“Inspirations and Influences” is a series of articles in which we invite authors to write guest posts talking about their Inspirations and Influences. In this feature, we invite writers to talk about their new books, older titles, and their writing overall.
Hello everybody! Tomorrow we publish “Nussia” by Michele Tracy Berger, the second short story in the Awakenings Season. Today, Michele is here to talk about the inspirations and influences behind the story!
Give a warm welcome to Michele!
An African American girl “wins” an alien in the 1970s who comes to live with her family. What could possibly go wrong? I like to think of the tagline for this story as E.T. meets Fatal Attraction.
I didn’t intentionally set out to write an anti-E.T. story. I was probably the same age as the main character, Lindsay when I saw E.T., around twelve or thirteen. Like many, I enjoyed the movie despite its saccharine feel. And, like the speculative fiction media that shaped my early life (e.g. Lost in Space, Bewitched, The Bionic Woman, Star Wars, etc.), themes of race and gender as well diversity in casting were habitually absent. So while speculative media served as a fantastic conduit to imagine different realities, it didn’t give me the conceptual tools or language to understand the inequities that I experienced as a young black girl that were a feature of my everyday life. On some level, I noted that absence.
At the same time I was absorbing fantasy and sci-fi end when I was young; I was also deeply into horror. My mother was a serious horror fan and I think my younger sister can quote most of Steven King’s work. Typical of my generation, I watched and read material that was definitely age inappropriate. I credit my early horror interests in giving me an alternate way of looking at the world, one that is grittier and less idealistic. I’ve gravitated more toward horror tropes in my writing as they provide a powerful way to dig into the complexities and contradictions of race and gender.
The kernel of this story was inspired many moons ago by the biting, incisive comedy of Paul Mooney. He did a famous bit on racism, sci-fi movies and how some white people would rather embrace an alien living as a neighbor, next door to them, rather than an African American family. His routine challenged me to reflect on the absolute irrational nature of racism and explore that irrationality through storytelling. The structure of Nussia allows me to play with the external challenges that the Fields family faces as they host Nussia, and the way each family member responds to that pressure.
I am generally interested in themes of paranoia, obsession, conspiracy theories and the intricacies of race and gender. You’ll find many of those themes in Nussia. It’s also an intimate story in that much of the drama and conflict happens behind closed doors.
Voice and character usually come first for me when writing. Once I had the frame of the story, Lindsay’s voice came to me pretty easily. I had a lot of fun remembering what it was like being a thirteen year-old girl and even though I didn’t grow up where Lindsay did, I did grow up during that time in the Bronx.
I loved that I got a chance to do some sci-fi world-building in developing the Fike and the challenges Nussia faces as being a representative for her people at such a critical time in her life. The story also combines several interests that recur in my writing: rites of female adolescence, mother and daughter relationships, and female friendships.
Imagining and wrestling with this story helped me, and hopefully my readers, to see some uncommon angles by which we can all deal with the perceived alien differences in ourselves and others.
About the Author: Michele Tracy Berger
Michele Tracy Berger is a professor, a creative writer, and a pug-lover.
At the age of six, Michele’s mother turned a walk-in closet into creative space just for her daughter. That closet became a portal and gateway to self-expression.
Michele pretended that Will Robinson, a character on the television show Lost in Space was her brother and that she fought alongside Lindsay Wagner who played The Bionic Woman. And, she went on many other adventures. From that age on, Michele never doubted the power of the imagination and over time she learned to tell her own stories.
Her main love is writing science fiction though she also is known to write poetry and creative nonfiction, too.
Her nonfiction writing and poetry has appeared in The Chapel Hill News, The Red Clay Review, Glint Literary Journal, Oracle: Fine Arts Review, Trivia: Voices of Feminism, The Feminist Wire, Ms., Carolina Woman Magazine, and Western North Carolina Woman, A Letter to My Mom (Crown Press), Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler (Twelfth Planet Press) and various zines.
Her fiction has appeared in UnCommon Origins: A Collection of Gods, Monsters, Nature and Science by Fighting Monkey Press, You Don’t Say: Stories in the Second Person by Ink Monkey Press, Flying South: A Literary Journal, 100wordstory, Thing Magazine, and The Red Clay Review.
Her sci-fi novella Reenu-You was recently published by Book Smugglers Publishing.
Michele is completely undone by the sight of pugs and has to restrain herself from collecting any item they appear on. She lives in Pittsboro, North Carolina with her partner Tim. Come visit her at The Practice of Creativity.
How to Get the Story
Nussia will be published officially on June 26, 2018. You can purchase the DRM-free ebook (EPUB, MOBI) that contains the story as well as an essay from the author available for purchase on all major ebook retail sites and directly from us.
Preorder the Ebook Today
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Want the book right now? Buy the DRM-free ebook edition directly from us and read the story today:
Add the book on Goodreads, and read Nussia for free next Tuesday, June 26, 2018.
The Locus Awards, The Cotton Club, Writing Sci-Fi Horror and Nussia is Live! | The Practice of CreativityJuly 2, 2018 at 7:37 am
[…] writing a sci-fi horror story like Nussia? In this brief “Inspirations and Influences” essay, I talk about the influences of everything from incisive comedy by African American comedians to […]
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