Science Fiction Writer Returns to Give

Wednesday, December 21, 2016
Charlie Sutherland, Digital Media Intern, English Department

Since Alyssa Wong (’13) started writing, some people have asked her, “Why don’t you write something nice?” At the time of inception, Wong’s stories may be romantic comedies or light fantasies, but ultimately they make their way into the nebulous area of literature known as horror, or dark fantasy. Wong says she never makes a conscious choice to craft a horror piece – “that’s just how my brain works.” She counts the Food Network among her foremost inspirations. Drawing from pop culture and the world around her, Wong writes on topics of animal cruelty, bad dates, and women’s empowerment, and in some of her works characters eclipse these topics to ask such questions of the reader as: if you are a monster, is it best to embrace your powers, or run away from them? Above all, Wong writes stories she would have wanted to read as a kid.

Among her fantastic and fantastical characters are mermaids, time-benders, mind-readers, gods, and bloodsuckers. Her characters’ struggles, however, read more closely as human struggles, hitting closer to home than many tales of realistic fiction or even creative nonfiction. And although her stories tend to lean toward the horror genre, they actively defy everything we know about genre writing.

After giving a partial reading of “Hungry Daughters of Starving Mothers” on March 7 in the Allen Building, Wong mentioned that her original vision of the story, which a centers around a cannibalistic millennial named Jen, went a little like: “Sex in the City meets American Psycho.” In “Hungry Daughters,” as in all of her fiction, she makes curious and unimaginable departures from what one would expect in a work of horror fiction. Wong’s work demands its readers to forget the world they know and to replace it with one she has carefully rendered; she is as much an architect of immense worlds as she is a deft story writer.

Despite her early success with publishing, Wong acknowledges she is still growing as a writer. As a current MFA candidate at NC State, Wong is in the process of revamping the senior thesis she wrote under the advisory of poet and Duke English professor Joseph Donahue. She also cites Duke professor and author Christina Askounis as an important inspiration and mentor. Professor Julianne Werlin, the Bacca Foundation Assistant Professor of Rhetoric, Culture and Society, sponsored Wong’s return to campus to visit undergraduate classes with science fiction themes and give a public reading.