Saturday, November 29, 2014


‘Romantic Comedy’ started out as a short narrative poem and, years later, ballooned into a 5,000-word story. I included it in a poetry zine I put out—probably around 2001—called XVII Ghost Stories. Its production was flawed on several levels: I alternated folios between standard photocopier paper and mylar transparencies, a concept that proved to be not only prohibitively expensive, but also resistant to staying stapled.

In 2004, I re-designed the zine to eliminate the need for transparencies. Here are scans of the cover and ‘Romantic Comedy’ from that later edition:

In 2007, in the midst of my fiction MFA at Mills College, I decided to turn the poem into a story. At this point, it felt like an outline just waiting to be fleshed out. The biggest change I made to the piece’s overall structure was adding another character: the supervillain. He joined the hairdresser, the drunken mayor, and the second-person Eros.

Click HERE to pre-order The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales, my forthcoming fiction collection that includes the expanded version of ‘Romantic Comedy’. 

Friday, November 28, 2014

The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales at SPD!

Though its official release date isn't until December 1, you can now find The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales at Small Press Distribution! I once spent a summer helping in SPD's warehouse, where I picked orders and saw a lot of beautiful books. I'm excited to have my book (its cover image was created by the brilliant Alicia DeBrincat) keeping company with the many fantastic titles sitting on those warehouse shelves.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Review from Kirkus!

Kirkus feels mixed about The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales—but their confusion is the best kind possible: 'Runkle creates an array of worlds that will at different times surprise, confuse and entertain,' they write. And if you cherry-pick the good parts, you get, 'Highly imaginative & uncanny ... told with fresh, stunning language.'

The book drops December 1, but you can pre-order it now over at Brooklyn Arts Press. The first 50 who pre-order will get a free letterpress broadside of one of the book's 22 stories!

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


‘Pluck’ is a story that first appeared in Beecher’s 2, but you can also find it in my forthcoming fiction collection, The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales. Brooklyn Arts Press is letting you pre-order it for only $15.95—just click HERE!

The story grew out of my desire to explore the narrative behind some illustrations I made for the 2009 male sex workers art show curated by Kirk ReadFormerly Known As. I later added color to the drawings—see them below—and installed them as part of the 2012 San Francisco queer art festival, Best Revenge.

Friday, November 14, 2014


Above is a collage inspired by my short story, ‘Warmth’, which first appeared (where else?) in The Collagist. Here’s another one:

‘Warmth’ is tonally indebted to Depeche Mode's song, ‘Pipeline’, something I talk about more over at Coldfront.

The story appears in my fiction collection forthcoming from Brooklyn Arts Press. ‘Warmth’ is a Christmas-themed, fabulist, homosexual tragedy with a villain loosely based on Sarah Palin—which means it will make a great holiday gift. The collection is titled The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales, and is due out December 1. Meanwhile, pre-order it HERE!

And below are some excerpts from an interview I did with Melissa Goodrich for The Collagist’s blog:
The characters and atmosphere you have created are phenomenally vivid—the wheezing in and out of the snow lizard, the queen and her twelve-deer dress, the mime clawing at the ground for his life, Bear plunging his hands into ermine, Grinn’s heart caving in in the cold, the cider-stain of piss in the snow, the rumbling of heat just under the surface of the pipe. Where does a story like this come from? How on earth did you re-conceive so totally the story of Christmas? 
It was around Christmas 2010 that I started working on ‘Warmth’, and there are these chimes in ‘Pipeline’ that reminded me of a more sinister take on Christmas carols. It’s become something of a joke now, but ‘Carol of the Bells’, when stripped from the products it’s been used to advertise, is actually a scary, intense song. And Christmas has this richly occult underbelly—it was, after all, a pagan celebration of the darkest time of year before it was co-opted by Christianity. There is the Krampus in Bavaria, this hideous monster who is associated with Christmas, and a whole host of Scandinavian demons who come out around winter solstice. And then there’s Dickens. I like that his tale of a cynical old man being visited by three ghosts mirrors the original story of Christmas: a sinless infant who is visited by three kings. So I didn’t really re-conceive Christmas so much as tap into some of these other interpretations. 
A lot of the story’s content also comes from Depeche Mode’s lyrics. ‘Pipeline’ is in the tradition of the work song, so I knew the characters must be laboring. I misunderstood the lines, ‘Get out the crane / construction time again,’ as ‘Tell the queen / construction time again,’ so that’s where the queen came from. ‘Let the beads of sweat flow / until the ends have met’ inspired the image of the pipeline’s construction starting at either coast and meeting at the palace in the middle.
What is your favorite fable, fairy tale, myth? 
The Night of the Hunter
Near the end of the tale, our narrator breaks that fourth wall of fiction and dives into the meta, arguing ‘the moral being that love is more cogent in the cold. This moral we’ve piled on our sled with the others: the reactionary thud of mockery, the need for moderation, the stealth, selfish motives behind mandatory gifts.’ Do you believe that stories have morals, or do we dress them in lessons, and does this story have one? More than one? 
I wanted to engage frankly with the reader from the outset. I hoped that the story’s fantastic setting would bump up right next to the mundane room in which the reader sits. Thus, the asides about ramekins of butter and baseboard heaters. I wanted these familiar reminders to create a tiny shock, and build a kind of reverse lull that parallels the story’s tension between warmth and cold. 
But I also wanted to be bossy. As a reader, sometimes I like to be told what to do, as long as it’s done with a sense of humor. I don’t have to agree with everything a writer is saying, but sometimes it’s just nice to know where somebody stands. And even though I’m pretty passive in person, when I’m writing I, too, enjoy taking on an authoritative voice. I have all these deeply felt morals I’m reluctant to assert in conversation, but that come bubbling up when I’m writing. That being said, I don’t set out writing a story with the intention of conveying morals. Rather, I often see them coalesce along the way, and in this case, that authoritative voice demanded I point them out. I like writing critically about literature and I couldn’t resist the urge here to do so with my own. 
Also, the song that inspired ‘Warmth’ contains references to class war, so I knew from the beginning I’d be approaching propaganda territory. Rather than use that authoritative voice to engage with those class issues, though, I hoped to complicate the allegory a bit and point out some of the more subtle morals I came across. These morals, I hope, even though I explicitly list them, are stated a bit ambiguously, and still require some interpretation on the part of the reader. I wanted them to be more like discussion questions, like seeds.
One of your blog posts, Blue Santa, speaks closely to this story: you prefer to spend your Christmases alone, and when you don’t, you find it’s about presents. It snowballs ‘until Christmas becomes about seeing how many shiny things we can hold in our hands. And once we have too many to keep track of, we panic.’ I can’t help reading this as a side-conversation to “Warmth,” a fleshing out of what that Christmas moral might be. What do you consider the relationship between blogging and writing fiction, and is it cooperative?
It’s funny, I didn’t intend that post to be a side conversation, although it’s astute of you to point it out. ‘Blue Santa’ was written during Christmas 2011, about one year after I wrote ‘Warmth’. Maybe it was an unconscious attempt at returning to some of those questions that first emerged in ‘Warmth’, exploring them nonfictionally after a year’s worth of reflection. 
For the record, I don’t really have anything against presents. I think it’s important to let our loved ones know they’re loved, and that often takes the form of material objects, and that’s fine. I guess the panic I’m talking about is something that comes from burying ourselves beneath material attachments. It’s a panic I feel tangibly, but it doesn’t seem to consciously register with a lot of people. Maybe we’re kind of in denial about it, and maybe it’s self-perpetuating. Maybe that underlying panic is what spurs this sort of packrat mentality (I also, incidentally, was watching a lot of Hoarders this last Christmas), where we’re never quite satisfied, always wanting more. 
Is it something that comes from a primal need to stock up for winter? Is it the same urge that makes the rich hoard their wealth? This, of course, is one of the things that ‘Warmth’ explores: the idea of too much of a good thing. Although, warmth, in our world, as a commodity, is much lower on Maslow’s pyramid than much of what we give each other for Christmas. Or than what money represents once you have the luxury of stockpiling it. That’s why the monetary system is so overwhelmingly absurd to me. Money has a completely different value to someone who’s living paycheck to paycheck than it does to someone who’s mulling over which private jet to buy. In the world of this story, at least, where warmth represents a kind of a currency, it’s of more immediate use to everyone, hence less abstract than money—a paradox, as it isn’t something you can put in your wallet.

Friday, November 7, 2014


‘An onion rolls into a natural foods store …’

Thus begins ‘The Onion's Tale’, a flash fiction piece included in The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales, a book you can pre-order HERE.

‘The onion is really cute,’ the story goes, ‘I mean really cute, its face smushed together, one of its eyes squeezed shut in a wink. It even has the most darling little hands, just beginning to nub out from between its skins.’ An ongoing crowd favorite, ‘The Onion’s Tale’ was inspired by a panicky experience inside the smug and predatory lifestyle behemoth, Whole Foods. I also adapted the story to a broadside, which you can read more about here. And GUESS WHAT? The first fifty people to pre-order The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales from the Brooklyn Arts Press website will get a FREE limited-edition broadside from a story in the collection—yours could be 'The Onion's Tale'!

Monday, November 3, 2014


Told in the second person, ‘A Fable in Service of Hastening the End of All Borders’ asks the reader imagine working as a teenage grocery bagger at a dreamlike Canadian borderland supermarket. The strip mall that houses the supermarket suffers a constant onslaught of drastic transformations: the manager begins building a transparent dome that straddles the border; the subsized housing where the protagonist grew up is demolished; a studly co-worker opens a male brothel; the frozen yogurt shop revamps itself as a smoothie bar; a barbecue champion and an entrepreneur toting a portable rock wall both set up shop in the parking lot. All the while, the bagger struggles with bulimia and grows increasingly obsessed with miniatures.

A finalist for the Calvino Prize, ‘A Fable in Service of Hastening the End of All Borders’ is featured in my forthcoming fiction collection, The Story of How All Animals Are Equal & Other Tales. Click HERE to pre-order it for only $15.95!