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An Interview with Cedar Ecker


Cedar Ecker is an NYC based writer, narrative designer, and collaborative storyteller. They have written for the animated series Secrets of Grandelva and Figments, and their short fiction is featured in the Promethean and Progenitor literary magazines. Across genres their work aims to evoke themes of human connection, wonder, and what it means to be acceptable to society.

What inspired you to start writing this book?

The human body is mostly made up of just six things. Oxygen, hydrogen, nitrogen, carbon, calcium, and phosphorus. In a latticework of six elements rests the entirety of our existence. The soft tissue of our brains cradles all of human history, our perception of reality, every memory of the face of a loved one and every little bolt of lighting that makes up love. We are our bodies, one and the same.

The sensation of this delicate machine breaking down is distinct. Women and people assigned female at birth become familiar, as we live our lives, with the ways it can be, and often is, turned against us. Concepts of health, of beauty, of purity and cleanliness haunt the way we interact with our physical forms. Even when it is the vessel that makes all human life and thought possible, we look away from these things to avoid confronting how much it hurts us, how much we hurt it.

My book, girlmeat, is heavily inspired by Gothic literature, especially the traditions of the queer and feminist gothic.

On a more personal level, I was inspired to write a collection of stories on this topic due to my personal experiences with bodily autonomy and dehumanization. As a queer, non-binary individual who has dealt a great deal with both disability and chronic illness in myself and in my family, navigating bodily autonomy is something that occupies much of my thoughts. Each of the stories in the collection deals with a specific aspect of the body or of bodily autonomy that I wanted to grapple with.

Tell us the story of your book’s current title. Was it easy to find, or did it take forever?

Originally, the title girlmeat was just a placeholder for the work. When I told my sister the concept for what I was writing she said, “Sure, I get it…it’s about girl meat.” After that, I couldn’t think of the collection as anything else.

Describe your dream book cover.

Something similar to Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties or Rory Power’s Wilder Girls, which emphasizes the female form as something uncanny that can be taken apart. I often thought of butchery while writing it.

If your book had a soundtrack, what are some songs that would be on it?

“Body” (Mother Mother), “Body Terror Song” (AJJ), “Crazy Fuckin’ Robot Body” (Snowblood), “A Mask of My Own Face” (Lemon Demon), “Poor Atlas” (Dessa), “Grim Reaper” (Suzi Wu), “Made 4 You” (The Orion Experience), “Misery Meat” (Sodikken), “Teeth” (Lady Gaga).

What books are you reading (for research or comfort) as you continue the writing process?

Shirley Jackson, Carmen Maria Machado, Angela Carter, and Rosario Ferré are a few Gothic writers who I drew inspiration from, as well as psychologists and philosophers such as Sigmund Frued, Jacques Lacan, Judith Butler, Julia Kristeva, and scholars of the queerness and literature such as Jolene Zigarovich, Roberta Rubenstein, Kaye Mitchell, Jeana Jorgensen, Chankaya Simpson, and Barbara Jane Brickman.

What other professions have you worked in? What’s something about you that your readers wouldn’t know?

I recently graduated from CUNY City College of New York, so I’m actually on the hunt for my ‘real career’ type job now. I worked throughout college in customer service;I’ve been a secretary at a tax office, an intern at a publishing house, and the person on the other end of a customer service chat who customers usually think is a robot.

Something I think readers of my prose work might not know is that I started out as a scriptwriter, not a prose writer. I still tend to think of stories visually first, and then work through what words would best get that image across.

Who/what made you want to write? Was there a particular person, or particular writers/works/art forms that influenced you?

I was a voracious reader growing up. As soon as my dad started reading me bedtime stories I was hooked on the idea of writing my own. I started writing stories in the backs of my school notebooks, and as I got older I began writing scripts for my artist friends to turn into comics. After that, I never stopped. I love all forms of storytelling: books, poems, games, film, television, theatre. Some of my major inspirations are Shirley Jackson, Gene Rodenberry, Terry Pratchett, Hayao Miyazaki, and Tamsyn Muir.

In her introduction to the indomitable science-fiction classic The Left Hand of Darkness, Ursula Le Guin writes: “Fiction writers, at least in their braver moments, do desire the truth: to know it, speak it, serve it. But they go about it in a peculiar and devious way… The novelist says in words what cannot be said in words.” For me, this is what writing is all about. I’ve always found it difficult to express the world of emotions and thoughts that exist inside of me, and fiction is a way to bring those into the light in a way I can share with others.

Where is your favorite place to write?

I love to write at cafés, with my music playing and a hot mocha to drink.

Do you have any writing rituals?

I always listen to music when I write. I have a playlist for every piece I work on. I also love to have a hot drink to sip while I write.

What is one thing you hope readers take away from reading your book? How do you envision your perfect reader?

These stories fit directly into a current literary revitalization of the Gothic and of horror as a feminist and queer space, where the realities of experiences of womanhood and queerness can be explored exactly as they are: bloody, ugly, and hard to swallow. When I set out to write this collection I wanted to create works of fiction that used fantasy to show the visceral realities of the body in a way that simply describing them could not. Mainstream media and criticism is, I think, often afraid to confront the body;afraid of all the messy fluids, of sensuality, and of confronting the ways in which society allows women, people of colour, fat people, the disabled, and queer people to sicken and die in preventable ways. I think we need to look the body in the face, maybe give it a kiss if we feel like it, and learn to better care for it.

My perfect reader is anyone who has experienced that feeling of being made into a monster by the world, but who has known deep down that they deserve care and love. It is also anyone who has experienced loss of control over their body and the fear that comes with it. I want to tell the stories of those people;dark, messy, angry, and tender.

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