And, one Friday three years ago, he found the listing for the contest that would change his life. Before he entered the Minotaur contest, Hunt wrote short stories but had no luck in publishing them. He had never written a private-eye tale before. He stopped submitting stories altogether in , because he ran out of money for postage. There was no entry fee, and the prize money was enticing. He could pay off debts. He could buy his older brother a television set. The contest could mean a different way forward for him. He sketched out a story set in New York City, a place he had never visited, and he dreamed up an odd-couple dynamic between Rachel Vasquez, a street-smart teenage operative working for a middle-aged, middle-class detective named Clayton Guthrie.
He assembled the other elements of his novel from piecemeal glances of the outside world. The last time Hunt had a visitor in prison was in , when his aunt and her oldest daughter flew from their homes in San Diego to see him.
He was clean-shaven then, his face hardened by so many years inside. For much of the past year, he sported a large, bushy mustache that drew attention away from hawkish cheekbones and hooded hazel eyes, but he shaved it off for his most recent prison photo. Hunt has been incarcerated since for murder, arson, robbery and other charges.
Only friends and relatives who knew the inmate before his or her incarceration are approved for visitation. But he likes writing and receiving mail.
His subsequent letters to me often stretched to several thousand words. His correspondence often blistered with bitter, caustic humor.
Walmsley, he planned and completed that poem which gave this gentleman occasion to say, he was likely to become a fine tragedy-writer. William Gardella pointed his gun from the passenger's side. This correspondence exhibits a view of the Gentle man's Magazine in its rudiments, and may excite a curiosity in the patrons thereof, to trace back to its origin the publication of a miscellany, the fame where of has extended itself to the most remote parts of the literary world. Johnson's translation of the Examen was printed by Cave, and came abroad, but without a name, in No vember, , bearing the title of, 'An Examination of Mr. Jones August 14, This intimate portrait of the great national nightmare of slavery comes disguised in the britches and mourning dresses of an antebellum historical novel. I absolutely loved this book and would list it as one of my all time favorite novels.
He had more time to deliberate. One wrong move, one ill-considered statement could set him back another decade.
I do have a high opinion of myself; I just regard it with suspicion. That has been the fate of many a prisoner.
I pass them each day, still shuffling and muttering with their hands full of hope. Prison rules and regulations, along with mailing delays, made an already lengthy publishing process more fraught over the course of the next two years. Hunt and Kirkpatrick worked together by letter, trading edits off a single copy of the manuscript.
Despite these difficulties, Minotaur felt the book was ready for publication by the production deadline. What Hunt executes well, though, is the character of Vasquez, her sibling tensions and her existential struggles. Her Puerto Rican immigrant family wants her to go to college and leave the projects of Henry Street. Emotions boil over in a physical fight with her brother Miguel.
Doors swing open for you instead of slamming shut. Hunt identified strongly with this scene, and the confrontation between siblings about a wasted future was twice as long in the original manuscript as in the finished book. Hunt and Kirkpatrick went back and forth, both equally stubborn, but eventually he relented. He did as she asked, paring down the brother-sister conflict.
Hunt has a brother, Jason, who is 13 months older than Alaric and also in prison. As boys, Alaric, smaller and more fine-boned, found refuge in reading, writing, drawing and playing Dungeons and Dragons, while the taller, burlier Jason preferred music, playing acoustic and electric guitar.
Not long after graduating from high school, Alaric tested at an I. Jason dropped out in the 10th grade. They led troubled lives. Their mother, Bonnie, divorced their father when the boys were toddlers.
She was four months into her third marriage when in December she died in a head-on collision, and her death ended years of her physical and emotional abuse. She once beat Alaric with a baseball bat.
She inflicted worse damage on Jason. The systemic oppression that you think is bigger than you and impossible to fight — you can fight it. Disch, and more. Empires will fall; our oppressors will be punished; our suffering will be redeemed. The world we actually live in is profoundly unfair and unjust and cruel, but stories can help us escape — and imagine better ones. Our privilege and our oppression will be inverted. Our good acts and our wicked ones will be returned upon us.
The ending might not be happy, but it will be just. It gives me an insight into how the world really works, and how patriarchy harms us all. The people I met at soup kitchens had aged out of foster care; the moms I met in shelters had lost kids to the foster care system.
The boys I saw hanging out in Morningside Park in Harlem were the ones who got arrested and fed into the prison system by cops looking to fill their quotas; they were also in the super-low-budget gay porno flicks some guys I worked with would share. Life is magic.
The world is science fiction. We carry tiny rectangles in our pockets that can access the sum total of human knowledge! And have you ever seen an ocean? To me the world is so full of wonder and horror that speculative fiction is the only literature equal to the task of reflecting it. Liberation, June 14, Unbound Worlds, April Washington Independent Review of Books, April Uncanny Magazine, November Toronto Star, August Locus Magazine, July