Monday, March 25, 2019

Blast from the past or so-phish-ticated imitation?

Got this interesting email today.
Dear Jonathan, 
You may not remember me but I am a former student of yours. I always loved your class and your perspectives as it was a tipping point for my work in short stories.

After college, in a strange mishap of life's direction, I decided to work at a beat hotel motel in the middle of nowhere Kansas. I took that time to write some incredible short stories on the very strange experiences I had there.  
If you have a few minutes to spare, I would be honored to have you read at least a story or two from my short collection. I am looking for feedback and would settle for a "This is excellent, continue writing" or "This is terrible, find a new hobby". 
In my time studying short stories, I found that they should mostly induce desire from the author. They should not satisfy like a novel but still find new ways to captivate a reader's attention and imagination. Maybe a moment from a story will return to a reader's thoughts and beg the question: "Was that fiction or did it really happen?" 
My goal is to point out the absurd and unacknowledged life of those who live in a strange, lost place yet maintain a sort of sad Americanism in their lives. I filled my stories with hidden references from concepts in literature, mathematics, philosophy, pop culture, and beyond. 
Thank you so much for your time. 
I don't remember the writer (considering that I have taught college-level writing for almost 30 years, I guess that's not surprising), but I'm a bit suspicious because the writer doesn't say where he took my class (and which class it was) and because I never taught any creative writing courses. (Of course, he doesn't exactly say that he took a short story writing course with me, so there's that.) I Googled the writer's name (putting it in quotation marks) and nothing came up under that exact name.

As I wrote to a friend and former colleague at one of those colleges that I taught at years ago, "Maybe [he's] a clever bit of code that spins text like "sad Americanism" via complex algorithms that I will never understand." The more I read this letter (too often already--I have work to do!), the more I think it could have been written by one of our robot overlords. (Now I'm reading it in my mind in the voice of Agent Smith.) His question, "Was that fiction or did it really happen?" is the very question that I am asking about his letter.

I haven't opened the attached pdf yet for fear it's a virus or something.

Thoughts? (If you're the writer of this mysterious email, reveal yourself!)