The Propagator – Simone Kern

There’s a packet of powder taped to my inner thigh, and it feels like the plastic is burning a hole through my leg. Two police officers wave me towards the chem-detecting archway—one last hurdle before I can board the ferry. Sweat pools in the pits of my cooling suit, and my breath comes fast and hot through my respirator. I tell myself they’re just city cops, not agents of VerdiCorp. They’re just looking for drugs …

A question for Simone Kern

Q: What’s the story no one else thinks is as good as you do?

A: Twin Study by Stacey Richter is a whole book of short stories that was critically well-received but never became the best-seller it deserved to be. This is the kind of book you shouldn’t read on an airplane, because you’ll creep out everyone around you by alternately gasping and crying and laughing out loud. I’m still haunted by sentences from this book that are so good, they’ll give me imposter syndrome forever.

In college, my fiction professor, Dan Chaon, was a big fan of Richter’s, and that’s how I came across Twin Studies. At the time, Richter maintained a Q&A on her website, and my roommate and I, both aspiring 19-year-old writers obsessed with Twin Study, would frequently come home late at night and send her drunken questions about writing or dating, which she always answered with pithy brilliance. A decade later, I was teaching English IV to a class suffering from a particularly bad case of senioritis and, after failing to interest them in Hemingway and Hamlet, assigned some stories out of Twin Study. Kids who hadn’t done the reading all year were busting with opinions on “The Cavemen in the Hedges”, and probably the single most important class discussion of my teaching career came from talking about date rape after reading the story “Blackout”. Every story in Twin Study is a treasure, and Richter should rank alongside Kelly Link, Karen Russell, and A. M. Homes as one of the best living short story writers. Go read it and thank me later!


Simone Kern’s story “The Propagator
in Metaphorosis Friday, 23 August 2019.
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About Simone Kern

Simone Kern grew up in a small town in Illinois, where they were definitely the only Jewish-atheist-socialist-genderqueer kid in school. After studying creative writing at Oberlin College, they moved to Houston where they taught English in public schools for ten years. After the birth of their kid, Simone quit teaching to write and be a stay-at-home parent. They love-hate Houston, because their house floods, and it’s too hot, and nearby chemical refineries keep exploding, but the people are just too good to leave. Thus, Simone has embraced life as a bayou creature and is busy learning the names of all the Texas wildflowers.

www.simonekernwrites.com, @simone__kern


Simone Kern’s story “The Propagator
in Metaphorosis Friday, 23 August 2019.
Subscribe now for e-mail updates!