hi, Stacey. I want a dog. I have one at the shelter picked out, a super sweet rat terrier. But now my landlord says no, and I feel sad and lonely. My question is: Why should I have to get permission and/or pay a deposit to own a dog when a landlord couldn't stop my girlfriend and me from having kids, which are potentially more damaging to property than a small, sweet dog? My second question is: If we get the dog anyway and dress it up in human clothes and go through a fake pregnancy, will people believe us when we tell them the dog is our baby?

Stacey answers:

Dear Mr. Blue,

No, people will not believe your dog is a baby if you dress it up in human clothes. People dress animals in human clothes all the time, and no one thinks the animals are human babies. I agree with your assessment: a child can be as potentially destructive as a dog, but really, who has more destructive potential than a mature adult person? Some tools in your toolbox (that a dog lacks) are chainsaws, matches, spray paint, and hydrochloric acid. If you really want to drive home the point to your landlord, why not trash the place?

The reason you need to get permission/bribe the landlord to have a dog but not a human baby is more complicated. This is due to the supremacy of human culture. Really, when you think about it, it doesn't really make sense that only one species on the whole planet has evolved a true culture. Chimpanzees and whales might show signs such as tool making and language, but whether this is culture or not is still open for debate. The only good explanation for this is that we as humans have an instinct to kill any species that gets too advanced so that we can be the only ones with all the good stuff like words and screwdrivers.

So, what do you think happens when people in large numbers keep dogs in apartments? Such dogs have no access to yards or nature, and in the absence of these influences they begin to rapidly evolve. Before long they are using simple words; after that, they're carrying around rudimentary tools made from things found on the floor like hangers and soda cans. Who knows what comes after soda cans? Maybe chainsaws, matches, spray paint, and hydrochloric acid. This is not a good situation. It can rapidly escalate into a dog vs. human scenario. At this point, the choice is to either kill all dogs in an unpleasant dog massacre (even as overlords they are soft and furry) or to just avoid the whole problem of apartment dwelling from the beginning.

Aug 12, 2009; Mr. Wonderful Asks:

What's the deal with back cover blurbs? Sometimes I read them and then read the book, and it's almost too obvious that the blurb-writer never even finished the book. Is it a major "diss" to decline to blurb someone? Do you ever write blurbs and if so, under what circumstances? What is the key to writing the perfect blurb? And why do blurbs always say something about the writer and/or book being "compassionate"?

Stacey answers:

Blurbing is fun. I think that any good blurb should have one or two swear words in it. I will blurb a book when several things come together in a rare convergence--someone asks me to do it and I have time and/or remember. But that usually doesn't all happen.

The diss factor of not blurbing someone is hard to measure--all that stuff usually happens through publishers and agents and an author doesn't necessarily even know who their book has been sent to.

The mention of "compassion" is usually found in jacket copy (rather than in blurbs by fellow authors) and is publishing code for "feminine but not chick-lit." A compassionate author is usually an authoress who writes about women, girls, and family life; and even though most male authors also write about this stuff, they are hardly ever called compassionate, nor is their prose called jewel-like, probably since they are being called brilliant and ambitious instead.

Aug 05, 2009; Liam G. Asks:

So, Stacey. How are you?

Stacey answers:

I'm a little better Liam, thanks for asking. I've had a hard year with a lot of back pain but I think the worst is over now. My great aunt died yesterday and I'm sad about that. She was very cool and smart.

Oddly, I had a dream about you last night. You were walking down an alley wearing a blue t-shirt. I gave you a hug but I didn't see your face. It was very maternal. I felt very encouraging. You go, Liam!

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