Amelia Gray’s collection of short stories Museum Of The Weird
won FC2’s American Book Review/Ronald Sukenick Innovative Fiction Prize. Gray is also the author of the collection AM/PM (Featherproof Books) and the novel THREATS (forthcoming from Farrar, Straus, and Giroux). She is the founder of the reading/music show Five Things. Visit her website at ameliagray.com and check out her short piece “Loop” at Everyday Genius.
FC2: How did you first learn about FC2?
Amelia Gray: Reputation among other writers. FC2 was the kind of press I’d save my cash for at writers’ conference book sales. Or if I didn’t have any cash, I’d spend hours browsing the catalog online. Between FC2 and Dalkey Archive, I have spent all my imaginary dollars.
FC2: Tell us about Museum Of The Weird.
Amelia Gray: Museum Of The Weird is a collection of stories, scraps, parables, letters and lists. Each piece has some unconventionality, which is the main thing that ties the collection together. There are voice experiments, formal experiments, plot experiments. I called it Museum Of The Weird because it’s a collection of oddities not unlike what you’d see at quarter-entry roadside museums. If you’ve seen The Thing? in Arizona, it helps put the collection in perspective.
FC2: FC2’s mission statement says, “The Fiction Collective Two is devoted to publishing fiction considered by America’s largest publishers too challenging, innovative, or heterodox for the commercial milieu.” Will you elaborate on what it means to write challenging, innovative, and heterodox fiction in 2012?
Amelia Gray: I’m of the opinion that all fiction should be innovative. One of the great things about books is that they’re not perishable–their shelf lives extend longer than our own–and there is a great pleasure to reading the same piece of fiction at different times of one’s life. That said, even if I love a book and envy the talent of the author, I don’t see the point in emulating that work, particularly since I can read the book again. The entire point of writing, in my opinion, is to leave your own mark, and it follows that that mark would be its own innovation. I suspect most writers think this way, and for some reason some of us just get reputations as experimentalists when the truth is we all are experimentalists in some way.
FC2: Steve Katz has written that the Fiction Collective began with the desire to “make a literature.” What does that phrase mean to you?
Amelia Gray: All good presses seem to have the goal of creating a cannon in the same way that a sensitive book lover might create their home library. While some presses might limit their idea of a collection to a genre or a form–or a saleable commodity, most likely–the genius of FC2 is their desire to create a collection that almost strains its own boundaries. It’s a basket full of snakes, and the snakes are crawling over these diamonds, and there are smaller baskets inside, and a family of ants inside one basket, and this is all happening under water.
FC2: For what FC2 backlist title are you an evangelist?
Amelia Gray: Absolutely, Vanessa Place’s La Medusa. I mention that book once or twice a month still, and I read it years ago. It’s a brilliant long book that does so many things, experiments and succeeds in so many ways that are thrilling to explore and discover as a reader. That book is a monument. They should be teaching it in schools.