Benjamin van Loon

The latest in our series of interviews with former Structo authors features Benjamin van Loon, the editor-in-chief at the newly reimagined literary organisation Anobium.

What are you currently working on?

I’ve got a buncha stuff in the works. Biggest thing on my plate right now is finishing up my masters degree from Northeastern Illinois University. I wrote a big thesis project on cult film culture and that’s where most of my attentions have been directed over the past year or so. But I also recently wrote a short creative nonfiction piece recounting a failed social experiment I was involved in a decade ago, and I’m currently shopping that one around to various publishers. And when I’m not working on anything else, I have an experimental novel continuing to broil. And as always, I’m planning what’s next for Anobium.

Your issue eight short story ‘Mt Prospect’ is set in Chicago, which is also your hometown, correct? Has this area been fertile writing ground for you?

I grew up in the Chicago and then the Milwaukee suburbs, and I’ve been living in Chicago proper for almost ten years now. I’ve been a life-long Midwesterner (though I’m not sure if I’m proud about it), so in a way, I’ve had no choice but to be influenced by the region. It’s part of who I am, so it seeps into my writing. There’s a stoic worldview that defines the American Midwest, and especially Chicago. We’re trapped inside five months out of the year, and the only way to pierce through that choking cloth is with a healthy dose of bleak humor. It works.

‘Mt Prospect’ might be categorized as flash fiction. Have you found readers open to this short form, or has it been difficult to place?

I think flash fiction is suited to our shortening attention spans. There can be no digital-age Dostoyevskys, so creative writing needs to adapt. Flash fiction is a good answer to this, and I enjoy writing it, but the irony is, as a reader, I don’t have much patience for it. I like extended wordplay, depth of character, originality of narrative, but this is the stuff of novels, and who has time for that when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. is on Netflix?

What are you currently reading?

As a writer, I’m not supposed to say this, but at the moment, I’m reading nothing. My intellectual appetite suffered from surfeit in grad school and my shelves are lined with books and journals on film, media studies, philosophies of technology, and communication theory. A non-stop diet of that is a recipe for reader burnout. But I do have some stuff in my queue, including work by Loren Eiseley, who has become increasingly meaningful to me. I also recently finished Food of the Gods by Terrence McKenna, because I’m a good Millennial.

What’s one thing our readers may not have learned about you from issue eight?

For the first time in many years, I feel hopeful.

Benjamin van Loon’s short story, ‘Mt Prospect’, was originally published in issue eight and can be found here. Find out more about Benjamin and his other writing here. This summer, be sure to tune into Anobium for a plethora of new projects.