I Used to Be an Animal Lover Conversation Jhon, Boris & Rhys Part II

This is Part II of our multi-dialogue conversation among the contributors to I Used to Be an Animal Lover, edited by D.A. Cairns. In Part I of the conversation, Barbara Reins says, “I’ve been attuned to the dark side since childhood. My favorite bedtime reads were fairytales. Not the happily-ever-after ones though. I gravitated to the macabre, stories like The Little Match Girl and The Red Shoes where the characters meet with untimely deaths.”

On the other hand, Mitchell Toews talks about justice as inspiration for his writing. “I was raised as a cultural (not religious) Mennonite in a predominantly (and profoundly religious!) Mennonite town on the Canadian prairies. Despite some well-known Mennonite pedigree in my ancestry, I was a square peg. This gave me an off-center perspective: I was of my community; I loved and respected many of its members; I knew the town and the people well, but I lived my life within-but-apart. I sometimes witnessed or was the recipient of injustice that those more deeply embedded in the religion did not recognize or experience. In this way, shunning is the true topic of ‘I Am Otter.’”

To read part I of the conversation, click here.

Jhon Sánchez interviews Boris Glikman

JS/ You have eight stories in the collection. Would it be fair to say that most of them are fables? If so, why do you like to write fables?

BG/ I think that it would be fair to say that four of my stories in this collection are definitely fables. One of these stories “The Good Deeds of Kenny the Koala” has a moral at the end, like most fables do. The other three stories. “The Caterpillar“, “The mePhone” and “The Unbearable Lightness of Shadow” did, at one point, have a moral at the end, but, for various reasons, I deleted those morals at a later point. I wouldn’t necessarily describe the other four of my stories in this book as fables. Regarding why I like writing fables, I answered that question in another fable of mine titled “A Fable’s Odyssey” (it doesn’t appear in this anthology). It is a metafictional story about a fable looking for a cast of characters to act it out. Please allow me to quote from that story: “…Fables are the most ancient and effective way of teaching the rights and wrongs of conduct, of revealing the truths, fallacies and pitfalls of existence.”  Additionally, the fact that the plot and the dialogue of fables are usually quite simple and yet, at the same time, highly symbolic and conveying a moral lesson, makes them that much more attractive and interesting to write.

JS/ An article about you on Fantasticbooksstore.com says that dreams are a source of your inspiration. Can you comment on that? Do you have an example of how those dreams play a role in one of the stories in the collection?

BG/ Funnily enough, none of the stories that appear in this anthology have been inspired by dreams. Rather, five of the stories in this book, “The Caterpilion“, “The mePhone” “The Unbearable Lightness of Shadow“, “Octoworld” and “(Ouro)Boris and I” have been inspired by images that I came across by chance online. Imagery, especially surreal imagery, is another major source of inspiration for me, and I have written a great many stories, flash fiction and vignettes that have been inspired by images that I have encountered by chance online. There are two surreal painters in particular, Michael Cheval and Vladimir Kush, whose art inspired hundreds of stories in me. In fact, two of the stories that appear in this anthology have been inspired by their artworks: “Octoworld” was inspired by a painting by Vladimir Kush, and “The mePhone” was inspired by a painting by Michael Cheval. Now, getting back to dreams, dreams usually give me the initial idea for the outline of a story, and I then work further to turn those ideas into complete stories. Given how strange the stories that have been inspired by dreams are, I don’t think that I could have ever come up with those stories without the dreams providing the initial idea.

JS/ I thought of “The mePhone” and the “(Ouro)Boris and I” as two stories that call for the need to have a permanent self-reflection. Do you think the new technologies have detached us from our ability to self-reflection?

BG/ Yes, I agree that the major themes of “The mePhone” are definitely self-reflection, self-analysis and self-discovery. It hadn’t occurred to me that “(Ouro)Boris and I” could be interpreted as being about self-reflection, so it’s quite interesting for me to hear that. However, it doesn’t surprise me that there is an interpretation of my story that I haven’t thought of myself, for that’s something that happens quite frequently – readers of my work often give me insights into my own work that I haven’t thought of or hadn’t seen myself. And yes, I agree that the new technologies, especially the internet, have separated us from our capacity for self-reflection and self-discovery. Because it is so easy and so addictive nowadays to distract ourselves with the myriad of attractions and amusements that the internet offers (and I myself readily confess to being guilty of this), we never have the chance, the desire or the interest any more to switch off from all the technologies and to just be at one with our inner selves, to just contemplate our minds and do nothing else. Everyone is endlessly communicating via all kinds of phones, via texting, emails, tweets, and instant messaging, yet never once listening to their own true inner voice. Consequently, all connection to oneself is lost. In “The mePhone” story, there is an ironic twist, for a new type of phone is used to re-establish the link to the inner self that the previous inventions, such as the smartphone, have destroyed.

Boris Glikman interviews Rhys Hughes

BG/ Reincarnation plays a major role in your story, “The Temple of Rebirth.” What is your opinion regarding incarnation? Do you think that the existence of reincarnation is something that could ever be proven scientifically?

RH/ Well, funnily enough, I do happen to believe in reincarnation, but not in the way that you might think. I don’t believe that I (as an individual) will live again in some other form. In other words, I don’t believe that identity survives death. But I don’t think these matters too much. The important thing is that there is life after death, by which I mean the lives of others, and what I am saying is that if others are alive after we die, we are those others too, sort of. This isn’t a very clear way of putting it. Let me think of a better way.

I think it’s an illusion that we are individuals locked away in our own brains. It seems to me highly possible that our identities aren’t what makes us ourselves. The “I” we talk about when we refer to ourselves is the same “I” for everybody. This still isn’t getting my point across very well. Maybe I should put it another way. Before we were born, we were dead, we were in oblivion, then suddenly we came into being. When we die, we will return to oblivion, but we already know that something can come from oblivion because we are living proof that it can and does.

So, after we die we will be in oblivion, the same oblivion that we were in before we were born, and this is the same oblivion that other people are in before they are born. So, after we die, there will be new life and that new life might as well be us, because it will call itself “I” just as we did. I guess I am trying to say that personal identity maybe isn’t as important as we assume it is, that perhaps it doesn’t even exist in a strong form, and that identity is more public than private, that instead of the world being full of individuals who are all separate from each other, there is in fact only one creature called humanity, so provided one human is alive, we are alive too, even if we are dead.

I don’t find it easy to put any of these thoughts into words, unfortunately, but I feel that the idea of one life per individual is somehow wrong because I am unconvinced about the true existence of individuals. The species doesn’t die, or at least it hasn’t yet, and the species is the creature. Maybe I am groping for a gestalt view of life, I don’t know about that. So yes, I believe in reincarnation because I believe in the continuance of life, but I don’t believe in identity and the continuance of the illusory individual.

BG/ Is there a particular significance or symbolism in “Salathiel”, the name of the cat and of its reincarnations?

RH/ Not really. It just seemed a magical name or a name associated perhaps with the sorts of stories to be found in the Arabian Nights. Many years ago I wrote a poem called ‘Silky Salathiel’ about a cat who has adventures around the globe and the character stuck in my mind even though I never used him for anything else, and finally I decided to put him in a short story. I might use him again one day. I like writing stories and poems about cats, maybe I have written too many already. I decided to write my very last story about a talking cat about ten years ago and I made this resolution in the same way that people who give up coffee do. My last talking cat story! Since then, I have written several stories about a cat that can talk. So much for hasty resolutions!

BG/ In “Turtle Tears” you mention short synopses of stories and plays that make turtles either sad or happy. Have you considered turning these synopses into complete stories or plays?

HR / I haven’t, no, but it’s an interesting idea. I can’t imagine what kinds of stories might have any emotional effect on a turtle. Wittgenstein famously said that “even if a lion could speak, we wouldn’t understand it” because there are too few things we have in common with a lion. I think we have even less in common with turtles. But presumably, they do feel emotions of some sort. I am wary about consigning the emotions of animals to the category called ‘instinct’ because that seems a bit arrogant. We have emotions and they only are capable of instincts. I’m not so sure about that. Maybe our own emotions are just instincts and nothing more?

I often write stories that mention plots for other stories, or just ideas for possible stories that I will probably never write. I think it’s just a way of using up these ideas, by stating them rather than incorporating them in a story that can be developed, because frankly that’s too much work and I don’t have infinite time at my disposal. I like what Stanislaw Lem did in his book A Perfect Vacuum, which was to write reviews of non-existent books that all have unusual and ingenious ideas. Instead of writing those books he just pretended that they already existed and then reviewed them. This way he was able to play with the ingenious ideas while saving himself the hard work of incorporating the ideas into the plots of full-length novels.

About the Authors

Jhon Sánchez: A Colombian-born, Mr. Sánchez arrived in NYC seeking political asylum, where he is now a lawyer. His most recent literary publications are “Tigui” in the anthology “I Used to be an Animal Lover” and Handy on Baseline Feed Podcast. Next year, New Lit Salon Press will publish his collection of short stories, “Enjoy A Pleasurable Death and Other Stories that Will Kill You.” Please visit @WriterJhon, Instagram jhon_author, Twitter @jhon_author. https://muckrack.com/jhon-sanchez/articles

Boris Glikman is a writer, poet and philosopher from Melbourne, Australia. He says: “Writing for me is a spiritual activity of the highest degree. Writing gives me the conduit to a world that is unreachable by any other means, a world that is populated by Eternal Truths, Ineffable Questions and Infinite Beauty.” You can find him online here: https://www.facebook.com/bozlich

Rhys Hughes was born in Wales but has lived in many different countries and currently lives in India. He began writing at an early age and his first book, Worming the Harpy, was published in 1995. Since that time he has published more than fifty other books and his work has been translated into ten languages. He recently completed an ambitious project that involved writing exactly 1000 linked short stories. He is currently working on a novel and several new collections of prose and verse.
Wikipedia: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rhys_Hughes
SFE: https://sf-encyclopedia.com/entry/hughes_rhys

Jhon Sánchez