• How did the idea for “Final Exam” first come to you?
I’ve talked in other interviews about mentally drafting “Final Exam” as I drove to and from a summer class in Education methods—I’m sure this story owes something to the American education system’s obsession with standardized assessment. I began by jotting down the first question, pretty much as it appears in the published version, and as soon as I was writing about ocean spray and the vastness of the universe, I knew it was going to be a story about Lovecraftian monsters from the deep. It’s important for me to emphasize that the form of the story came first, before all the details about the monsters and the main character’s (narratee’s?) failing marriage. I didn’t sit down with an apocalypse plot and think, “What would be a clever way to write this story?” I just started writing it. A lot of the drafting process felt like free association, just throwing details on the page and referencing them at a later point in the story to build the sense of a coherent narrative.