“Two Worlds”: An Interview with Guest Reader Christopher James
You founded Jellyfish Review, an online flash fiction journal, a couple years ago. Tell us more about why you wanted to start your own journal and how you’ve made it so successful and popular.
Van Gogh said that fishermen know the sea is dangerous and the storm terrible, but they’ve never found these dangers sufficient reason for remaining ashore. Which suggests Van Gogh had only limited knowledge of fishermen. I always wanted to start a flash fiction journal but found reasons not to. The sea was a peril. The storm didn’t look all that great. Then a couple of years ago a lot of journals were starting to charge for submissions or closing down, and the reasons to open a journal outweighed the reasons not to.
The main reason Jellyfish Review has had success is thanks to the writers and the community we’re lucky enough to be a part of. SmokeLong is a wonderful example to follow. You’re always so nice to your contributors, you publish great work, and everything you do shows how much you care about flash fiction. We try to be like that as well!
We’re both expats – you’re originally from England and now live in Indonesia (I’m from America and now live in Singapore – we’re almost neighbors, now that I think of it). How does being an expat influence your writing and your writing life?
Being an immigrant gives me access to at least two worlds, and things between those two worlds don’t always line up neatly. For example, when I first came here I thought durian (a local delicacy) smelled like the sweaty gymsocks of a rotting corpse. Not nice! Now I enjoy the smell, and gravitate towards the durian they sell at the side of the road. I had the same experience in England with the music of Jeff Buckley. It’s often challenging, and it makes me think, makes me question things that looked normal before, and that makes me want to write.
What is one thing you think is essential to great flash fiction?
Someone, maybe Asimov, said the most exciting phrase in science is not ‘Eureka’ but ‘That’s funny…’ Great flash fiction makes you say ‘that’s funny…’ and if you’re really lucky, it lets you say ‘eureka’ too.
What kind of story would you love to see in the queue this week?
Something both funny and sad.
About the Reader:
Christopher James lives, works and writes in Jakarta, Indonesia. He has previously been published online in many venues, including Tin House, McSweeney's, SmokeLong, and Wigleaf. He is the editor of Jellyfish Review.
About the Interviewer:
Shasta Grant is the author of the chapbook Gather Us Up and Bring Us Home (Split Lip Press, 2017). She was the 2016 SmokeLong Quarterly Kathy Fish Fellow and she won the 2015 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest. Her stories have appeared in Hobart, matchbook, MonkeyBicycle, wigleaf, and elsewhere.