You’re usually known for your speculative fiction, but “Good Fences” is a work of existential horror, with no obvious speculative elements. Was the experience of writing this story very different from your other work?
Not particularly; a story of any sort has a psychology, and beyond that it’s just a matter of degrees.
When I read “Good Fences,” I found myself wondering how far down the rabbit hole the main character’s madness went. It seemed obvious that his interpretations of the story’s events were colored by his growing paranoia and feelings of persecution, but as the story went on, I began to speculate about how many of the events actually happened—whether there was actually a body, for example, or if the main character really was the one who set the fire. I even wondered for a while if Peter really existed. In your mind, do the events of the story occur more or less as described by the main character, or is something else going on?
That’s definitely the question the story poses to the reader—whether the narrator is affected by an actual series of events that horrify him into inaction, whether his inaction begins to eat away at him to the point of inventing this punishing self-terrorism, or some combination of those banal and loathsome two. (Any reading of the text damns him pretty soundly, though.)
The central image of the story—the burnt-out, crumbling car—starts out seemingly emblematic of the main character’s sketchy neighborhood, but later becomes a concrete representation of his deteriorating mental state. Where did that image come from?
From exactly that—the car is both a very solid and familiar mechanism of daily life, and a symbol: prosperity, safety, escape. Aside from the physicality of something that’s been burned falling to pieces, there’s the cognitive disconnect that so personal and valuable a possession would be abandoned; as the car falls apart, so does he.
What scares you? What sort of thing makes you get up and turn on the light in the middle of the night?
Charlie Sheen and Neil LaBute still get work. That’s scary stuff.
What do you have coming down the pike as far as writing projects go?
I just finished up a novel and am knee-deep in research for the next one, and have a few short stories coming down the line (including a story about London’s Great Exhibition coming up in Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells)—and, as always, I plan to write at length about delightful and/or terrible movies, whenever I can.
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