Posts Tagged ‘short story’

Another review!

Muchos gracias to Bethany W. Pope, over at Sabotage Reviews, who just covered Among Animals and “Meat” in particular.  Check it out!

It’s interesting that so many readers take the character Meat to be a pig, when the story never identifies Meat’s species.  Thoughts?  Leave me a message.

Among Animals reviewed!

Ashley E. Reis gave Among Animals and my contribution “Meat” a sweet review in The Goose Vol. 13 Issue 2.  Click the link to check it out.  Thanks, Ashley!

Which Side Podcast interview available!

Thank you so much to Jordan, Jeremy, Mari & the rest of the Which Side Collective for having me on…twice. These people are good people, and if you don’t believe me, check out my interview with them here.  Listen to us discuss vegan restaurants in DC, cage-free eggs, writing, if I am an anarchist, and my handsome, handsome boyfriend.*

And….as a very special treat for folks who want a slightly more coherent version of me, you can listen to an extra, 30-minute bonus episode on humane meat, and veganism and animal rights in literature.

And that’s not all!  If you follow these simple instructions, you can win your own copy of Among Animals, along with a year’s membership to the podcast.

Don’t trust everything you hear on the internet.  Just most things you hear.

*Sorry, John.  And sorry, John.

Which Side Podcast

On Saturday, I’ll be recording for a podcast interview with a couple of vegan anarchists.* We’ll be talking (among other topics, I’m sure) about my short story “Meat” in Ashland Creek Press’ Among Animals, and previously published by The Again, with illustrations from editor Mike Bonsall. Stay tuned for the air date.

In the mean time, you can catch the previous interview with John Yunker, co-founder of Ashland Creek Press.

*No, no, 2008 Charlotte, it’s not those vegan anarchists.**  It’s Jordan and Jeremy from Which Side Podcast!

**Anyone close to me in the years 2007/2009 knows I was fervent subscriber and listener of Vegan Freak Radio, hosted by Bob & Jenna Torres.

I did an interview

When you write things and share them, people will occasionally ask you questions about yourself and the things you write.  When this happens in such formal settings as a newspaper, a podcast, or a blog, you can call it an interview and blog about it yourself.  As I shall demonstrate…now!

Here is an interview I did about my short story “Meat” for Ashland Creek Press, in which I discuss the material roots of oppression, ideology, escapist (or not escapist) literature, and impressing one’s English teacher.

Thank you, Jennifer, for thinking of cogent questions and putting it all together.


“Greyhound,” by Jean Ryan, the second story in Among Animals, is a little cipher of a tale, about the ways we never really know anyone, yet still somehow connect.  The narrator of “Greyhound” adopts a former racing greyhound with the hope that the dog can help bring her partner Holly out of…something.  Holly swears she has no inner demons to exorcise, but her psychosymatic symptoms say otherwise.  The dog they end up with, formerly called Clara’s Gift and now called Fawn, is an apparently troubled soul — eerily meek and obedient.  Holly lists the ways that greyhounds have been bred and shaped for the track, until it seems (in Fawn’s case at least) they no longer know how to be dogs.  Fawn has none of the behaviors we would recognize as “dog”: she doesn’t bark, beg for food, play with other dogs, or jump for human affection.  She was taken off the track after one race in which the chute opened and she simply did not run.  In fact, she has not run since, not even to play or exercise.  Nothing is physically wrong with her, but it is as if she has forgotten how, or running is so much a part of her former life at the track that she refuses to do it again.  Getting Fawn to regain this piece of herself–this certain something that makes a greyhound a greyhound–becomes the focus of the story.  At the same, the narrator is watching Holly, hoping to see her, too, regain a piece of herself that seems to be missing.

Reading through this story, I thought automatically of Jason Hribal’s book Fear of the Animal Planet, in which he chronicles zoo and circus animals’ escapes and refusals to perform as a form of resistance to their exploitation.  Fawn’s refusal to run is written more like a surrender than a rebellion, yet her actions do sabotage her racing owners’ intentions for her, and get her to a more desirable life as a domestic companion instead of a sports’ commodity.  I thought about a conversation I had with a friend re: Seabiscuit, about whether horseracing was wrong since horses like to run and even race with each other in the wild.  [My conclusion was yes, horseracing is wrong, since the horses themselves have no institutional say over when they start and stop–either in a particular race and over their careers as racers–and the industry that exists around the races has nothing to do with what horses like to do and everything to do with making profits for their owners.]  I also thought about the ways humans have interacted with domestic animals, none more so than dogs, and changed the evolution of whole species (of course, other animals have effected the way human beings evolved, too).  Now, when we talk about what’s natural for a dog like a greyhound, we’re talking about a set of behaviors that were bred and trained into the animals for an expressly human-determined purpose.  There’s no room in our conceptual framework for a greyhound that doesn’t run; Fawn is a walking oxymoron.  Even in contexts where animals are wanted and loved, they cannot escape the imposition of other expectations.  This is, in fact, a problem not just for other animals, but other humans–even when we mean each other well, we each carry a framework for what constitutes a happy, healthy life, and push and nudge and cajole our loved ones toward it.  Yet non-human animals have the added disadvantage of all the human-built structures around them, physical and social, that don’t let them push back on us with equal force.  What can they do but surrender-rebel, like Fawn?

There’s much to like about this story, from the loving and matter-of-fact portrayal of a same-sex couple, to the descriptions of the miniature worlds Holly makes.  I admit, though, that I grew more skeptical about it as it went on.  The animal-as-therapy trope is always squishy, and tends to give the importance to human characters, using the animals as a means to an end.  But the story saves itself, for me, by never telling the reader exactly what is going on with Holly or Fawn.  Are they getting better?  Are they wrestling with inner demons?  Have they been fine all along, floating on a sea of existence, letting the waves wash over them?  There is no knowing, and yet somehow the narrator’s continuous love and support for Holly, and both the narrator and Holly’s love and support for Fawn, are meaningful.  They create a circle of acceptance, where one could wrestle demons (if there are any demons to wrestle), or one could just be.

Over at the Ashland Creek Press blog, interviews with each of the writers featured in Among Animals are trickling out.  You can find one with “Greyhound” author Jean Ryan, and with Diane Lefer, who wrote “Alas, Falada!”

And…if you like your interviews in print, there’s an interview with author and editor of Among Animals, Midge Raymond, in the March issue of Vegetarian Times.

“Alas, Falada!”

I am slowly reading through the stories in Among Animals, the new anthology from Ashland Creek Press, which, as the back cover promises, “affirm the indelible bond among humans and animals.”  Judging from the first story, and my own story “Meat” which is included, this anthology is not quite the easy-breezy-heartwarming stuff that such a description might imply.  I have a feeling I’m going to be in tears by the end of most of these stories, and not sentimental, Hallmark-Channel tears.  Existential, what-the-hell-are-we-doing-on-this-planet? tears.

The anthology’s first story, “Alas, Falada!” by Diane Lefer, is about a worker in a zoo’s veterinary office, attempting to cope with the death of a patient — an eland, a large type of antelope, who was recently euthanized.  The narrator struggles between her job tasks and her desire to honor the animal’s life with something better than what the zoo and the local museum have in store for the eland’s remains.

The title “Alas, Falada!” is an allusion to the Grimm Brothers’ fairy tale, “The Goose Girl,” in which the protagonist of the story, a wronged princess, has one stalwart friend: a talking horse who is beheaded early in the tale, but who nevertheless continues to advise and sympathize with the princess as a disembodied head nailed to a gate.  Like the narrator in Lefer’s story, this fairy tale left a strong impression on me as a child, one that horrified me to my core and yet at the same time confirmed something I knew from my cats and my hermit crab — that sometimes my truest friends were not human.  How I wished we could communicate as easily as Falada does with his princess.  In this story, Lefer weaves the themes of the fairy tale, with its horror and its magic (and its ungrateful silence on Falada’s ultimate fate once the princess has her happily-ever-after), into a very modern story about animals as objects of human fascination and study.  Subtly, the story catalogs all sorts of ways that wild animals are Other-ed in contemporary culture.  From the opening lines, “Humans get cremated.  Animals get burned,” to the knowledge that zoo animals are no longer named, to the positive differences that the misanthropic narrator latches onto (“When you save the life of a bear cub, you don’t have to worry he’ll go out and vote Republican”), the story is describing a line between humans and animals.  A la Gary Francione, I paraphrase: humans are people, animals are not.

Yet the narrative troubles that simple distinction.  On the third page of the story, the narrator informs us there’s someone at the museum she is trying to avoid.  On the fourth page, we learn that this someone is Jamal, a chimpanzee who died in the zoo, possibly a suicide, and is now a taxidermy display in the museum.  Playing with our expectations of who can be called a “someone,” the author forces us to adopt a new set of moral criteria, at least for the duration of the story.  The narrator repeatedly ruminates about the true nature of humans; and the emotional and cognitive capabilities of animals; and comes up short.  When our understanding both of what a human is like and what an animal is like are so fraught, it becomes audacious to accept facile social and emotional distinctions — at least not without a lot of angst, which the narrator readily supplies.  There clearly are differences between an eland and a human; part of the narrator’s conflict is how to treat the eland’s remains when elands can’t make wills that tell us how they’d like to be commemorated.  The narrator is emotional attached, and that’s all well-and-good, but we have no idea that any of this even mattered to the eland.  What the narrator learns above all, through her interactions with the zoo patients and her reflections thereafter, is that there are loveable humans in the world.  The Other becomes a distorted mirror that we use to learn about ourselves, ourselves being primary and the Others having little in the way of a life that might matter to them, on their own terms.

Yet the story will not let us end there, saying no more of Falada, as unproblematic as a Disney-fied fairy tale.  She matters, as an individual, as a life, as a feeling creature, and the narrator can’t help but intuit that she owes her something.  There are no answers or solutions, only complex emotion and meditation.  Lefer’s prose is transparent and smooth as water, and the journey she takes us through in this story make me very proud to be included in an anthology with her work.  Cheers, Diane.  This one will stay with me a long while.

Next up: “Greyhound,” by Jean Ryan.

Publication – Among Animals

It’s launched!  Among Animals, the collection from Ashland Creek Press, is now available.  My short story “Meat” appears among fourteen others exploring the ways humans and other animals interact.  A big thanks to author and editor Midge Raymond for her hard work on this, and all the folks at Ashland, especially Jennifer Hartsock for her thoughtful questions.

New story collection, coming February 2014

“Meat” will be appearing in a new short story collection from Ashland Press, Among Animals: The Lives of Animals and Humans in Contemporary Short Fiction.  I thought the title was going to be Animals Among Us, so the change got me thinking.  Animals Among Us could imply that (non-human) animals are interlopers, creatures who don’t rightly belong — they are among “us,” but not part of “us.”  Among Animals carries just the reverse implication: we are the outsiders here, struggling to relate and live on a planet where, as one of my old tee shirts reads, “They were here first.”  Of course humans are animals, too, and a collection with this title could just as well feature human-centric stories.

I’m very excited to read the work from the other contributors, and to hear feedback on “Meat.”  Since the story was published in The Again, it’s brought out some good discussion with friends and family about the practicality and challenges of veganism.  I’m hoping, with the publication of the book from Ashland, this discussion can continue in more public forums — readings and author events — as well as informally.  In particular, how can (or should) a concern with animal rights jive with other progressive agendas, like protecting the natural world, organic, small farms, or indigenous rights?

Comments welcome if you’ve got ’em.

Publication – The Again No. 11

My short story, “Meat,” appears in the long-awaited May issue of The Again.  Mild reader warning: some disturbing images and ideas here, and  I find the illustrations, by editor Mike Bonsall, creepy as hell.

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