Behind My Story: Mid-Century Modern

We have a strange relationship with winter in Minnesota. A few of us like to stand around holes driven into floating ice and set up tents in the snow. We eat weirdly bland and overly fried foods to build up our fat reserves for those weekends when feet of snow pile up against the front door.

Some of it comes from wanting to hold to old Scandinavian traditions. Some of it comes from a strange sense of pride—no other state in the Union has quite the same geography or weather as the Bold North (we’re not Midwest, not anymore!).

But as much as I like looking at those long stretches of soft, untouched, impossibly white snow, I’m a wimp once my toes and fingers begin to go numb. Most walks I take with my dog end up with us running the last leg to the house, tears on our eyelashes freezing together and cold air stinging our lungs. It’s mind-boggling for me to think people settled in a place that could naturally kill someone if they didn’t take the proper precautions; if they didn’t have the right mix of food, shelter, clothing. And yes, it still happens—people still freeze to death in our civilized state, even in 2019.

I wrote Mid-Century Modern as a way to put together my feelings on my home state: the weather, the folklore, the people & their history. Once I started thinking about a story set in the throes of an immaculately beautiful (yet sometimes horrifying) winter landscape, I thought of a film I’d seen from Finland, Valkoinen Peura (The White Reindeer).

It’s an artistically-shot, low-key horror story about a woman who is inadvertently transformed into a vampiric white reindeer when she tries to make herself more sexually appealing to her new husband. It was released in 1952, a period of time I’m interested in for its unique aesthetic and the way a seemingly idyllic culture formed from the horrors of a World War. It was from here that my name & setting came: Mid-Century Modern.

Watching the film again and reading about the history of Lapland mythology & folklore also struck a new nerve in me—the idea to write my first feminist story. It’s always been important for me to write women correctly and to use their perspectives for important purposes. I’ve never been into the notion of using feminism as a weapon to attack men (probably for obvious reasons), but to give men and anyone else who doesn’t identify as female a direct lens on the unique strengths and struggles women have. And I believe the passive medium of art seems to be the best way to get the most stubborn among us to see it, sometimes.

Setting the story in the middle of the 20th century gave me an opportunity to explore that time period’s dynamics between the sexes in a way I hadn’t before. Arnold is a man, like most of his generation, who wore his toughness on his exterior, while his wife Miriam’s was internal, putting up with long days alone inside their large, Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired home, until she could display it externally through her transformation, which is both figurative and literal.

Though it was a story that presented its own unique challenges (I had to study lots of images of furniture & homes!) it was a lot of fun to write, and I enjoy the fact it was published in Corner Bar Magazine, which themes each issue after a pagan holiday. I’m not sure why, but it seemed fitting to me. Hope you enjoy it!

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