So, high school is hard enough. And then a friend attempts suicide. Heavy metal is to blame. The local pastor is burning records, and MTV’s Kurt Loder is on the scene.
Holloway Literary author Jeff Chon’s latest short story, P.A.L.A.D.I.N is featured in the North American Review. Let’s get some context.
Q: What inspired you to write P.A.L.A.D.I.N?
A: I was sitting with a group of friends talking about the acronyms anti-rock and roll crusaders used to use for heavy metal bands in the late 70’s early 80’s–the idea that KISS was short for “Knights In Satan’s Service” and AC/DC was “Anti-Christ/Devil-Child” and so on. I remembered the power those acronyms held over me when I was younger, this idea that rock stars who wore demon and cat make-up and spit fire supposedly did so in the name of Satan. Then I imagined what kids that were older than I was might have thought about these names–particularly the long-haired outcasts who listened to that music—and what they must’ve thought of the adults who were pushing these lies.
Q: Did you have any challenges writing shorter stories?
A: For me, one of the biggest challenges when writing short stories is finding the places where the curtain opens and then closes, presenting this snapshot of a moment in a way that feels deliberate and significant.
Q: Why do you write?
A: The first short story of mine that got any kind of response was in second grade. Thankfully, I don’t remember specifics, but it involved Spider-Man fighting these evil BMX guys. I remember reading it out loud in class, and how tickled the other kids were when I’d written them in to the story. It felt great, and I’ve honestly been chasing that feeling ever since.
Q: What are you currently working on?
A: I’m working on a novel set in the very strange times we currently find ourselves living in. Gun culture, internet conspiracy theories, the election–all filtered through the mind of an extremely unreliable narrator trying to navigate our America. I’ve been describing it as Taxi Driver as told by Kurt Vonnegut, and I hope I can do the storytellers I’ve invoked in that elevator pitch justice when I’m done.
Q: What do you want the reader to take away from your story?
A: This short story started out as an honest-to-goodness joke between friends (believe me, that first draft was hilarious), and it took a lot of work to cut the caricature out to find the pathos in this story. I remember during that process, I began to think about how we laugh in the face of “evil,” so to speak because we want to take away its power. And I used to think that worked beautifully, but now I’m wondering when those things we mock begin to build up an immunity to our snark. Mockery can admittedly be a lot of fun and dunking on people is really satisfying–it’s something I struggle with every day–but in an age where we can lick our wounds in the echo chambers of our choosing, maybe that isn’t as effective as it used to be.
Read P.A.L.A.D.I.N in the North American Review.
Jeff earned his MFA in Creative Writing from Saint Mary’s College of California, where he studied under Marilyn Abildskov, Wesley Gibson, Samina Ali, and Susan Griffin. He has been featured in Oakland Magazine, Saint Mary’s magazine, and the LaMorinda News among others in his capacity as editor-in-chief of The East Bay Review.
He is represented by Nikki Terpilowski.