The feature well of this week’s issue of Washington City Paper is dedicated to fiction for the first time in a long time. I sifted through the 50-odd submissions to pick three short stories, and also invited a pro, Eugenia Kim, to contribute—happily, she took me up on the offer. Here’s a bit from my intro:
Asking people to write a story about the District is a way to unlock a city’s id, and one of the more entertaining aspects of sorting through the submissions was learning what they’ll come up with when loosed from the demands of strict accuracy. Some ran off from the city limits—stories rambled up to Glen Burnie, Md., and over to West Virginia. Others sank into Metro trains, which—sorry, WMATA—are consistently metaphors for darkness, confusion, and fear. But many of the writers who submitted for this issue concentrated on a theme that’s become its own cliché: The Two D.C.s. If there were few cases of federal power vs. just folks in the submission stack, there were plenty of attempts to find other ways to assert that there are two tiers of control in Washington. Black and white. Black and black. Entry-level and senior. Rich and poor. Carefree and button-down. Good girl and bro. Every story needs a conflict, but the instinct to render that conflict in terms of divided tribes was an unusually pervasive one.
Or you could just skip to the stories: Kim’s “Two White Feet”; David A. Taylor’s “Bingo”; Arnebya Herndon’s “Everything at Once”; and Anca L. Szilagyi’s “The Zoo.” Editing and assembling an assortment of fiction was an interesting project, and it was the first time I’ve done it; hopefully I’ll have a chance to do it again.