Claire Light (Aqueduct Press photo)
Slightly Behind and to the Left by Claire Light
New Claire Light book
By Bryan Thao Worra
Asian American activist and blogger Claire Light’s new collection of short stories interspersed with flash fiction, “Slightly Behind and to the Left” is now released by Aqueduct Press, a publisher of challenging, feminist science fiction.
In this volume, a woman with the most thankless job in space will calculate a new kind of “cold equation” to get her home to port. In a fantastical place where adulthood is the biggest threat to adolescent boys, predators arise from unlikely quarters, and in a world with wonky physics and no gravity, a lone human learns the meaning of “reckless endangerment of alien life.”
Claire Light is a Bay Area fiction writer, blogger, critic, and cultural worker, working for more than a decade in nonprofit administration, particularly in arts and in the Asian American community.
Light earned an MFA in Fiction from San Francisco State University, co-founded Hyphen magazine, and is a contributing editor at Other magazine. In addition she is a contributing critic on the KQED arts Web site and has had fiction published in McSweeney’s, Farthing, and a forthcoming issue of The Encyclopedia Project.
She also teaches writing to teens, college students and adults, and says the only difference is with the attention span. She has personal blogs at “SeeLight” and “atlas(t),” and at Hyphen magazine’s blog.
You can find out more about Claire Light’s new book, Slightly Behind and to the Left at www.aqueductpress.com.
Light said there really wasn’t much of a process for putting together the chapbook.
“I’m a slow writer and I only have about five or six truly finished stories in my entire history,” said Light. “The four stories in ‘Slightly Behind’ were written over the course of about six years and were all sent out to a number of markets for publication.
She said two of the books were published and about three other “drabbles” or 100 word stories were published in the now defunct FarThing edited by Wendy Bradley. The two other unpublished works were difficult to put together and didn’t’ think they would find a way into a traditional journal.
The first story, “Vacation,” takes place in the months following the mysterious disappearance of all men from the world. There are still boys, said Light, but once they cross over some undefined threshold of manhood, they vanish too.
“In this new world, women become sexually predatory,” she said. “When I’m writing a story, I’m looking for the heat source, the place where the story hits a sore spot, something that will make me – and hopefully the reader – really feel something.”
Light said the ‘hotspot’ was with examining a sexually predatory dynamic between women and young teenaged boys. The taboo topic was difficult and scary two write – much less publish. She said it meant get into the minds of women to think of a scenario where they could become violent and intrusive.
“The story got extremely positive – even exhilarated – responses from women, and I got a lot of confusion and veiled hostility from men, even close friends,” she said. “The most common comment or suggestion from male readers was to ask me to explore the absence of men more, to justify it. And only then did I notice that most of the editors I was sending the story to, most of the journal fiction editors, were men.”
The second story, “Abducted by Aliens!” is an experiment in exploring a difficult historical incident without actually referring to the incident. The story is about a Japanese American family interned during WWII, but in this controlled situation she creates episodes where a young man is abducted by aliens and taken around the galaxy.
She said there are hints of the alien abduction as metaphor for the internment, but it’s never stated explicitly. She emphasized that each episode has exactly the same number of words for the introduction, the body and explanatory texts the conclusion to total 5,000 words.
“It was a bit like writing formal poetry, only I’m not a poet,” she added.
She included an afterward to explain her points in the stories where she felt there might be a lot of interpretation.
“That was hard to do, hard to let go of that dream of the perfect audience who can read your mind across time and publication schedules,” she said.
Light said Timmi Duchamp at Aqueduct Press once asked her about additional stories for a chapbook. She believed that if anyone would understand the work it would by Duchamp, and she did, according to Light, and published the works.
“Funny, I always thought that when you became a writer, you became someone who could communicate to everyone,” said Light. “Instead, I’ve found that I want to write what I want to write, and have to hope for an audience that actually gets me.
“There is no universality in art, and I never would have thought that I’d be so grateful to find an editor who could really understand what I’m trying to do.”