Flash Fiction

Via Unsplash.

Meg Cass, a writer, editor and an associate professor of English at University of Illinois in Springfield, was invited by the SIUE English department to hold two virtual events this week, a reading and a craft talk focusing on body horror.

Cass specializes in horror, and writes primarily in flash fiction, a writing style traditionally defined as works that are under 1000 words. They said flash fiction frequently works well with body horror, a subgenre of horror that seeks to depict disturbing imagery within the human body.

“I was speaking to a colleague about this recently, we were thinking about why flash fiction is really useful for using horror elements in fiction,” Cass said. “Maybe it’s something to do with the way flash fiction has a turn or a twist at the end in the way we associate with a horror story or a horror movie.”

Professor of English Geoff Schmidt was the faculty member who invited Cass to speak to SIUE students via virtual events.

“[Cass is] really savvy about genre; fairy tales, horror, science fiction, they play a lot with kind of mashups of genre too,” Schmidt said. “It’s all still very character driven and prose driven, but the idea of genre and what [they] can do in different genres seems always to be lurking in the margins.”

Cass said they appreciate body horror as a subgenre for the way it helps people to think about repressed emotion, trauma and how both manifest within the body.

“There’s so many possibilities within horror and I think it’s a really exciting time right now as we’re starting to see more queer people, more women, more people of color working in the subgenre and decentering the more cliche stock tropes,” Cass said.

Cass collaborated with three friends to create a queer reading series titled “Changeling” that will be starting back up in January, featuring queer writers from the St Louis area, and expressed interest in having SIUE creative writing students join in the program.

“We’re just really excited to be able to create a space for queer writing in town and to bring folks together around supporting that work,” Cass said.

Valerie Vogrin, a professor in the department of English, said those who like to read, regardless of major, may find enjoyment in attending events featuring visiting writers. 

“I’d like to think it’s a way for students to connect to that kind of creative side of themselves and to the side of themselves that loves reading, or likes reading, or is just curious about what writers are about,” Vogrin said.

Though there haven’t been any plans made yet, Vogrin seeks to invite another author to campus in the spring.

Schmidt said he hopes visiting writers will feed a sense of community for writers and students at SIUE.

“I think we were worried about what happens to a community of writers in a pandemic when so many of our experiences are moved online. It’s not always been easy for everybody, it’s easier to feel isolated and not part of a community,” said Schmidt. “We’re really hoping to nurture that sense of community through the isolation of the pandemic.”

The virtual visit consists of two events, a craft talk on Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. and a fiction reading on Nov. 11 at 7 p.m. The craft talk will more in depth discuss body horror, and give students a chance to write a short piece during the virtual sessions.

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