For our final entry of Beneath the Needle framed by The Needle Drops... Volume One, we chat to Melissa Bobe about Bits, surrealism, Word Magic Chat and are blessed with a deep dive into Melissa's incredible selection of fictitious works, both upcoming and already released into the wider world.
Melissa Bobe is a speculative fiction writer living in New York. After several years of teaching college writing and literature, she now works as a librarian. She is also a Municipal Liaison for the New York City region of National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and enjoys cheering on the writers of her local communities as they attempt their own creative feats.
Melissa has short fiction in Wyldblood Magazine and the steampunk fairytale anthology Clockwork, Curses, and Coal. She is currently at work on the sequel to her debut novel, Nascent Witch, as well as more short stories to thrill and chill her readers.
So, Melissa - Bits is appropriately unsettling, weaving a lingering, memorable and unusual terror into a short narrative that reflects on our social surroundings. We adore it. Would you mind sharing a little on the origin of the story, and how it formed into a final piece?
Bits was actually written for a competition that I didn’t win! The prompt for horror flash fiction was “inanimate beings,” and I can’t quite remember what made me choose the bits in the story—it’s entirely possible I walked around with a bit of tissue stuck on my own shoe! (Let’s get the embarrassing stuff out early in the interview, right?) But I’ve also been that woman coming home alone so many times; I’ve been that friend who stays on the line with the woman going home alone to make sure she makes it through her own front door. It occurs to me that not giving Charlotte such a friend might be the worst thing I did to her, in a way. Even as she’s thinking, “I just want to be left alone,” having to experience what she does all by herself with the reader as her only witness seems especially cruel.
Bits includes such vivid, decadent imagery that - to myself - evoked a Lynchian atmosphere, a subtle yet all-consuming horror where the true impact is firmly grounded in an unfortunate reality. Is surrealism something you enjoy exploring in your fiction as well as others?
First of all, thank you for that—I’m a huge Twin Peaks fan, so it’s quite the compliment! Surrealist works have undeniably had an impact on my life and art. Years ago, I actually dragged my mother clear across the country so I could see Las Dos Fridas in person at an exhibition called In Wonderland: The Surrealist Adventures of Women Artists in Mexico and the United States. I’ve immersed myself in the work of writers like Shirley Jackson, Banana Yoshimoto, Rosario Ferré, among others, and I also like to read the writing of those visual artists I admire: Frida Kahlo, certainly, but also Leonora Carrington, Dorothea Tanning, Remedios Varo. Surrealism isn’t my sole influence, or even necessarily my stron