For this issue, we interviewed June Martin, author of "Through the Impossible Door." Join us for a discussion about interiority in fiction, why alternate world stories are the worst, and more.
Ethan Brightbill: A lot of the tension in this story comes from the contrast between the possibility in the creep’s story for adventure, camaraderie, and especially purpose compared to the lack of meaning Sophie feels in her life and the isolation that comes from having to deal with this creepy dude on her own. Could you speak to that a bit?
June Martin: Part of my motivation for writing this story is how much I dislike portal stories, alternate world stories. They’re fantasies in the most masturbatory sense possible. Here
comes this loser, very often a high school boy, who is plunged into a new world where suddenly he’s powerful in some way, easily stumbles into some friendships, and gets a meaningful life handed to him on a silver platter without really confronting who he is as a person and if he needs to change. Then at the end, he’s sent back to his world with a confidence boost, and things are looking up. It’s dismal.
But when I dislike a type of story, a form, a given element, I like to try and use it in a way that makes it effective. I often fail, but this time I was able to tease out the way these stories operate a crucible for the main character changing the conditions of their life. So I gave such a crucible to Sophie, but without the wish fulfillment,
and set it against the fantasy. Breaking from the everyday patterns of our lives is an isolating project because many of our connections to other people are woven through those patterns.
EB: The question of whether or not the creep’s story is real is probably better left to
readers’ imaginations, but that moment when he smiles at the end is just haunting.
Without giving too much away, what did you hope readers would walk away with after
finishing this story?
JM: Luckily, I can’t give much of anything away about it. An earlier draft of the story was much more opinionated on the fakeness of the creep’s story, though it was still ambiguous whether he believed it. It didn’t work because I was holding back the much more interesting situation: no matter how impossible a proposition, if someone insists it happened to you and that it was
magic and you lost your memory at the end of it, there’s nothing available to you to truly
disprove it. So I wrote this draft from the perspective that even I don’t know if the creep’s story is real or fake.
So I want the reader to walk away with the knowledge that there’s no mystery to solve. The
creep’s story is fake. Also, it’s real. There are moments in life where you confront the
impossibility of knowing, like when the creep smiles.
EB: You describe yourself on your website as “flit[ting] from literary fiction to weird ghost stories to comics at a moment's notice.” Given the connections this story has to graphic novels, what made you decide to make “Beyond the Impossible Door” a short story instead of a comic or some other medium?
JM: I never really considered making “Beyond the Impossible Door” a comic because the approach I wanted to take was very heavily rooted in Sophie’s interiority. It’s possible to do that in a comic, but it involves a lot of narration boxes and at a certain point I’d just be burdening the comic, while prose’s great strength over other media is the access it has to that interiority.
I needed that interiority because for almost all of the story, Sophie isn’t really doing anything
outwardly. She’s roiling beneath the surface, and building towards a critical change in her life,
but as to action, her hands are tied until she’s ready to decide they’re not. That internal
experience is the fundamental story, and her voice in describing it is how she’s characterized for the most part.
There’s also the trouble of representing the creep’s story. If I were to put it to pictures, then it
leans towards the reality of the story because hey, seeing is believing. It’s right there on the
page. And if I don’t, then it’s panel after panel of this guy talking, which is a waste of a visual
EB: Your fiction has appeared in X-R-A-Y Literary Magazine, Blood Knife Magazine, and
New Session, and you have projects of all kinds listed on your website, including a serial
novel on Substack. What’s next for you and your writing?
JM: I have a number of finished short stories that I’m trying to place, and a novel that’s currently weaving its way through agents’ inboxes in hopes of getting it to publication someday. I’m planning on breaking ground on the next novel soon, with the intention of taking a few years to complete it. Much of my writing is an extension of my thought process, and each story is a way of thinking through an open question that’s lodged in my mind. My goal with the next novel is to spend a long time with one question and all the smaller ones that branch off beneath it. I’m not revealing the question, for the purpose of intriguing the readers. This way, I’ll be able to tell publishers I laid the groundwork for a marketing campaign years in advance.
EB: Finally, what’s your favorite bone?
JM: The femur. There’s elegance in simplicity.