Short Story Month: RATS NEST

May 3, 2017

Short Story Month on ALU opens with a big bang: Mat Laporte's first full-length short story collection, RATS NEST (BookThug) takes readers to places fantastical, mysterious, and sometimes hallucinogenic. Described by award-winning author Liz Howard as "a dissident, noir, cyberpunk diary that recalls the monotony of service/office labour and projects that struggle onto the failed tropes of 'what the future may hold,'" RATS NEST  features twelve sci-fi stories that call into question what it means to be human. Below, we share an excerpt from "Total Horror," one of the twelve stories included in the collection, and a short interview with Mat. 

 

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This Short Story Month, we're interviewing short story writers every Wednesday, here on the All Lit Up blog.

 

Short Story Month on ALU opens with a big bang: Mat Laporte's first full-length short story collection, RATS NEST (BookThug) takes readers to places fantastical, mysterious, and sometimes hallucinogenic. Described by award-winning author Liz Howard as "a dissident, noir, cyberpunk diary that recalls the monotony of service/office labour and projects that struggle onto the failed tropes of 'what the future may hold,'" RATS NEST   features twelve sci-fi stories that call into question what it means to be human. Below, we share an excerpt from "Total Horror," one of the stories included in the collection, and a short interview with Mat.

 

RATSNEST_EXCERPT

 

 

 

 

 

 

ALU: If you had to describe your collection in 12-15 nouns only, what would they be?

ML:

  1. Kid
  2. Pit
  3. Pigs
  4. Guts
  5. Blob
  6. Ritual
  7. Blood
  8. Space
  9. Vape-creatures
  10. Rocks
  11. Grandmothers
  12. Archives
  13. Eyeballs
  14. Heads
  15. Copies

 

ALU: Who are your favourite short story writers and why?

ML: These are the first lines from some of my favorite short stories by some of my favorite short story writers:

Katherine Mansfield – “Bliss”:
"Although Bertha Young was thirty she still had moments like this when she wanted to run instead of walk, to take dancing steps on and off the pavement, to bowl a hoop, to throw something up in the air and catch it again, or to stand still and laugh at - nothing - at nothing, simply."

 

James Purdy – “63: Dream Palace”:

"‘Do you ever think about Fenton Riddleway?’ Parkhearst Cratty asked the greatwoman one afternoon when they were sitting in the summer garden of her ‘mansion.’"

 

Isak Dinesen/Karen Bixby – “The Fish”:

"In the window, within the fathom thick wall a small star stood, shining in the pale sky of the summer night."

 

Brian Evenson – “South of the Beast”:

"South of the beast he poured through the bodies, searching for occasions where, in the membrane still integumented between flesh and bone, language had become caught and not yet worked free of a corpse."

 

Samuel R. Delany – “The Star Pit”:

"Two glass panes with dirt between and little tunnels from cell to cell: when I was a kid I had an ant colony."

 

Franz Kafka – “A Country Doctor”:

"I was in a quandary: my presence was urgently required; a gravely ill man was waiting for me in a village ten miles away; a blizzard filled the space between me and my goal; I had a carriage, light, high-wheeled, eminently suited to our country roads; wrapped in my fur, with my Gladstone bag in my hand, I stood in the courtyard all ready to go; but the horse was missing, there was no horse."

 

Virginia Woolf – “Kew Gardens”:

"From the oval-shaped flower-bed there rose perhaps a hundred stalks spreading into heart-shaped or tongue-shaped leaves half way up and unfurling at the tip red or blue or yellow petals marked with spots of colour raised upon the surface; and from the red, blue or yellow gloom of the throat emerged a straight bar, rough with gold dust and slightly clubbed at the end."

 

M. John Harrison – “Events Witnessed from a City”:

"In the company of rats, Dissolution Kahn and Choplogic the dwarf sat beneath the dome of the derelict observatory up at Alves, discussing the manifold peculiarities of Time and the uncertain nature of future events."

 

James Tiptree Jr./Alice Sheldon – “Your Faces, O My Sisters! Your Faces Filled With Light!”:

"Hot summer night, big raindrops falling faster now as she swings along the concrete expressway, high over the old dead city."

 

J.G. Ballard – “The Voices of Time”

"Later Powers often thought of Whitby, and the strange grooves the biologist had cut, apparently at random, all over the floor of the empty swimming pool."

 

3. What do you like most about the short story as a form?

Short stories are interesting, at least to me, because there seems to be more at stake when compared to longer works, in each individual element, such as a short story’s first sentence, as I’ve tried to show in the examples above. In writing a short story, the writer resolves to build something for the reader: a plot, an idea, a character, etc., within a relatively short amount of time and space; this sets up a tension for me, as the reader, where, if the story is working, I find myself anxiously anticipating every move the story makes. The ways that some short stories manage to surprise me, or blind-side my expectations, fulfill or even exceed my wildest and improbable dreams of them, can be thrilling. Because the stakes of these individual elements are high, I feel like the short story is particularly well-suited for eliciting and maintaining some kind of tension, a heightened sense of anticipation in the reader, from beginning to end.

 

4. Have you ever written a story you would develop into a novel? If so, tell us about it.

Yes, although I feel like a novel can be made up of stories or short pieces, which is what I consider RATS NEST to be. (See The Atrocity Exhibition by J.G. Ballard, Speedboat by Renata Adler, Antwerp by Roberto Bolaño, Reader’s Block by David Markson, The Ravickians by Renee Gladman, for other examples of how this can be.) As a reader, I really appreciate gaps, ambiguities, and missing pieces because they allow me to participate in whatever magic the story is working. I read to feel engaged in that process. If the writer provides too many details then it becomes difficult to participate. I’m writing another novel made of stories within stories. I’m hoping it will be ouroboros-like in structure and capture some of the harsh sublimity I feel about being alive at this particular time. There’s not much more I can say about it that won’t likely be contradicted or edited out by the time it’s done. I’m just happily wading into the unknown, my favourite part of the process, as I write it now.

 

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Mat Laporte, born in Sault Ste. Marie, is a Toronto-based writer and co-founder of the micro-press Ferno House. Laporte is the author of a tetralogy of chapbooks: Demons, Billboards from Hell, Life Savings (nominated for the 2013 bpNichol Chapbook Award), and Bad Infinity. His poetry has been featured in numerous publications, including Poetry is Dead and on the Lemon Hound blog. RATS NEST is Laporte's first full-length book.

 

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Thanks to Hazel Millar at BookThug for sharing this work with us, and Mat Laporte for answering our questions! Stay tuned next Wednesday for another Short Story Month feature.

 

 


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