by Erika Holt
As a reader and a writer, I approach unconventional structures with extreme caution, and perhaps a bit of prejudice. A formal conceit really needs to be earned, and I often find that quirky structures are there partially to distract from a story’s other deficits. But then I’ll find an amazing story that really could not be told any other way, and I’ll happily ditch my bias. My Clarion classmate, Carmen Maria Machado, used a similarly unconventional structure for her brilliant story “Inventory,” published in Strange Horizons, and it reminded me that you can use that kind of format to highlight what’s structured out of the story—in the case of “57 Reasons,” the way the narrator’s selfish and single-minded pursuit of revenge blinds him to the reality of the situation, and his own guilt and responsibility.