Dennis conjures a disturbing tale for Shimmer #16, “Word and Flesh,” and shares a fabulous memory of reading Bradbury.
Tell us how “Word and Flesh” came to be.
I wrote the story during my second week at the 2011 Clarion Writers’ Workshop. I’ve always been fascinated by anthropodermic bibliopegy (binding books in human skin) and knew I wanted to write a story about it. The idea was vague, however, and I was struggling to assemble a coherent plot. As I wandered the UCSD campus mulling over the story, I came to realize how disconcerted I was by the architecture around me. The notion of a city-state dedicated to esoteric pursuits got stuck in my head, eventually becoming the Universidad portrayed in “Word and Flesh.” Once I had that physical setting, the rest of the story came more easily.
When did you know you wanted to be a writer?
Since I was very young, maybe eight or nine. I’d always thought I’d be a playwright, however.
If you had a working time machine what advice would you give a younger self?
Stop waiting for inspiration and write everyday. Actually, I’d just shorten that to, Stop waiting.
Print or ebook, what is your preference for reading books these days, and why?
Definitely ebooks. My iPad and iPhone give me instant access to a ton of books, I can adjust the font size and brightness at will, and ebooks and ezines are often cheaper than their paper equivalents.
What is your favorite Bradbury story or novel?
One of my most vivid childhood memories is of sitting under a banyan tree in Kailua, Hawaii, reading The Illustrated Man. I remember that my cheek was stuffed with black licorice and I had a can of RC Cola in one hand, the paperback in the other. A light breeze made the tree’s aerial roots sway and creak, the pages were dappled in sunlight.
What’s next for you?
I’m sending out more short stories and working on a novel. Also avoiding World of Warcraft and Reddit. And reading. Lots of reading.