Michael Mirolla discusses writers who’ve influenced him and why he enjoys writing short stories in our Five Questions series. Mirolla will be launching his new short story collection, The Photographer in Search of Death, on Tuesday, January 30th at 6:30 pm with fellow Exile Editions author Martha Bátiz (Plaza Requiem).
IFOA: In a recent interview with Christine Cowley, you referred to the collection as speculative fiction. Tell us a bit about how The Photographer In Search of Death fits the description?
Michael Mirolla: I see “speculative fiction” as a description that encompasses a number of fictions (magical realism, surrealism, meta-fiction, science fiction). What they have in common is the idea that they are creating worlds rather than simply inhabiting them. Thus we get “what ifs” rather than “whats”.
They are also fictions of ideas rather than simply interactions between humans. To me, the best of these are those that can combine ideas with human interactions. That is, thoughts with a heart. I hope that, in a small way, The Photographer works towards achieving that aim and thus can fit under the speculative fiction umbrella.
IFOA: Who are the authors and philosophers who have inspired you throughout your writing career? Why?
Mirolla: Franz Kafka, James Joyce and Samuel Beckett influenced me the most. These are the writers who spoke to me directly. Kafka taught me that there is no true continuity in life, that it is all a matter of starts and stops, of fragments and bits and pieces, that there is no such thing as normal, and that judgement day is every day.
Joyce revealed the world of language, the delight in playing with words, the magic of painting a canvas, the many ways that all lead to the same way. Joyce created a universe where neither thought nor action takes precedence and where it is the sheer joy of creation that is important.
IFOA: What do you enjoy about writing short stories?
Mirolla: I enjoy putting the structure together, the occasional surprise, the evolving world within the short story, the clash of ideas and characters, and above all, the words. As I’ve indicated in previous interviews, writing a magical realist story is like taking a trip with a shaman. One goes on a ‘real’ journey across realistic landscapes but everything is heightened and has an inner glow to it. That inner glow is the essential magic that should emerge from a magical realistic short story—or any work of art, really. In this world, everything is possible and transformations occur all the time.
However, there is one rule in magical realism: one cannot go against the internal logic of the story, the determining framework controlled by the writer. In the end, like a shaman’s journey, a magical realist story needs to be a healing process of some type, a way to close the gap between what we take as real and what is really real.
IFOA: Why is the photographer in search of death and not of life?
Mirolla: In the story, the photographer is simply performing (or trying to perform) a task he has been given by his “boss”. The boss needs an image of death in order to complete his photo album. Naturally, in the performing of this task, the photographer ends up with a series of images of “life” while not quite capturing death. This is in keeping with various artists who have tried to describe what death—the cessation of life, the null state, the void, nothingness—is all about. Without success. There is an unreachable gap. Or rather a gap that, once reached, no longer exists.
IFOA: What are you working on next?
Mirolla: I am presently working on (a) putting together another collection of short stories—this time strictly science fiction; (b) putting the finishing touches on a collection of poetry tentatively titled Repositories; and (c) attempting to finish a novel started in 1993 called The Second Law of Thermodynamics.
Michael Mirolla is the author of a clutch of novels, plays, short story collections and books of poetry. He has been awarded three Bressani Prizes for the novel Berlin (2010), the poetry collection The House on 14th Avenue (2014) and the short story collection, Lessons in Relationship Dyads (2016). “A Theory of Discontinuous Existence” was selected for The Journey Prize Anthology; and “The Sand Flea” was a U.S. Pushcart Prize nominee. Born in Italy and raised in Montreal, Michael now makes his home in the Greater Toronto Area. For more information: www.michaelmirolla.com.