Thursday, October 5, 2023

SSW/P: New MacArthur Fellow Manuel Muñoz quotes lines from Rita Dove's poem "Fantasy and Science Fiction" (about her early reading of THE MAGAZINE OF F&SF and other things) as epigraph for his story collection THE CONSEQUENCES...

Renee Shea: The epigraph to this collection is five lines from a poem, “Fantasy and Science Fiction,” by Rita Dove, but I’m not sure how they speak to you about what you’re doing in these stories.

Manuel Muñoz: It’s a nod to how I have received stories from my parents, but, I, in turn, have not really shared any of my own. It’s well understood in my family that I’m out, but we don’t talk about it. All of the personal stories of mine about love or rejection or partnership aren’t shared or even asked about. That’s not what the Dove poem is actually about, but the lines struck me: the privacy and intimacy of encountering or experiencing story: “shutting a book . . . you can walk off the back porch / and into the sea—though it’s not the sort of story / you’d tell your mother."



Rita Dove:


At the same time, my brother, two years my senior, had become a science fiction buff, so I’d read his Analog and Fantasy and Science Fiction magazines after he was finished with them. One story particularly fascinated me: A retarded boy in a small town begins building a sculpture in his backyard, using old and discarded materials—coke bottles, scrap iron, string, and bottle caps. Everyone laughs at him, but he continues building. Then one day he disappears. And when the neighbors investigate, they discover that the sculpture has been dragged onto the back porch and that the screen door is open. Somehow the narrator of the story figures out how to switch on the sculpture: The back door frame begins to glow, and when he steps through it, he’s in an alternate universe, a town the mirror image of his own—even down to the colors, with green roses and an orange sky. And he walks through this town until he comes to the main square, where there is a statue erected to—who else?—the village idiot.

I loved this story, the idea that the dreamy, mild, scatter-brained boy of one world could be the hero of another. And in a way, I identified with that village idiot because in real life I was painfully shy and awkward; the place where I felt most alive was between the pages of a book.

Dove's poem first published in Ploughshares, Spring 1987and included in her Collected Poems 1974–2004 (Norton) and...

in Grace Notes...

(h/to Paul Di Filippo for the IA citation)

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