Tag Archives: Uncommon Miracles

“Be Open to the Miracle of Human Limitation” – A Conversation with Julie C. Day

Julie C. Day was one of our weird little zine’s earliest contributors, as her short story “Faerie Medicine” appeared in our second issue back in the Summer of 2014. Other stories by Julie have appeared in  InterzoneSplit Lip Magazine, and Black Static, to name just a few. She’s also the author of Uncommon Miracles, released this fall by PS Publishing, and currently available in hardcover or Kindle editions. Pulitzer Prize finalist Kelly Link called the book “a collection of stories to unsettle your dreams and make the world a stranger and more delightful place.”

Julie recently exchanged emails with our managing editor Joseph P. O’Brien about Uncommon Miracles, as well as analog artifacts, virtual travel, and the value of surrealism…

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JO’B: There are various kinds of “Uncommon Miracles” in the stories in your new book: scientific, religious, magical– sometimes even a mixture of two or three. Do you believe in miracles, in the supernatural sense? Or do you think most “miracles” are potentially explicable by science? Or do you believe both are possible?

JCD: Let me start by saying I believe in the part selves, subpersonalities and the dissonance of beliefs these various parts can create. In other words, yes and no. Humans, as biological creatures, can only perceive what our bodies are capable of experiencing. If you consider reality an amalgam of all the sensory data biological creatures perceive, we already miss so much, whether it’s the infrared markings on flower petals or the navigational guides provided by the earth’s magnetic fields. If you consider how much more there must be to the universe beyond that, we miss the majority of reality.

Science is a methodology that allows us to both gain and organize knowledge about the universe. But no matter how often people correct and refine and illuminate, our scientific understanding will never present the objective universe. We humans will always be limited to viewing the universe through the lens of our biology.

JO’B: Have you ever witnessed anything you’d describe as a miracle?

JCD: This is a bit of a sideways answer, but it’s also the best answer I can think of. When I was thirteen my family moved into a house that was over two hundred years old. On the right-front side of the house was a separate front door leading to a small room, too big to be a hallway. We were told that before funeral homes, the dead and their caskets were given their own entrance into and exit from the house. That feeling you have that you see something, like a trailing bit of white fog, from the corner of your eye? I repeatedly, though not frequently, felt that when I lived in that house. I even felt the emotional presence of people like my grandfather, someone who had died thousands of miles away. Part of me says none of it was real, my imagination is a wild tangle inserting itself in much of my experiences. Another part of me says be open to the miracle of human limitation. There will always be the miraculous, aspects to life we may never fully experience or understand.

JO’B: As someone who was raised Catholic (and has since lapsed), I get the sense while reading your work that you also might’ve had a somewhat religious upbringing (or at least been surrounded by religion as a child). Is that true, and if so, how do you think that may have influenced your writing?

JCD: I was born in the North of England but my family moved to southern Indiana when I was six. In other words, my first real experience with religion was abrupt and painful and incredibly alienating. Like many in the U.K. I was raised in a very secular family. Columbus, Indiana was full of churchgoers who believed in a very restrictive Christian orthodoxy. They were completely oblivious at best and antagonistic at worst to the idea that there were people unlike them in their midst. Despite our common language, English, it was a funhouse-mirror of what I considered the real world.

My imagination was my refuge. But I’ve also always had a very analytical mind. Thinking things through and finding the pattern or the common thread is very much my thing, that and a love of the unexpected truth found in our physical world—truths that require scientific observation and experimentation. So when a teacher taught creationism and evolution, making it clear evolution made no sense; when a teacher quoted a bible verse about women being silent in the church; when some civic group came around our elementary school handing out the new testament; when all of those things occurred, I felt trapped between needing to be quiet to feel safe and needing to be true to how I saw the world. It was an intensely uncomfortable experience. And because it is tangled up with far more personal family events, there is a deeper darkness tied to it as well. In the end, on an emotional level, organized religion will always have an association with that Bible Belt childhood.

All this and yet my younger child and spouse both attend a lovely local church that does much for the community. While I appreciate that sense of connection they find there, it’s not for me.

JO’B: Did you, like me, also spend a lot of time wandering through the woods as a kid? (I kind of get that sense too.)

JCD: Yeah, absolutely. I still do. 🙂 My childhood was a different time. On the outskirts of the subdivision where we lived, just a block or two away, were woods, a stream, and corn fields. My friends and I were very much “free range.” It seemed like we were the only ones who went down there. We attempted to cross the stream on rotted-down trees, messed around with the “quick sand” along its banks, and fretted about the possibility of lockjaw from the rusty nails we came across—or at least I did.

JO’B: Your story “Raising Babies,” as well as “Faerie Medicine,” the piece you contributed to FLAPPERHOUSE, involve people undergoing plant-related metamorphoses. If you were to shape-shift into some kind of vegetative life-form, what would it be, and why?

JCD: Can I cheat a little and claim kinship with fungi? With the entire fungi kingdom? They are thrilling. Some fungi reproduce both sexually and asexually at different points in their lifecycle. Funguses can poison or heal or provide nutrition. They decompose organic matter so that the living world can continue. They are mysterious and numerous and not nearly as well understood as the other two eukaryotic kingdoms. Looking at pictures of bioluminescent fungi raises my mood every time. That green-yellow light is my type of magic. And they have chitin—yes the material used for insect exoskeletons and fish scales—in their cell walls! Continue reading “Be Open to the Miracle of Human Limitation” – A Conversation with Julie C. Day

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