Happy book birthday to Homesick: Stories, a wonderfully queer collection of speculative short stories by Nino Cipri. The collection spans several formats with feelings ranging from nostalgia, sarcastic humor, determination, and, of course, homesickness. Nino stops by the blog to talk about they chose the best format for each story, crafting the collection, and things you should read next.
On Crafting Homesick: Stories
In Homesick, you play around with a variety of formats: magazine Q&A, interview transcripts, more traditional prose. Which one of these did you have the most fun with?
Probably the personality quiz format of “Super Little Dead Girls.” It was so fun, so easy, and gave me a chance to vent about the crappy ways the horror genres uses dead girls and dead women. Writing stories in odd formats feels more like a technical challenge, rather than just the boring old difficulty of “how do I make words mean things again?”
How did you decide on the most appropriate format for each story?
Sometimes I put a lot of thought into it; consider the interplay between format and function in narrative, how constraint can pleasurably displace the ordinary, or the ways in which carefully constructed novelty can revitalize an otherwise familiar premise.
But I also often think to myself, heck YES, time to do some WEIRD SHIT.
What came first: the collection title or did the title emerge from the stories themselves?
Definitely the latter. I hadn’t planned on putting a collection together, but I saw the Dzanc contest, realized that I had enough stories for a full-length manuscript, and then narrowed it down some personal favorites. The stories in Homesick cover the length of my writing career, from the time when I had just left the Pacific Northwest for Vermont and then Chicago, to my last semester of grad school in Kansas. My fiction inevitably got infused with my chronic sense of estrangement. Once I realized the stories had this connective tissue, I added others that were thematically relevant.
What was the journey like in collecting these short stories?
I had zero expectation that Dzanc would pick my collection–if I’d thought I had a chance in hell, I probably would have put a lot more thought into it and been a lot more anxious about it. Since I was treating it more like an intellectual exercise, I ended up putting it together a little like a mixtape. I tried to get the stories to flow into each other without hitting the same notes over and over again, either tonally or thematically.
Works to Read Next
What are some other short story collections that you’ve enjoyed?
Some perma-faves are Ursula K. LeGuin’s Birthday of the World, Kelly Link’s Magic for Beginners, Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties, Tananarive Due’s Ghost Summer, Karen Joy Fowler’s What I Didn’t See, and anything edited by Ann VanderMeer. I read The Bone Mother by David Demchuk in 2017 and am STILL occasionally creeped out by it. I’m extremely biased, but I also love Lethe Press’s Transcendent series of best transgender SFF of the year, edited by Bogi Takács.
There are a ton of small presses that do AMAZING short fiction collections. Dzanc (naturally), ChiZine, Arsenal Pulp, PM Press, Lethe, Graywolf, Akashic, Mason Jar, AK press — all of them put out consistently wonderful books that sadly fly under the radar, don’t get as much press, and don’t have as wide distribution. If you love short fiction collections, small presses are the best places to find it.
As readers recover from the power some of these tales have, do you have recommendations on what to read next?
If you decided just want to just gorge on even more amazing short stories (and who wouldn’t), a bunch of wonderful authors have recent or forthcoming fiction collections: NK Jemisin’s How Long ‘Til Black Future Month?, Sarah Pinsker’s Sooner or Later Everything Falls Into the Sea, Malka Older’s …And Other Disasters, Bogi Takács’s The Trans Space Octopus Congregation. And hey, my novella FINNA, about queer heartbreak, low-wage labor, and wormholes, is open for pre-orders.
If you want to need some long-form fiction to help you get through the winter, I really loved Fonda Lee’s Green Bone Saga books, KM Szpara’s forthcoming Docile, and Caitlin Starling’s The Luminous Dead.
Which Super Dead Girl™ are you?
I have spent the past year writing a novel based loosely on the Super Dead Girls™, and honestly? I identify more with the tired, gay librarian uncle side character who’s looking at all these undead disaster children and going “oh dear god, i need to drink an entire box of wine after this.”
Nino Cipri is a queer and trans/nonbinary writer, editor, and educator. They are a graduate of the 2014 Clarion Writers’ Workshop, and earned their MFA in fiction from the University of Kansas in 2019. Nino’s story collection Homesick won the Dzanc Short Fiction Collection Prize, and their novella Finna — about queer heartbreak, working retail, and wormholes — will be published by Tor.com in 2020. A multidisciplinary artist, Nino has also written plays, screenplays, and radio features; performed as a dancer, actor, and puppeteer; and worked as a stagehand, bookseller, bike mechanic, and labor organizer.
One time, an angry person on the internet called Nino a verbal terrorist, which was pretty funny.