Michael Shou-Yung Shum Recommends...

“Whenever my writing begins to feel boxed in, as if the words no longer possess any degree of freedom, trickling out painfully one by one, I remind myself of Grace Paley’s famous aphorism: ‘Everyone, real or imagined, deserves the open destiny of life.’ This is true for ourselves, certainly, but also for our characters and for the words through which we render their stories. Given my own predilection for mystery and unknowability, one of the most satisfying ways I’ve discovered to break free of this intellectual funk is to defamiliarize my experience by reengaging with works of art that efface boundaries, tap into our subconscious, and surface feelings of the unknown that I can impart to my own writing. Many of my ‘go-tos’ are new takes or reversals on classic horror tropes, like Ventriloquisms (Willow Springs Press, 2018), the recent collection of short stories by Jaclyn Watterson that positions the reader as a doll-dummy forced by an unseen hand to speak the unspeakable; Out (Vintage, 2005), the thriller by Natsuo Kirino that paints the ordinary world of suburban factory life with the vivid, lurid strokes of murder; or ‘Happiness Is a Warm Gun’ written by John Lennon, a song which immerses listeners into their own sacred, primordial fears of violence and sexual gratification. How do we know, all these voices seem to ask, what we really want and need when we take such great pains to repress what lies buried deep?”
—Michael Shou-Yung Shum, author of Queen of Spades (Forest Avenue Press, 2017)