This is the fourth in a series of posts leading up to the release of The Great Unknown, where authors share their experience of writing eerie stories for the anthology, and give you an idea of what to expect (and, I hope, look forward to). The Great Unknown is available to pre-order from Booktopia, Readings, Fishpond (free shipping worldwide) and all good bookstores. You might also want to add it to your shelves on Goodreads.
Today, Ali Alizadeh tells us about the process behind his story ‘Truth and Reconciliation’. Alizadeh’s most recent book is Transactions (UQP).
What did you enjoy about writing to this particular brief or theme?
I loved using this brief as the excuse for indulging in far too many hours of The Twilight Zone. Very cathartic. It was also great to use and experiment with the format of a short, weird story. It’s quite interesting and challenging to quickly create a setting and then subvert it via a bizarre, unexplainable narrative twist. I quite enjoyed doing that.
Tell us about your story in The Great Unknown.
The bizarre, unexplainable narrative twist in ‘Truth and Reconciliation’ is our love and worship of sport. Why are we so enamoured of frankly banal, manipulative, egomaniacal mediocrities who can apparently run really fast or swim really fast or cycle really fast or somesuch? It’s an infuriating kind of fetishism, in Marx’s sense of the word, a kind of value which has nothing to do with the use-value of things. What precisely is the use of any sport? And why are we so willing to put up with the deceptions and annoyances of athletes? I think my story is about that sort of thing.
What memories do you have of watching The Twilight Zone, The Outer Limits or of reading spooky/uncanny stories (or comics) as a kid?
I’m not your classic The Twilight Zone fan. I’ve always been appreciative of the phenomenon, but had never really engaged with it, until Angela invited me to write a story for this book. Now that I’ve watched so many episodes as research for this project, I can confidently claim to have become a fan. I’d never really been a fan of a TV show, but I used to be quite an avid fan of certain alternative bands in the 90s—Nine Inch Nails, Pearl Jam, Alice in Chains, that sort of thing—and the comic book Sandman.
Despite her success as a writer of quality macabre and psychological thrillers, Patricia Highsmith was, to her great disappointment, never published in The New Yorker. Has anything changed? What thoughts do you have on the current status of writing genre fiction?
I really don’t think getting published in something like The New Yorker is such a big deal. I can understand why popular genre fiction writers may crave being recognised by the literati—people often want what they can’t have—but I honestly don’t think anyone, including proper literary writers, really care all that much about self-important literary cliques and their trivial little publications. Best to ignore such markers of ‘critical success’ and just write, read, live, etc.