© 2023
Virginia's Public Radio
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Around the World in 12 Short Stories

“When You Find Us, We Will Be Gone,” is the title of a new collection of short stories by Christopher Linforth.   The title is also an example of the kind of paradox Linforth likes to explore in his writing. 

The twelve stories in this slim volume take the reader all over the world, from the American Midwest of the 1950s, and Germany in the 40s, to modern day Japan and Eastern Europe.

Christopher Linforth’s short stories are set in so many different locales, that you’d think he must have racked up some serious frequent flier miles while he worked on them.  But you’d be wrong.

“I haven’t been to most of those places, especially Nazi Germany, but I have been to Croatia so that’s the only one I had some actual tangible experience with.”

Instead Linforth, who grew up in the UK travels virtually through research, online forums about his chosen topic, and he checks  in with friends and colleagues to confirm the factual aspects of his fiction.

“If it passed the friend test or the peer test or an expert in that field  that was always very helpful. One of my professors said my tone had some kind of authority that you just believe whatever I said. So it all could be made up.”

That’s the kind of paradox Linforth likes to play with as the title of collection implies; “When You Find Us, We Will Be Gone.”  

“I wanted to think about the title it is a strange title, its addressing the audience, when you find us well be gone, the plural we. I guess it’s a causality by you showing up we’ll be gone because of that.”

Linforth is fascinated by the idea that the outcome of an event depends to a great extent on the perspective of the observer, by quantum physics and the famous Paradox known as Scjrodinger’s Cat, where the fate of a theoretical cat inside a cage, remains an open question until an observer looks inside the cage. The fact does not exist, until it is perceived.  In Linforth’s version of the paradox, the cat is replaced by cows.  The title of this story in his collection is, The Cows of Fukishima.

“I was watching the news and the reporter said one of the consequences of  the disaster was that was that there were these cattle  running around the city. I mean that’s all I watched.”

From there Linforth crafts a tale that takes American ranchers from Montana and Wyoming and puts them on a flight to Japan. in the days following the earthquake and tsunami that led to a nuclear meltdown in that coastal town.   

“Because in these disaster situations the US does help with this aid and in one sense this is a bit preposterous or it goes beyond what is required and I think it has colonial overtones. And today we’re all economic friends but there’s been tension between the two nations and disaster has really flattened part of the country and showed that we’re all helpless in certain situations. And how the economic superiority and the technology of the country can be just wiped away by these natural disasters as they’re called. So I thought it was fascinating to write about the futility of the things that humans do.”

Writer Christopher Linforthhas accepted a position teaching English at Boise State University in Idaho.  Before that he taught in Virginia and got his Master of Fine Arts Degree at Virginia Tech.

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.