Hi Maria, can you tell us how “Self-Storage” came together?
It all started with a typo. A few years ago, as part of a summer workshop/potluck, I was reading through an early draft of my friend K’s novel chapter. Her character was a security guard at a storage unit and she had meant, I think, to write something about how he enjoyed the “loneliness of storage” but she forgot the “of.”
Loneliness storage. I loved it immediately, circled it with great enthusiasm. K. Chess: even her mistakes are genius! I wrote a quick and terrible draft, summer workshop critiqued it, and then the story went through the usual process of slow accretion which my stories always do. Periods of long abandonment interspersed with feverish revision.
What is the most fun part of writing for you? How did that work out for this story?
Making myself laugh, probably. I always want to write funny. Even when I try to write a horror story, I end up looking for moments of humor or absurdity. That contrast is my favorite thing. I deeply admire writers who can pull off funny/sad, or funny/horrifying. I aspire to that balance.
In a similar way, I absolutely love contrasting the weird with the mundane. I had a lot of fun coming up with the storage requirements for various emotions, and subsequently the DIY workarounds that the main character uses to store them. Duct tape solves everything.
Is there anything in particular you want to tell readers about “Self-Storage”?
I don’t play historical miniature war games like the main character, but I’m a huge fan of board games in general. From the good clean moving-little-wooden-people-around-on-a-map fun of Concordia to the surreal-art-murder-mystery-ghost-séance delights of Mysterium, I’m there. Board games are having a revival right now, with cool new games to suit any taste, and they are honestly a great way to get out and meet new people.
That said, I’ve also lost many hours to turn-based strategy computer game Civilization, which rather sidesteps the issue of loneliness by allowing you to be taunted about the relative weakness of your empire by AI Gandhi.
This makes a great short story with the focus on one very lonely guy, but have you considered the implications for the wider world? Are there any other stories set here . . . or maybe a novel?
Well, it hadn’t occurred to me before, but this is definitely a spiritual sequel of sorts to a story I wrote when I was seventeen, the first line of which was, “Once we invented cars which ran on sadness, all our problems were solved.”
There’s more I could explore about physical belongings as vessels for emotion and about how our feelings, even in this world, affect the world around us in complicated ways. Right this second, home organization guru Marie Kondo seems to be reaching peak zeitgeist. She’s got this whole thing about holding objects and asking if they “spark joy.” That almost seems to beg for a story. What do you get from a spark, if not a fire!
Spread the word!