Introduction to the Editors: Mary Thaler
Who am I and what do I write?
I spent the early part of my career as a scientist studying oceanography, and some of that science attitude—the attention to detail, the feelings of wonder and humility—have infused my writing practice. Plus I have a nerdy love for any kind of highly specialized knowledge! In my own writing practice, I like to experiment with different forms: comics about superheroes who are insects, narrative poems about viking queens, or sometimes just an ordinary prose story centred on family dynamics. While I like playing with weird points of view or framing, I try not to let technical artifice be the goal, but to use each piece to learn something true about the human condition.
What kind of books do I read?
I’ve been reading a lot of science fiction lately, from established writers like Kim Stanley Robinson, to up-and-comers like Sam J. Miller and Larissa Lai. In the future that’s coming toward us, I believe we’re going to need those brave, earth-shattering ideas that fiction does such a good job exploring. I also recently read Persepolis, by Marjane Satrapi, a memoir in comic-book form about growing up in 1980s Iran. I am awed and delighted at how horrifying political events are made accessible to the reader though the perspective of a resilient and curious adolescent. Other writers I admire include novelists N.K. Jemisin, Nancy Huston, and poets Wislawa Szymborska and Jorge Luis Borges. If these have anything in common, besides the wild originality of their ideas, I think it’s a combination of dark humour and deep compassion.
How can we use literature to respond to a civilization in crisis?
I believe that the turbulent times we’re living through are going to require extraordinary things of us. To meet those challenges, we need human beings who are fully alive, and fully themselves. That goes double for writers! There have been too many voices wastefully choked off that could have helped to save us. My hope for Metapsychosis is that it will help bring forth that whole, rich tapestry, with generosity, honesty and courage.
What do I look for in a writing submission?
It could be verse or prose, fiction or non-fiction; to me, genre categories matter a lot less to me than the use of language. I love precision in writing, when the author chooses the word that not only sounds unusual and beautiful, but also perfectly evokes the specificity of the situation. I love writing that wakes up all of my senses, sight, sound, taste, smell, touch—and of course, those other senses for which we lack a terminology. At the same time, I like writing that considers the world carefully, and offers me a well thought out insight. I tend to avoid language that is too stylized. To me, it becomes disconnected from the visceral experience and risks falling into cliché. Though I’m willing to take a chance on longer pieces, it’s the short ones that really impress me. I encourage you to blow me away with what you can accomplish in a small space.
Most important, I urge writers not to “self-reject”. As a writer, I spend a lot of time shopping my work to different literary journals, and I know the emotional toll that comes from risking rejection. You can be proud of yourself for finishing a piece of writing—a tremendous task—and having the guts to send it out in the world! I for one looking forward to reading it.