Tales from the surreal side
Hong Kong author Marshall Moore tells Matt Fleming his new short stories are strange, dark and full of personality
Marshall Moore has a penchant for the weird. His surreal brand of storytelling is instantly recognisable and his fourth book, The Infernal Republic, steps it up a notch. Seventeen tales of varying size, structure and strata of surrealism create an often-dark, frequently thought-provoking collection of short stories. The 41-year-old from North Carolina, USA, is a former sign language interpreter – but, as a Hong Kong author and publisher, his eerie works of fiction haven’t fallen on deaf ears. He tells us it’s down to his writing style – which is ‘somewhere between magic realism and New Weird’.
The Infernal Republic. What are the stories about?
Um, hip and rather witty dark urban weirdness? In the first story two women are having lunch at a café in Portland. They see a man about to jump off a building nearby... and place bets on whether he’ll splash them when he hits the ground. Another is about a telepathic pseudo-romance between a slightly disturbed psychologist and Damien Hirst’s preserved shark. Not everything in the book is morbid – and some are even pretty funny. It’s definitely not your everyday family drama!
Which story and character is your personal favourite?
Yikes, hard question! If I had to choose just one, I’d say it’s the last one, The Infinite Monkey Theorem. It’s about a bet between God and the Devil, to see whether monkeys with typewriters really can reproduce the works of Shakespeare. I really like the narrator, a demon named Beelphazoar. He has to balance his resignation to doing his duty with his opinion that the bet is ridiculous. As an author, I had to tread carefully with him and with this story in general – and I think that I nailed it.
Anyone based on you in there?
Several, to varying degrees. I wrote one of the stories while I was going through an awful break-up, and even though I made the narrator female, that’s a pretty accurate reflection of where my head was at the time. I’m always in the work somewhere, if not explicitly basing characters on myself, then at least flavouring them with bits and pieces of my personality and my own experiences.
Is the weird, dark style what your fans have come to expect?
Stylistically, I’m pretty versatile, although I tend to work somewhere in the continuum between magic realism and New Weird. People who have hung in and read my work from the beginning will definitely recognise what I’m doing, although I hope I’m managing to keep it fresh and interesting from one book to the next.
Is there a strong market in Hong Kong for this type of surreal, off-the-wall literature?
I hope so. I’ve only been here about three-and-a-half years, though, so I’m still figuring things out. This is a sophisticated city... I’m keeping my fingers crossed!
What’s next for Marshall Moore?
Well, I’ve already finished another novel, titled Bitter Orange. That’ll be published next year, probably in the spring or early summer. The idea is that a guy can turn invisible in a unique way: it only happens when he’s doing something he knows is wrong. So he can’t be a superhero. He can only fade from view when he’s shoplifting, for example. But he doesn’t want to be a villain or a criminal, either. Power may corrupt, but you can at least try to have a good time while you’re being corrupted!
The Infernal Republic is published by Signal 8 Press, priced $125.