Emily Alford: Process

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"Devil Girl" by John Peterson

  
  art by john peterson
                       
inspired a short story
                                           
by emily alford:

 "prison girls"

 



"When the bathroom door opens and closes,

that Space Mountain feeling hits me for real,

but it doesn’t feel good now."
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            When I first saw the Devil Girl picture, the thing that struck me was how unlike the currently en vogue vampire she was. For the past five or so years, the popular vampire has been the sparkly, beautifully coiffed, good-hearted undead, bursting with love for humanity. I personally believe that is bullshit. I like my vampires just like I described in the story, “pissed off and ready to mess me up,” so I was happy to see a vampire who looked like a demon rather than an ad for Abercrombie and Fitch.

            But the picture, and also the title, got me thinking about “devil girls.” What type of girl are we afraid of? What makes us brand an adolescent female a “devil”? The first thing that came to mind was Neko Case’s song “Prison Girls,” especially the lines “Prison girls are not impressed/They’re the ones who have to clean this mess/They’ve traded more for cigarettes /Than I’ve managed to express” along with the chorus “I love your long shadows/And your gunpowder eyes.”

            I thought something about prison girls, interpreted very loosely, might be right for this project. Prison girls, or devil girls, brought up images of the girls in high school who were always in trouble, the ones about whom rumors swirled and who regarded those rumors with the same disinterest with which they regarded most things. The girls smoking in the parking lot with bored, scary still expressions. Who were those girls?

            As I thought about these things along with the song and the painting, the story came to me almost exactly as it is here. I wanted to write about troublemakers trading tough girl stories over forbidden cigarettes but not have the story be about those stories, that toughness. What was more interesting to me was the vulnerability of these lying girls. I had the idea that they might be more afraid of the world than the world was of them. As I worked, I found myself remembering a lot of the embarrassment of high school, where one faux pas in the lunchroom could set you back for an entire semester. I began to think holing myself up in a basement and chain smoking for four years actually might have caused me less damage than waking up each morning with the goal of being beloved by all. Maybe that’s what causes the intrigue and the outrage over “devil girls”; they’ve found a loophole in the system, out there smoking in the parking lot, a way to reject the entire system before it has a chance to pass judgment on them.
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