Archive for July 29, 2014

Living in Fiction, Class Warfare, and Such

This morning I wrote in an email that I have no interest in memoir.

Poe called it the imp of the perverse; Foucault’s inversion was the perverse implantation. Perhaps my correspondent saw the imp coming before I did. Perhaps he sent it.


At age eighteen, I entered a fictional world.

No, not fiction-writing. I recall starting a novel in the second grade. It was a choose-your-own adventure about two boys who got kidnapped, taken away on a plane, which then crashed on an island. Quite exciting. Never finished. Part of my brain has always been in la-la land.

Mundane: going off to college. That’s the transition I’m talking about.

Gwinnett County, GA to Harvard University - Google Maps

Surreal: driving from Georgia to Massachusetts with both my parents, who reminisced almost incessantly despite having been divorced for most of the life I remembered.

Unreal: destination, Harvard.Granted, as American tales go, a lower-middle-class Southern kid getting into Harvard is hardly a movie of the week. I do not include my story as such among the unrealities, the fictional phenomena, I am pondering.

I assume the gentlemen in the second photo willingly published it, one of the top hits on the Google search “John Harvard statue,” and are of legal age, and thus I use it as an example here. Click photos for sources.


The prime unreality I wish to consider is/are the places where I was educated. While I got around to places that together ain’t too shabby in any company, nevertheless, in some company, questions about where one was educated generally produce answers like mine—the Ivies—or their kin, Stanford, Berkeley, one of the former Seven Sisters, or for color one of the liberal arts elites like a Swarthmore or an Oberlin, etc. In other company, like my own family and the circles in which I grew up, the subject of such places tends to produce (1) starry eyes and/or (2) suspicious eyes.

The defining difference between these kinds of company is certainly not average IQ; it’s average income.

The starry eyes? At age eighteen, I went to a place that on my home-world exists only in movies and TV shows.

The suspicious eyes? At age eighteen, I crossed class boundaries, relocating behind enemy lines. I am become snob, transgressor of values. I defected.

And nowadays, as the wealthy in this country continue to manipulate media and legislation as well as the economy to continue widening the income gap and have the gall to accuse anyone pointing out their tactics of “class warfare,” class defection is serious business. I saw The Purge: Anarchy. And as Michael K. Williams says best, “Time to bleed, rich bitches.” Seriously.


But first, let’s fixate on the stars. My personal experience of college is in fact such a cliché in fiction that I hesitated to set parts of Descending Lines at Harvard, but I couldn’t help it—that’s where it unfolded in my imagination because that’s where I knew such eccentric people might do such things in such ways (if the supernatural were possible). I lived in that setting. And yet whether it’s faked in schlock like With Honors or real as in Love Story or pretty convincing as in The Social Network, etc., now my primary contact with a world I’m happy to revisit but wouldn’t choose to inhabit is, once again, fiction.

I quote Candyman: “It is a blessed condition, believe me. To be whispered about at street corners. To live in other people’s dreams, but not to have to be.”

candyman_and_helen_lyleHarvard is an American legend. Its power is, like Candyman’s, supernatural not in the ways it actually exists but in the ways it does not have to exist.

Not having to exist, however, is not the same as not bearing responsibility for being. Both The Purge and Candyman show that one can suspend the laws of both government and physics and still be trapped by harsher laws of transcendent justice. The bleeding times.

The suspicious eyes.

My own eyes become suspicious, bringing me to a secondary unreality. Did I really go to Harvard at all?

Yes, I attended classes there. I have a diploma. I have memories of living in Harvard Yard, then down by the Charles River for three years in Winthrop House. But I was a “floater.” I never had a “blocking group.” I had plenty of extra-curriculars, but I never “comped” anything that you’ve heard of, like The Advocate or The Crimson or The Hasty Pudding or the Lampoon because as far as I could see, all of those organizations valued socioeconomic class over intellectual merit. I knew, and knew about, people in all those organizations. And I paid attention to their family backgrounds, mostly very different from mine.

winthrop-insideIn college, I was naïve enough—because they got me in—to think intellectual voracity and achievement mattered most. Only later did I realize that, professionally speaking, C students from the Ivy League are far more likely to become Presidents.

At age eighteen, I entered a fictional world.


CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS, Reel Dark: Twisted Fantasies Projected on the Flickering Page

Attention all writers with a dark side! Here’s the official call for a book I’ll be editing with Pamela Turner:Microsoft Word - ReelDarkCallforSubmissionsCALL FOR SUBMISSIONS: BlackWyrm Publishing is opening several positions in its spring short fiction anthology for general submissions. We offer professional rates (typically $.05/word, negotiable upon acceptance) for writers qualified to be full members of professional organizations such as the HWA, MWA, RWA, and SFWA; other stories accepted through general submissions receive a flat semi-professional rate of $25. All contributors receive copies. The collection, tentatively titled Reel Dark: Twisted Fantasies Projected on the Flickering Page, focuses on the infection of (prose-fictional or poetic) worlds by movies. We want innovative approaches: if you think endless references to films or characters stepping into or off of the screen is innovative, reconsider submitting. Although the anthology as a whole will be dark in tone, it will speak to a range of audiences interested in horror, science-fiction, fantasy, mystery/suspense, and/or romance (particularly paranormal). Stories should not exceed 3,500 words. Submissions are open now and close November 1, 2014. We intend to launch the collection at the World Horror Convention in May 2015. Submit stories in standard manuscript format via Direct questions about the focus, rates, etc. to Editor-in-Chief L. Andrew Cooper via Submissions sent directly to the editor will be deleted unread. Authors accepted or invited to submit may join the group at for more information.

BOOK ANNOUNCEMENT: Leaping at Thorns, 15 experimental horror tales

I should have a cover to show you soon, but here’s the blurb…
LEAPING AT THORNS arranges 15 of L. Andrew Cooper’s unpublished, experimental short horror stories into a “triptych” of themes–complicity, entrapment, and conspiracy–elements that run throughout the collection. The stories span from the emotionally-centered and violence-mild “Last Move,” about a mother and son whose cross-country move might be complicated by a haunted U-Move truck, to the almost unthinkably horrific “Charlie Mirren and His Mother,” also about a mother and son, but their lives take a turn that might be traumatic for readers as well. While “Worm Would” offers a psychosexual fantasia on the sheer grossness that is a flatworm, “Tapestry” uses absurd, sometimes comic violence to take Jessica, the young professional protagonist, into a political nightmare. The absurd reaches dark extremes in “Lachrymosa,” a story of almost pure hallucination, and stretches back toward the comic in the brain-and-tongue-twister “Heart on a Stick.” The “conspiracy” panel of the triptych, from “The Fate of Doctor Fincher” to “The Special One,” is a series of standalone stories that each adds important details to the fictional world and grand scheme of Dr. Allen Fincher, who also lurks in the background of Cooper’s novels BURNING THE MIDDLE GROUND and DESCENDING LINES.

Stay tuned for the cover reveal!