Full of Lit: Short story writer Greg Bechtel has some Boundary Problems

Yesterday we launched our new epub anthology, Full of Lit, in celebration of the second annual Short Story Month. Full of Lit, as you’ve probably guessed, is filled with some amazing literature–12 fantastic stories from 12 different Canadian writers, published by 12 independent Canadian publishers for only $5.99. What could be better?


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Yesterday we launched our new epub sampler, Full of Lit, in celebration of the second annual Short Story Month. Full of Lit, as you’ve probably guessed, is filled with some amazing literature—12 fantastic stories from 12 different Canadian writers, published by 12 independent Canadian publishers for only $5.99. What could be better?

If you need more convincing, or just love insider info, we’ll be featuring each of our 12 contributors throughout the month of May here on our blog. Today we start with Boundary Problems by Greg Bechtel, published by Freehand Books. Greg’s stories refuse to stay within bounds and "The Smuth Story (III)," featured in Full of Lit, is no exception. Enjoy!


Boundary Problems is a collection of high-energy stories, almost magnetic in the way that they pull you in and propel you through the fractured narratives. They mix quantum physics with magic, sex and conspiracies with paranoia and grace. These are stories that refuse to sit still within any boundaries—they traverse freely between speculative and realist fiction, consider fluidity of gender and reality, and even pour out of the story itself and into footnotes.

The story that is featured here is “The Smut Story (III),” the first in a three-story arc in the collection. It takes the form of a press conference that’s held to address out-of-control rumours that are flying in the aftermath of an unusual reading series event. (That is, an erotica reading, held on Mother’s Day, that takes an unexpected turn.) “The Smut Story (III)” showcases the clever wit of Boundary Problems and provides a perfect introduction to this entirely unconventional collection.


“Bechtel displays a refreshing willingness to experiment with aspects of  narratology, lending his collection a surface unfamiliarity that  resembles the literary equivalent of quantum mechanics.” —National Post 


We asked the author… Greg Bechtel

Tell us what your collection is about in 140 characters or less.
Physics, sex, (un)conspiracy theories, magic, paranoia, relationships, truth, lies & the occulted, unstable boundaries between these things.

Do you have a favourite story in your collection? One that gave you more trouble than the others?
I’m really bad at picking favourites, but "The Everett-Wheeler Hypothesis" was probably the hardest one to write. And rewrite. And rewrite again. And again.

Did you consciously decide to be a short story writer—or did the format choose you?
Say, rather, that the timeline chose me. I wrote a novel too, but revising a 400-page manuscript while also writing a dissertation turned out to be… less than feasible. So I set that aside for a while and returned to stories, which are a bit more amenable to crafting and revising in intensely focussed bursts. The novel’s still marinating, though. (As are more stories.)

Who is your favourite short story writer and why?
Honestly, I’m really no good at picking favourites. In this case, there are simply too many amazing writers out there. Today, Angela Carter, Steven Millhauser, Jorges Luis Borges, Eric McCormack, and early Barbara Gowdy all spring to mind. But if I think about it even a little bit, the list just keeps growing (Eden Robinson, Jeff VanderMeer, Karin Tidbeck, Kelly Link, Kij Johnson, Ursula K. Le Guin, China Miéville, Daryl Gregory, Elizabeth Hand…). Sorry, can’t pick just one. And why are these my favourites? Now that could take a while, and the answer would be slightly different for each one. Give me a few hours—and perhaps some good scotch—and I’d be happy to discuss it at length. But only if you tell me yours.

What makes short stories so different (besides the obvious) than other writing formats?
I feel like there’s a special balance of formal play, plot, and character development you can get away with in short stories that may be harder to achieve in other forms. Something to do with a very particular balance between accessibility and experimentation. More of the latter without sacrificing the former, maybe. Then again, that’s not so much an objective property of the form (if there are such things) as a characteristic of the stories I enjoy most.

What would be the title of your memoir, if you were ever to write one?
I want to say The Art of Lying, but that one’s kind of already taken. And I probably couldn’t get away with the Wildean/Twainian thing anyway. Perhaps the current working title of my blog-in-waiting: Infrequent Annotations (or, The Dearth of the Author). Not so much an autobiography as a series of intensely lived (or recollected) moments. Is that how memoirs work?

Greg Bechtel’s occasionally prize-winning stories have appeared in several journals and anthologies, including The FiddleheadPrairie FireOn SpecQwerty, and the Tesseracts anthologies of speculative fiction. Originally from Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario, Greg has lived at various times in Toronto, Deep River, Jamaica, Ottawa, Quebec City, and Fredericton while working (among other things) as a lifeguard, technical writer, mover, visual basic programmer, camp counsellor, semiconductor laser labtech, cab driver, tutor, and teacher. Currently, he lives and writes in Edmonton, where he teaches English Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Alberta whenever they let him. Boundary Problems is his first book.


“We  tend to think of boundaries as stable, fixed, unchangeable, but  boundaries are inherently permeable, and any boundary that is created is  created because someone or something is able to slip through it. Greg  Bechtel writes on these borderlands whether they be of genre (realism,  science fiction, fantasy), gender (male, female, intersexed, trans,  genderqueer) temporal (past, present, future)” —Speculating Canada


We asked the publisher … Freehand Books

Tell us why you like reading short stories, and what struck you about this collection in particular?
I used to think that I didn’t really like short stories. I worried that I didn’t get them, that I was always missing the point, missing whatever was going on underneath the surface.

Then one day I decided, well, so what? Once I stopped trying to analyze every sentence for meaning and second-guessing myself, and started just reading them, I discovered the power of a good short story. The way that it can evoke an emotion. The way that each sentence—each word—has to count.

I was drawn to Boundary Problems because of the confident writing that didn’t overexplain—it allowed me (even encouraged me) to draw my own conclusions instead of presenting one interpretation as the “right” one. And that basically sums up everything that I’ve come to love about a good short story.

—Kelsey Attard, Freehand Books

Freehand Books was established in 2007 as the literary imprint of the academic publisher Broadview Press with a very simple mandate: to publish excellent Canadian literature. Their list is an aesthetically diverse, award-winning collection of fiction, poetry, and creative non-fiction by both established authors and exciting new voices. They pride themselves on careful attention to detail throughout the editorial process, the high production quality, and innovative design, as well as the creativity in the marketing and promotion of each book.


Thank you Greg & Kelsey for answering our questions! We hope you enjoyed getting to know Boundary Problems a little better. Click below to get your hands on your own copy of Full of Lit now. Want to know who else is featured first? Check out the details here.

_______Edited from the original post, published on the LPG blog