Five Questions with Simon Jacobs
Elizabeth Wade: Your flash “Allies,” which appeared in our most recent issue of NANO Fiction, was a story I particularly loved. I remember being struck by its shift in tone, the darkness that emerges in the narrative. What interests you about such moments? Are there particular challenges you’ve encountered in presenting such narratives?
Simon Jacobs: I love those faltering moments between people when things clench up and become entirely uncertain. I love creating them. These are two characters with a shared history that’s either dangerously long or dangerously short. There’s some sweetness, too.
I love menace and threat in stories. Here particularly, I think there’s something about passivity that can be very sinister. I threw it all together because I was very recently a teenager and am still holding on to quite a bit of angst. Also I was in love when I wrote this story. Still am.
EW: Before I knew your writing, I knew you as the editor of Safety Pin Review. It’s such an interesting project, and I wonder if you could describe it for our readers and also tell us how you came to found it.
SJ: Sure! The Safety Pin Review is a wearable literary journal featuring work of less than 30 words. Each piece is hand-painted onto a black patch, which is attached (via safety pins) to a volunteer ‘operative,’ who wears it everywhere they go for a week. I like to call it guerilla poetry – exposing people to stuff they probably wouldn’t see otherwise. It’s a completely new and unpredictable audience each time, basically anyone who’s around to read your back. We’ve sent stories all over the world – Wales, Norway, South Korea, and coast-to-coast here.
I started it originally because I thought I had a great idea for a super-punk awesome back patch for my leather jacket. It got bigger.
EW: Since it’s around New Year’s (the interview was conducted on January 2, 2013), what do you hope 2013 holds for you in terms of reading, writing, editing?
SJ: Well, I have a wonderfully brutal and sweet little collection of tonally-similar short stories called PARTNERS (of which “Allies” is a tiny part) that is currently looking, misty-eyed, for a home. Hopefully I’ll make some progress with that this year; if you’re a publisher, COME AT ME.
Meanwhile, the Safety Pin Review will go on forever.
EW: Here at NANO Fiction, we’re always interested in the ways various writers characterize flash fiction, though I know you work in several different genres. How do you define flash fiction? What governs your sense of the form? What makes you decide a piece will be flash instead of something longer?
SJ: I don’t really have any prescriptive categories for flash, though the line between a lot of flash and prose poetry is wonderfully, enticingly blurry. But I have enough definitional problems as it is. For example there was one time where I suddenly decided that “Allies” was vague enough to be called a “poem.” This, obviously, was a delusion.
EW: I know that you’re the interviews editor at PANK Magazine, so I’m interested: what, to you, makes the most compelling interviews? Given the opportunity, who would you most like to interview, and what would you ask that person?
SJ: It’s always great when I ask oblique or whimsical questions and then get something interesting back. For me, my interviews are all about tricking more writing out of people, more anecdotes, maybe a little wackiness, some more offhand magic than what’s published in PANK. Although, remarkably, sometimes writers have no sense of humor, which seems impossible.
And I would definitely interview David Bowie. He has become my answer to any question about famous people. I will interview him, just to watch him contradict himself, and I won’t even notice because I will be melting.