Flawed and Fearless

Some of my lost and wandering stories have found homes. The quality of the writing isn’t lost and wandering, but the difficulty of the material made them hard to place.

One reason I’ve chosen to submit stories rather than self-publish them is to obtain feedback. Most of the works I’ve had published were printed exactly as I sent them, but on the occasions when an editor has worked with me on re-writes, I have learned so much from the process that the next project got better and spotting my own flaws happened faster. I recommend taking (kind and gentle) advantage of any willing beta readers, participating in writers groups if you can find them, and sending a story to Sixfold for the brutal and often crass impressions your work gives a complete stranger who doesn’t know your name or face or gender or genre.

Jesus Christ I learned a lot from Sixfold.

Writing is hard because you get into this state of tunnel vision. You’re building your own world. You know what you are trying to say, you have all your personal and cultural and emotional references stored in your memory connecting all the dots. Stepping back and reading as a stranger–or better yet, getting an actual stranger to read your work–exposes every flaw. You learn when you need to connect more dots or make the reader work harder for the payoff. You grow a little every time you kill a darling or commit an obscenity.

While the current feminist conversation seems to be about how we need to write strong women as role models, most of the women I write are flawed despite their strengths. Maybe because of them. Or maybe they’re downright evil. I guess I don’t see comic book heroines as inspiring because they aren’t realistic. They don’t speak to me about my own life. You know, hang the bloody DJ. These non-heroines make for difficult stories. Sometimes I’m afraid to send them out.

The following three stories have been accepted, despite their difficulties and flaws. When they’re published I’ll add the links:

“Paradisum Voluptatis” in the anthology Honey and Sulfur is due out any minute. Carrionblue555, self proclaimed micro-publisher of surreal, gut-wrenching, and absurd fiction sought works based on The Garden of Earthly Delights triptych by Hieronymus Bosch. I’ve seen the table of contents. This collection will be mind blowing. I can’t wait to devour it.

“Mr. Sandman Scratches the Moon” will appear in the upcoming winter issue of Sanitarium Magazine. The history of this story is dense. The heroine is exceedingly problematic. It took a long time for me to discover the death origin mythologies of the Asian and African continents before I was able to make sense of the first draft.

“Silap Inua” will appear within the next year in the anthology In The Air from Transmundane Press. An uncomfortable hybrid of horror, fairy tale, and me-too movement, this babe has been lost in the woods far too long. She’s finally found a place where she can breathe.

You won’t find role models for your daughters in these stories. If you find super-powers, they may be misused. I hope you’ll find something intriguing, upsetting or downright offensive. Because trigger alert: it’s horror.

Published by: Joe

Joe Koch writes literary horror and surrealist trash. A Shirley Jackson Award finalist, Joe is the author of The Wingspan of Severed Hands, The Couvade, and Convulsive. Their short fiction appears in publications such as Vastarien, Southwest Review, Pseudopod, and Children of the New Flesh. He’s been a flash fiction judge for Cemetery Gates Media as well as co-editing the art horror anthology Stories of the Eye from Weirdpunk Books. Find Joe (he/they) online at horrorsong.blog and on Twitter @horrorsong.

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