Featured Nonfiction/Hybrid Writer: Silvan E. Spicer
Hello flock! We're so excited to announce our featured nonfictioner of this issue: Silvan E. Spicer. We spent sometime together discussing the joys of high fantasy-personal essay (we're sure the genre is just about to take off!). Make sure to check out their piece here.
Ashely Adams: I think most people the first time reading your essay will be really struck by the combination of speculative fiction and creative nonfiction. Could you talk a little bit about your inspiration and process for this essay?
Silvan E. Spicer: I actually had the idea for the fantasy novel itself before I had the idea for this piece. I really wanted to write a story where the creator of a world had to actually face their creations as something real. I think I ended up meditating on what the story meant to me a little too intensely in some journal entries, and that’s where the creative nonfiction really started to find its way in. So it was really sort of an organic, reflective process.
AA: Here at Lammergeier, we’ve had quite a few essays that play with speculation and fantasy. What do you think might draw essayists and memoirists to play in the fantastical?
SES: I’ve “played pretend” as a way of understanding and coming to terms with my lived experience for as long as I can remember. When I started writing down these fantastical stories I would tell myself, at first I kind of saw them as an extended metaphor for my own life and experiences. But now, and especially with this piece, I’m using this fantasy story almost as a distancing mechanism, a way to both keep myself at an arm’s length from my “mommy issues” in a way that still allows me to look at and examine them. So, contrary to fantasy being a form of “escapism” in in this type of writing, I honestly see it more as a tool to help face reality, albeit indirectly.
AA: As an avid fantasy fiction reader, I’ve noticed that the genre often focuses on men and the relationship between them. What are your thoughts on using it to examine identities that do not fall under the cishet male ones?
SES: Fantasy, in my opinion, should be used to broaden our scope of what’s possible, rather than to limit it. I get really annoyed when, for example, the female lizard people have tits. Why would female lizard people have tits? I think as a genre, fantasy is finally starting to get away from the Tolkien model of a bunch of dudes going on an adventure together, and I honestly credit this largely to the resurgence of tabletop gaming. People are realizing that they can create the queer fantasy world of their dreams with their friends, and I think they’re no longer willing to pick up and read a fantasy novel that doesn’t embody that same sense of openness and possibility. I know I’m definitely not gonna waste my time on it when I know what else is out there, and what else it’s possible to accomplish with fantasy.
AA: As I was reading the fantasy novel parts, I kept thinking “I’d really love to have this book”. Then I thought of how many Western institutions want to keep writers within very distinct genres. Would you mind telling us your thoughts about dabbling across genres?
SES: In a first draft of this piece, I kept describing Emma’s novel as a YA fantasy novel, and I ended up taking it out, because I didn’t like the genre connotations. The book as I envision it (and maybe I’ll get to writing it one day, who knows) definitely dabbles across genres – part fantasy, part detective story, part eldritch horror – and I love that. I see genre as a living, breathing thing that grows and morphs as authors keep adding stuff to it, and mixing genres is one way to play with that. And at this point, fantasy is too large of a genre for it to really be written well without crossing genre boundaries, regardless of what these Western institutions think.
AA: And, of course, the Lammergeier final question: what’s your favorite bone?
SES: Stapes! Lovely little ear bones <3