Nope. Not even going to deliver an anti-joke here. But I’m interested in comedy, for sure, especially the comedic grotesque and “stupid” writing. My fiction definitely has a sly side. Lots of deadpan humor, the occasional very bad pun. Plus talking insects, acts of gods, and winkingly insincere morals.
You claim to be a feminist but your book title’s all like….kill this girl. Whyyyyy?
I am a feminist AND my book’s title is all like kill this girl. The title story is nonrealist, and Marguerite (the story’s antagonist) is really a Mean Girl caricature. “Kill Marguerite” adopts a video game reality in order to legitimate physical violence (among other things). It’s kind of a corrective to fat-girl-gets-bullied narratives in which compassion and the moral high ground win out in the end. In this story, Caty (the fat-girl hero) doesn’t get compassion or the moral high ground, she gets weapons and extra lives.
A lot of my fiction, “Kill Marguerite” in particular, explores gender anxiety, internalized misogyny, and female-female competition, etc. I think most critical explorations of gender and power can be considered feminist.
Kill Marguerite is a carnival of forms: the book contains a choose-your-own-adventure story, a video game narrative, an unstageable play, a story that appropriates Seventeen magazine’s “Traumarama” section, a slam poem (that’s not really a slam poem), an illustrated children’s tale (that’s not really an illustrated children’s tale)…other stories involve stand-up comedy, body horror, Greek myth. Tell us about your relationship to form and genre.
I’m a genre fiend and a thief, and a formalist at heart. To a certain extent, all of the stories in Kill Marguerite tackle the same goddamned things (compulsory gender! compulsory heterosexuality! the limitations of the sexed/gendered human body! freedom v. constraint! sameness and difference in binary relationships!) over and over again, approached through different narrative structures.
One formal approach that pops up a couple of times is combining forms/genres that are typically gendered “masculine” and “feminine,” in order to destabilize those categories. “Kill Marguerite” does this by importing this more “feminine” or “feminized” standard YA problem novel storyline into a video game structure (a genre that largely presumes male players). Similarly, “Sweet Valley Twins # 119: Abducted!” brings together choose-your-own-adventure novels, which, back in the day, presumed a male reader, and the Sweet Valley Twins franchise (designed for girls). But why must space travel and Jessica Wakefield’s keen fashion sense be mutually exclusive? So I wrote a CYOA starring Elizabeth and Jessica Wakefield, as a way to defy these genderings. The twin to that piece, “Elizabeth’s Lament,” is an uncomfortable love letter/monologue in which Elizabeth expresses her ugly feelings for Jessica using lyrics from Tegan and Sara songs. I think those pieces are the pop-iest of the book. There are also some stories that stage a war between myth and reality; that adopt surrealist or fabulist modes; and so on.
Looks like you’ve got a couple of collaborative pieces in here, too. Tell us about those.
I wrote “Floaters” with my great friend Leeyanne Moore—this is the second story we’ve written collaboratively. The first, “Alma, Age Twelve: Assistant Babysitter and Future Failed Suicide” (published elsewhere), was originally Leeyanne’s abandoned story that we developed and revised together a couple of years ago. “Floaters” (published in Kill Marguerite) grew out of a story I started in the first/only workshop Leeyanne and I took together way back in 2003. Amazingly Leeyanne remembered it and suggested we take it up as our second collaboration. So we did. Leeyanne and I have amazing collaborative energy and I’m very grateful to her for co-writing this story with me—it’s about a stand-up comic who is using his sets to vent about his bulimic girlfriend. It’s a mean, mean, very painful story and I think it scared us both as we were writing it.
“Traumarama” is a more expansively collaborative piece, in that it emerged largely from conversations with friends and partners who helped shape the concept of the piece—a few of them actually contributed their own experiences in their own language. That piece takes up the form of Seventeen Magazine’s “Traumarama” section, which collects “real girls’” most humiliating experiences. My version stretches the form to accommodate a broader diversity of genders and sexualities, and a wider range of experiences, some much more intense and, frankly, traumatic, than what you would find in Seventeen.
And then there’s all the bodily fluids and effluvia. Can you just not get enough?
Can’t seem to. Shlurp.
What’s next for you?
I’m very excited about a new literary blog venture that I’m involved with, Entropy, masterminded by Janice Lee and Peter Tieryas Liu, which is going to cover all sorts of lit/culture stuff, including video games, scifi and fantasy, graphic novels and other paraliterary modes as well as experimental and indie lit, really all over the place. Launching soon! Also at work on a novel.
MEGAN MILKS is the author of Kill Marguerite and Other Stories. Her work has been included in 30 Under 30: An Anthology of Innovative Fiction by Younger Writers; Wreckage of Reason; and Fist of the Spider Woman: Tales of Fear and Queer Desire, as well as many journals. She is co-editor of the volume Asexualities: Feminist and Queer Perspectives and is currently working on editing the next volume of The &NOW Awards: The Best Innovative Writing.