The wonders of slime mould
My short story “Flight” has just come out in Moss Magazine vol. 8. This wasn’t an easy story to find a home for. It’s set in Canada, not the US, and I’ve found it harder to place stories in US journals that are set in other countries. But it wasn’t just that: this story features sections on slime moulds. You’re probably wondering why anyone in their right mind would interweave science-based sections into a story, and why on earth they’d pick slime moulds. Well, because I like to break the boundaries of my stories–there’s a whole, utterly fascinating world beyond what we usually read about in fiction so, when it makes sense, I like to bring in some of that larger world. In this case, my main character has had to flee from graduate school in California because of forest fires, abandoning, for the time being at least, his research into . . . slime moulds. That isn’t enough of an excuse to drop in paragraphs on these beings that can learn, that can be chopped up and reassemble themselves–the story had to make the qualities of slime moulds important enough to the story being told in order for it to work.
It’s a risk writing a story like this. I’ve written others that have branched out (rather like a slime mould) into history, into peat bogs and the people and the belongings thrown into them. Exploding a story’s boundaries needed to make sense for those specific stories, to give them greater depth rather than just being a distraction or a gimmick. But when it dos make sense, the benefits for the story are significant: Who doesn’t want to read about not only the here-and-now but what was going on a thousand years ago, an how the one affects the other? Who doesn’t want to find out amongst the autumn leaves rotting at their feet? Stories like this remind us–if they work–that our perceptions of the world are usually so very limited.
If you want an example of a story that keeps leaving the narrative to tell you about something totally different, try T. Coraghessan Boyle’s “Chicxulub.” It’s about a car accident, yes, and it’s about meteorites too, and when the two come together–well, I’ve leave you to read the story and discover what happens.