Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Scott Fenton

by Megan Giddings Read the Story September 21, 2015

A thing I love about “Eighty-Eight Minutes at Sea” is it accomplishes something I think is really hard to pull off in fiction: It’s simultaneously filled with plot (the main character fell off a cruise ship! A movie starring Dawson is made about him! His life has changed!) and plotless (the majority of the story happens at a party. As what happens at most parties, someone embarrasses himself. It’s morning-after-brunch-gossip stuff at best). What made you choose this particular moment for the story’s narrative present?

The premiere party, I think, is the moment when Ocean Man is fully persuaded by the high-gloss version of his honeymoon cruise and kind of ditches reality. There’s such a gulf between Ocean Man and Ben, pun half-intended, and this party struck me as the moment in which that divide is most evident. We see that Ocean Man prefers the version of events where Ben has been edited out. He’s buying into the phenomenon he’s become, but it costs him his marriage.

One of the things I’ve always admired about your fiction is that you see how strange everyday life can be. What are the weirdest things or strangest things you noticed just going about your life this past week?

Earlier today, I saw a man accusingly point a pink pool noodle at a group of people he passed on the street.

Define your writing style using a gif.

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If you were writing “Eighty-Eight Minutes at Sea PART TWO” and it was set a year in the future, how do you see Ocean Man’s life?

A newly single (?) Ocean Man is at Comic-Con, trying to sell autographed movie posters on the street outside the convention center. Nobody’s buying. Somebody ironically wearing a fanny pack stops by his unauthorized booth eventually, but it’s only to ask him what role he played in the movie. “I am the movie,” he bellows. “I’m Ocean Man.” The fanny pack just blinks.

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the state of California, James Van Der Beek is interviewed by Entertainment Weekly and refers to the Ocean Man movie as “a regrettable pothole in what has otherwise been a smoothly paved highway of a career.” His publicist later apologizes to EW for the labored metaphor via email. Van Der Beek, the publicist explains, recently received an honorary degree from NYU in exchange for speaking at a commencement ceremony and now considers himself a scholar.

Meanwhile, not in California, Ben moves into a condo with his mother and her aerobics instructor. One night, while they’re sharing a tub of ice cream, the aerobics instructor has the bright idea to pitch their wacky life as a TV sitcom. The show ultimately runs for six seasons and spawns a film adaptation, one in which Ben’s character is replaced with an adorable talking toaster so that Warner Bros. can sell toys.

About the Author:

Scott Fenton is a third-year MFA candidate in fiction at Indiana University, where he is an associate instructor of creative writing and reads for the Indiana Review. His work is forthcoming in Ninth Letter Online.

About the Interviewer:

Megan Giddings was a former executive editor at SmokeLong Quarterly  and a winner of the Kathy Fish Fellowship. Her chapbooks, Arcade Seventeen (TAR) and The Most Dangerous Game (The Lettered Streets Press) will be released Fall 2016.  She has been anthologized in Best of the Net 2014 and in Best Small Fictions 2016.  Her stories are forthcoming or have been recently published in Arts & Letters, Passages North, The Offing, Pleiades, and Black Warrior Review. You can learn more about her at www.megangiddings.com.

About the Artist:

Katelin Kinney is from the hills and fields of Southern Indiana. She attained two BFAs from the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis, IN. Her portfolio consists of fine art and commercial freelance work.