Peggy's story is about a group of young perverts who work at the circus. Their world is informed by lifelong genderfuck and the profound physical disabilities of a couple of the main characters:
"This is not one of those postmodern Canadian sideshows," [Daddy Billy] warned, "with adorable, tumbling twins. The inbreeding here makes them ugly and mean. So stay close to Daddy and stay away from the octopus man."
SB: Have you ever won an award for any of your talents?
PM: I almost won the Lambda Literary Awards in Lesbian Debut Fiction — but was disqualified in the finals because my work was "too straight."
I also won the spelling bee in elementary school, ultimately choking on the word "gangrene" at regionals.
SB: Tell me how you would cast the film version of your story… just for fun!
PM: Lead Girl: Chloe Sevigny
Daddy Billy – I would do a cattle call for a gruff no-name butch stud
Octopus Man – William H. Macy
Octopus Man's Girlfriend – Kathy Bates, wearing something spandex-y from Target
Octopus Boi – Rufus Wainwright playing a disabled tranny boi
Random Carnies – Other Wainwrights
SB: Your story has apparently became a big deal on a locked bulletin board for amputee fetishists… have you been able to find out what they're saying?
PM: As far as I could tell, amputee fetishists were doing untoward things with prosthetics while rolling around on a giant Braille scroll of my story — or something like that. (Sadly, I never got in either!)
SB: Did you like carnivals as a child?
PM: My own experience with carnivals looked a lot like David Foster Wallace's essay on the Illinois State Fair.
Those Illinois fairs (the McLean County fair, the Kroger parking lot fair, the annual Corn Festival) spelled out my budding awareness: the 4-H tent with its neat stitches and carefully hemmed adolescent desires swirling around absurdly delicious cakes. The swine tent with its unapologetic grit and dropped corn dogs covered in carny cigarette butts.
My erotic sensibility is something akin to picking up the dropped corn dog, taunting the swine, eating as much cake as possible, and letting out those perfect seams.
What's hot at those fairs is the hemmed chaos about to break. The carnies lose their patience and do sadistic things with the ride gears. The cut-off jeans get snagged on teenage lust.
SB: Do you hear from people saying, "You're making our oppressed minority look bad, can't you be more sensitive?"
PM: Disabled folks never get enough recognition to even arrive on the p.c. radar.
I took a course at Oberlin called "Theorizing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality in Contemporary Capitalism," where we sat around talking about the intersections of our oppression- but disability just did not exist.
Disability has always been in a fringe space, because it is about the aspects of the body that freak people out. Disabled people usually don't get worked up about radical sex because they're used to their bodies being put under a microscope- poked and prodded and subjected to telethon-esque social freak shows.
Even conservative disabled bodies are, on some level, living a queer sexuality.
When someone comes along and writes about disabled bodies seizing pleasure, disabled folks are generally psyched about the visibility and the notion (not often shared by social institutions) that sexual pleasure is their birthright.
In contrast, even the most open-minded sex radicals can flinch at the idea that some people find prosthetic legs as hot as prosthetic cocks. Or that insane levels of transcendence can bloom out of physical restrictions. Injured young veterans are damned well going to fuck their girlfriends when they get out of the rehab hospital.
I was just re-reading a 1999 essay by Patrick Califia in which he talks about how, when he became a sex writer with an acquired disability, people were "so overwhelmed by cognitive dissonance because of my disability that they've literally tried to take the cane away from me."
SB: Do you think limited mobility and kink have any special understanding together?
PM: Yes! My illness is characterized by immobility- and it's hot for me to hear a partner snarl, "hold still" or, "don't you dare move." -Or to simply move my limbs around like a ragdoll. I've studied all of the textures of stillness.
There is a discipline that can come out of sex with a disability, a honed Zen-like awareness.
Imagine you have pain all over your body. What does it mean for a lover to run a finger along the one place you feel pleasure? Imagine the increased valuation of that pleasure in contrast to your daily life. Disability often forces reinvention, which can just make even the most placid activity kinky.
SB: What comes to mind when you consider your ancestors?
PM: My aunt did some genealogy and discovered abolitionists as well as Amish in my family tree. That might explain why I think this Amish tradition called "bundling" is really hot (it involves lying with someone under a quilt and seeing how long you can resist temptation).
My recent ancestors on Mom's side were Germanic farm stock, John Deere to the marrow. I grew up the youngest grandchild of huge farm families who had amazing stories. My Dad was part of the local media ( the morning radio drive time shift) before everything went corporate. My aunt worked as a criminal pathologist at the L.A. County Coroner's Office, which handles most of the famous Hollywood autopsies. This always brought a freak element to holiday dinners, when it wasn't unusual to hear about an autoerotic asphyxiation case while Grandma was dishing out mashed rutabagas.