Writer In Residence, September 2010
When Amber Sparks’ story The Chemistry of Objects appeared in our submissions queue, I’m pretty sure my heart skipped a beat. Here was a story that didn’t use history as a convenient backdrop for characters who might just as well be anywhere else. Instead, it asked questions about history, about how one life in one moment is tied to what came before and comes after, and about why these connections should matter to us not only when a story is set in the past. Sure, at the heart of the story is a marriage in trouble, but that familiar situation can’t be separated from the far-reaching contexts in which it is set. It was the first I’d read by Amber, but since then I’ve made sure to keep tabs on what she publishes and have yet to be disappointed. So it’s a real pleasure to host her as our Writer In Residence for September 2010.
Amber is, as Roxane Gay wrote here at NF, “insatiably curious and […] uses her writing to satisfy, in some way, that desire to know and understand the world.” While Amber and I happen to share a number of interests from mythology and folklore to feral children to daikaiju, her stories always offer an unexpected, provocative perspective even on something I thought I already knew. In an interview at The Collagist she said, “I’m generally not very interested in characters who are a part of something larger, but rather, characters who are just apart,” but I beg to differ. Her characters are always part of something larger, because they are enmeshed in far-reaching webs of history and culture and time, the webs from which none of us can be apart no more than we can write with only one part of ourselves (the part that wants to write about marriage, perhaps) without also engaging the others (like the part that loves giant monsters).
And like her characters she’s part of something larger herself, wearing the hats of both writer and editor at Emprise Review. When asked by Dark Sky Magazine if she worried about overextension, she said, “I’ve always been involved in eighteen million different projects and pursuits and hobbies and jobs and I like it that way. I’d die of boredom if I only did one thing.” It’s that same attitude that makes her writing exciting to me, because without far-reaching curiosity what can we possibly have worth writing about? As she told Fiction Daily, “There is everything we can possibly imagine. And so we should get busy imagining it.”
So I’m glad to have Amber on board for the next month and look forward to what I already know will be an ambitious project. I’m so excited I can even forgive her for saying,
“The only thing that never inspires me is nature. I’m allergic to pretty much everything nature produces (pollen, trees, dust, plants, flowers, mold, etc.) so I feel a deep and probably pathological bitterness toward the natural world.”
But only because she also wrote this.