PW: “Moonman Stories” is a series of connected vignettes. Will you discuss why you chose this form for this story, and your views more generally on the role and uses of form in fiction?
MF: Well the story started with that first image of the moonman watching the reflection of his burning ship, and for a while that’s all I thought the story was — that one evocative image and all the fear and isolation and alienation that it implied. When I went back to revise it and to expand that image into something a little more concrete, I couldn’t find a way to make it work. It wasn’t at all satisfying. It couldn’t just be the one, sort of hazy image. But any more detail, any more grounding ruined the magic of it.
Around that time I just happened to watch Back to the Future, which really doesn’t hold up well on Blu-Ray but it’s still a great story. And there’s the scene where Marty arrives in the past and crashes into the barn and he’s in that yellow hazmat jumpsuit and he’s got his Walkman and everybody thinks he’s an alien. It triggered something for me — that there’s more to a crash than just the wreckage. The moonman’s just been dropped into this entirely new and different world. He had this whole life back on the moon and now that life, for him, continues in this alien place and, for the environment around him, his presence is equally alien. And that’s a feeling I identify with sometimes (often) — feeling like your environment is alien and that you’re alien to your environment. So I guess from there I decided the story would be a somewhat more complete series of isolated images showing the crash but showing the crash of the moonman as well as the crash of his ship. I wanted to see what would happen in that situation. It only seems natural, in that situation, to search for something comfortable or comforting, something or someone that can identify with your fears and dreams. And that’s when the wolfgirl showed up.
But shit, you asked about form: Yeah, it’s a series of isolated images. Which, looking at it now (I had no clue while I was writing — I rarely do), I guess you could read the form as mirroring the story in some way. And I think that’s when alternate forms work best in fiction — when they’re doing some sort of work in support of the story. Crazy form for crazy form’s sake just calls attention to itself. When I’m writing, I don’t think about form all that consciously. I just go with what feels right at the time, whatever gets the story on the page. In revision, I tend to trust that gut instinct unless the story isn’t working. Then, I sometimes like to play with form just to see how the story changes. I’ve been writing a lot of stories lately that play on well-known mythical or legendary characters and it’s tough to come up with something that feels fresh, some new angle that hasn’t been explored. I think in these sorts of stories, once you get an idea and start developing a story, form is just one more tool available in the toolbox to tell the story the way it demands to be told. I think especially for stories that resist a linear or narrative telling, form can be a fun and effective place to mess around and try to make it all work.