Denis Bell is a Professor in the Department of Mathematics & Statistics at the University of North Florida. About five years ago, he started writing fiction, and since then has gone on to a solid reception from respected literary magazines including Grub Street.
For his "first feeble attempt" (his words) he decided to tackle the time travel paradox. Of this first effort he wrote "My first literary work. Not Kafka or Joyce, to be sure, but not bad, nonetheless [...] a few moths later I'm reading over [the story] for the umpteenth time, but the first time in a while, and I come to a revelation. It actually kind of sucks! "
Bell details this come-to-Jesus moment in the short story, Time Lapse, which is a part of the "flash fiction" collection A Box of Dreams recently published by Adelaide Books. Flash fiction is very short fiction--typically 1,000 words or less. The stories in this collection are unsettling and uncomfortable and brief; reading them is a nuanced, changing joy.
We caught up with Bell to chat about the book. These questions have been edited for space and clarity.
Folio Weekly: Do you find there is a connection between your profession and your writing? If so, how do you suss it?
Denis Bell: Somewhat surprisingly, I found that the skills that I acquired as a mathematical researcher have actually been very good preparation for the type of short fiction that I write. Things like economy of expression, intense focus on a central theme or idea, rapid movement from premise to conclusion...
Why write short stories?
I am an obsessive reviser, both before and even after publication. For this reason, I don't believe I could ever write a novel length work. I would never stop working on it!
There's a looseness to this collection, yet there's a kind of darkness that seems to be pervasive in many of the stories, can you touch on this?
For whatever reason, I have always been attracted to the dark … More