From "Sea of Tranquility" (65)
"It began with a shimmering in both his eyes. He was sitting at the store monitor, and the letters started to blur. They went from black to silver, and he rubbed his eyes and closed the shades to cut down on the glare. It was almost six o’clock in the evening, and he needed to check the database tables. Th ey were liquidating the inventory, but nobody was buying. A lady had come in at lunchtime and napped on the Tempur-Pedic without any explanation. She thanked him when she left and straightened her skirt. Couples came in all day long and bickered because the mattresses were too hard or too soft or weren’t suitable for backsleepers. He was thankful for Marci then because she didn’t fuss about the little things. She’d stopped coloring her hair, but she still drank wine at dinner. Fetuses need antioxidants too, she’d say. It’s my duty to eat chocolate."
This story was originally published in American Short Fiction and is part of L. Annette Binder's story collection Rise (forthcoming August 2012 from Sarabande Books). Copyright 2012, L. Annette Binder
About the Author
L. Annette Binder was born in Germany and grew up in Colorado Springs. “Sea of Tranquility” originally appeared in American Short Fiction and is part of her collection of short stories, Rise, which received the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction and will be published by Sarabande Books in August 2012. Her fiction has received a Pushcart Prize and has appeared in One Story, The Southern Review, Fairy Tale Review and others. One of her stories will be performed later this year as part of NPR’s “Selected Shorts.” She is a graduate of Harvard (Classics), Harvard Law School and the Programs in Writing at the University of California, Irvine. For more information, see http://www.lannettebinder.com
Interview With the Author
CA: What is important about reading and writing short fiction, in contrast to other genres (memoir, academic writing, journalism)?
At some level short fiction matters because stories matter. People are designed to understand narrative. From childhood on, we want to find out what happens next. Memoir and journalism can plug into this need, too, but fiction probably does it in the purest, more direct way. Fiction is also a powerful vehicle for empathy. It lets us see the world through someone else’s eyes.
CA: What does fiction reveal about social worlds?
A difficult question. Fiction reflects the world in which we live. No matter how reclusive the writer, it’s probably impossible for him or her to disengage from the concerns and preoccupations of our age. At the same time, fiction is a highly personal performance by the writer. Listen to me, the writer is saying to the reader. You won’t believe what I have to tell you.
CA: Your story “Sea of Tranquility” has a lovely muted surrealism involving a protagonist whose vision becomes telescopic at the expense of his normal vision. Where did the idea for this story come from? What attracts you to writing surrealistic fiction?
My husband deserves the credit for the idea behind this story. A few years ago we were driving in the California desert at night, and the stars were brighter than I’d seen them in years. My husband wondered aloud about what it would be like to become more and more farsighted. Something about that idea resonated with me, and not long afterwards, one of the characters came to me -- a mattress salesman whose eyes start to do some strange things. I wanted to know what it would be like to be able to see satellites and distant planets but not your newborn baby, and I started writing to find out.
I love surrealistic fiction for the same reason that I love myths and fairy tales. By challenging our assumptions about what’s possible, they allow us to see the world differently. There’s a myth in the Popol Vuh I learned about only after finishing “Sea of Tranquility.” In it, Hurakan the god of wind created men, but the men were too perfect because they could see great distances, so the gods limited men’s sight to keep them in their place. It’s strange -- and reassuring -- how the preoccupations of myths and fairy tales resonate across cultures and time.
Additional Works by the Author
"Ithaca," Phoebe (Summer 2012)
"Sidewinder," Indiana Review (Summer 2012)
"Lay My Head," Fairy Tale Review (December 2011)
"Black Eye," West Branch Wired (September 2011)
"Tremble," Quarterly West (September 2011)
"Paradiso," Water~Stone Review (Vol. 14, 2011)
"Rise," Crab Orchard Review (Fall/Winter 2011) (not the same as the Swink story)
"Sea of Tranquility," American Short Fiction (Summer 2011), Second Place in the 2011 American Short Fiction Contest (judged by Wells Tower, who called the story's premise "wondrously imagined" and "broadening a humane and humble portrait of a new family into something cosmos-size").
"Galatea," Third Coast (Spring 2011)
"Nephilim," One Story 141 (October 15, 2010) (reprinted in The Pushcart Prize XXXVI: Best of the Small Presses (2012))
"Weights and Measures," Avery Anthology 6 (August 2010)
"Wrecking Ball," Bellingham Review (Vol. 62, 2010) (full text available here)
"Halo," Green Mountains Review (Vol. 22: 2, 2009)
"Stealing Time," Oxford Magazine (Summer 2009)
"Nod," Beloit Fiction Journal (Vol. 22, Spring 2009)
"Dead Languages," The Southern Review (Vol. 45:1, Winter 2009)
"Castle Rock," The Fiddlehead (No. 238, Winter 2009)
"Hive," The South Dakota Review (Vol. 46:4, Winter 2008)
"Shelter," Short Story (Fall 2008)
"Mourning the Departed," Carve (Vol. IX.3, September 2008), Second Place in the 2008 Carve Raymond Carver Short Story Contest, judged by Cristina Henríquez
"What We Leave Behind," Rosebud Magazine (Vol. 42, Fall 2008)
"Walking the Reservoir at Night," Clapboard House (Winter 2008)
Edith Hamilton’s Mythology: Timeless Tales of Gods and Heroes