Issue 047 Author Interview: Phoenix Roberts and “Relapse”

Here it is, dear readers, our final Issue 047 author interview! We have Phoenix Roberts wrapping up with the answers to our questions about her story “Relapse.”

LSQ: What a delightfully creepy story! The “other” is just hinted at near the beginning, and grows (literally) as your story unfolds. What drew you to this kind of reveal and how did it further your plot?

Phoenix: Thank you!

I like horror that waits to show its hand because it’s lightest on the suspension of disbelief ropes. If I were to start off like: “Hello, person reading this story, there’s an evil legion of slugs from the void, the entrance to which is in a soda dispenser, pretty spooky, right?” the person in question would rightly go: “Well, no, not so much spooky as patently absurd, and you clearly don’t take this seriously, so neither will I.” It’s more interesting for all parties involved to non-didactically ask whether we ought to laugh at the absurd or tremble about it.
LSQ: Your main character ends up comparing different types of hunger: one self imposed, and one imposed on her. What made you choose hunger as the catalyst for this story?

Phoenix: I got a craving for a story unlike most other intentional-hunger fiction I’ve met, which skews towards the tragic rather than horrific, towards the upper-class-teenage-protagonist, and towards the cause-confident. I’m sure the appeal of writing against a tragic hero narrative of disorder speaks for itself. I’m sure the same is true about the appeal of writing against harmful demographic lies.

On to the maybe less obvious: something that fascinates me about eating disorders is that, like the rest of being sentient, we don’t understand them as well as we think we do. Like fifty-ish years ago, dudes who got paid to watch people struggle and have opinions about it went: “Clearly this is caused by social pressures to be thin, maybe compounded by childhood trauma and personality type. Investigation over. Well done, boys.”
Then we found evidence of genetic susceptibility, and the water got all murky, and now we’re back to square one of: “We don’t actually know how or why some people’s brains do this, we only know some stuff that wakes up the propensity for it.” That’s terrifying! Accounting for the terrifying can make it less so. That’s why I didn’t spend words on Katherine’s childhood, or on encounters with purveyors of beauty myths, or any other balms for the unpleasant weirdness of her experience. There was just like this hankering for cause-anxiety and cause-disinterest.
LSQ: Tell us more about the table and what it means to your MC.

Phoenix: On-the-nose-ly: meals happen at tables.

Off-the-nose-ly: one incentive to recover from behavioral health problems is to make room for other stuff. Some people recover to impressive careers, gargantuan accomplishments, instagram-able families, and so on, and that’s sick. Also, though, any expression of dignity and autonomy a recoverer can find in their daily life, which may or may not be conducive to happenings worth writing home about, is equally sick.
When we overestimate the good times on the other side of most demons, we accidentally lend credence to the internal monologue of: “My material circumstances are such that a life without the problem couldn’t possibly be worth living anyways, so I may as well keep the problem.” It’s better to be honest that for most of us, we just pay too much rent until eventually we don’t, and in the meantime occasionally having some fun is preferable to consorting with a decidedly un-fun beast.
So Katherine chose DIY carpentry as her way to have some fun. I think that was an excellent choice, and I’m glad that at least for a while she got to do that instead of being hungry.
LSQ: Is horror a genre you usually write in? What other genres or projects are you drawn to?
Phoenix: Yes. In my opinion, horror is the very best fun to be had responsibly. I also like fantasy. I have in the past liked drama and poetry, and I guess there’s no way to know for sure that I won’t like those things again. I worry my saying this contradicts the hard-won claims to legitimacy snatched from the jaws of power by people way smarter than myself, but I like horror and fantasy best because they facilitate the silly and ridiculous, which are objectively better qualities than serious or important.