Conversations with the Bookless: Paul Jessup

Jeff VanderMeer • October 26th, 2007 @ 9:50 am • Culture

In support of the short story, and specifically those talented writers who are currently “bookless,” which is to say those writers who are at that stage of their career where a collection or novel is a year or more away, I’m doing a new feature called Conversations with the Bookless, of which this is the third installment. (The first two were with Rachel Swirsky and Nathan Ballingrud.) The fact is, if you don’t have a book out, it’s harder to get attention and it’s harder for reader attention to crystalize around you. I hope these interviews introduce readers to some of the great talent that, in the coming years, will be amazingly and bountifully bookful.

Paul Jessup is a relatively new writer who seems to specialize in surreal fantasy, sometimes with experimental touches. At times, this experimentation works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it’s good to see someone willing to take chances, and someone with this much enthusiasm (in both his fiction and his discussions of fantasy). I think Jessup is now coming into his own, and stories like “The Adventures of Petal, The Paper Doll Pirate,” forthcoming in Fantasy, strike me as both entertaining and different.

Where are you, right now, as you’re writing these answers?
At work, wearing a sweater and drinking coffee. It’s not particular good coffee, which makes me sad.

What do you like most about short fiction?
When I sit down and read or write, I want to go in and fall in love again. I don’t want that flirting, teasing, lengthy relationship that comes from a longer work. We all know how those end- with tedium, with heartbreak. With one of us signing bad papers nobody wants to see. These shorts though–they are tiny memories. Tiny pieces. Like love they are fast, passionate, desire laced and emotional. They are not small things, meant to be discarded. They are big, they are personal, and they are threatening.

What do you most value in the fiction you love?
A sideways glance. A memory, hidden inside other thoughts like a puzzle box. A return to that place on the hill where you met that girl when you were nine, and you thought she was unreal and a ghost. And so you were afraid that if you touched her she would melt away. A picture, a laughing man. Some clowns, waiting for the train. Fiction and love are two things that are the same- collections of memories, entertwined. Falling over each other. Waiting to be rediscovered with a scent that hangs in the air, or a building seen that wasn’t there before. And you remember. And you return. Fiction I love is like that. Seen out of the corner of your eye. Waiting for you to untangle it.

Where can we read your fiction online right now, and where is work forthcoming?
Online, on Farrago’s Wainscot, Apple Magick; on Pseudopod: Finger Bones, Hung Like Mobile and Light Like Knives Dragged Across the Skin In print:

Electric Velocipede: The Alchemy of War (Issue #12 2007)
PostScripts: MudSkin (Issue 10 2007)
When Graveyards Yawn Anthology: The Happiness of Pinned Wings (2006) Journals of Experimental Fiction – Away With It!: Clockwerk (2002)

I also have work forthcoming in Fantasy Magazine, Farrago’s Wainscot, Apex Digest, and Post Scripts.

What are you doing to rectify your bookless situation?
Top sekrit things. Things I cannot talk about. Pacts with unspeakable creatures. Rituals in the dark. Things involving fire, sacred songs and belly dancers. That’s all I can say. Maybe I’ve said too much? If I am missing next week, there is a box hidden beneath a tree, seen only in moonlight. Find it but do not open it. It is important.

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