Do you prefer a particular style of writing?
I have no preference for anything; it all depends on what I want to write. I love very short pieces, but in the past few years, since finishing a PhD in creative writing, I’ve come to enjoy creating book-length hybrid works too, seeing what happens when I think of something as book-sized and what I allow myself to do within that. I’m always experimenting, trying new things, trying not to stand in my own way!
You have a lot of hybrid works. What draws you to that form?
First, I need to say that for me the word “hybrid” is not a form, it’s an un-labelling, it’s a freedom to let go of any categories, genres, any pressure to do what a “poem,” say, or a “novel” should be. I increasingly describe everything I write as hybrid because it gives me permission to write whatever I like in whatever way I like!
I noticed you have an MSc in Philosophy of Science. What does “philosophy of science” mean? How has your science background influenced your writing?
Honestly, I have no real idea what philosophy of science means! Perhaps a simple explanation is: It’s thinking about thinking about science. It allowed me to step back and wonder about the “scientific method” and realize that science isn’t some cool and rational endeavor. Rather, it’s carried out by humans who bring their messiness and preconceptions to the most apparently objective experiment. We spent a lot of time talking about the usefulness of failure, and I think that’s been an incredibly useful lesson for me for the 27 years since.
Tell me about the FUEL anthology.
I was increasingly upset last summer listening to the news here in the UK: Even before the predicted rises in gas and electricity prices, some people had to choose between heating their food and heating their home—“fuel poverty.” I wanted to do something beyond donating money to charities. I thought I could produce a book. Flash fiction seemed like a good choice because I know most of the community, and I had no doubt that people would want to help.
The joy of the anthology is that I can’t describe the stories in the book except that they’ve all won first prize in a flash fiction competition at some point over the past 20 years, and they’re all under 1000 words long. I want the fact that these stories have no unifying factor—no apparent “winningness”—to unlock any reader who also writes and permit them to write a story as only they can write it.
Tania Hershman (www.taniahershman.com) is a queer writer of odd things: stories, poems, and hybrids. Her most recent books are the poetry collection Still Life With Octopus (Nine Arches Press) and the hybrid novel Go On (Broken Sleep Books). She is the editor of FUEL: an anthology of prize-winning flash fictions raising funds to fight fuel poverty–the volume can be shipped worldwide.
Lucy Zhang: see masthead.