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Interview: Steven Fischer on “A List of Forty-Nine Lies”

Tell us a bit about “A List of Forty-Nine Lies.”

This story sprouted as a single opening line which echoed around my head for a few weeks until finding its way out during a particularly slow lecture on medical statistics. The telling is perhaps a bit gimmicky as most of the “lies” are just direct negatives of true statements, but I found that the character and voice took over as soon as I started writing. In the end, I came to really enjoy the format and the thought I hope it conveyed: what elements of ourselves and our stories are important enough to be worth concealing?


Was this story personal to you in any way?  If so, how?

I’ve always been attracted to lies. Not to telling them or hearing them, necessarily, but to the idea of them. Specifically, the lies we tell ourselves, and the situations when lies are more useful than the truth.

There are a lot of moments like this in life. Moments when we have to tell ourselves, “I’m not nervous,” or, “I’m confident I can do this,” even when we know those things aren’t true. I’ve spent the past four years of medical school learning to (soon) become a doctor, and there have been so many days I’ve felt woefully inadequate for the tasks in front of me. In those moments, I often found myself repeating little lies like these and clinging to a “fake it til you make it” mentality. What’s interesting is, despite the fact that we know we’re lying, the repetition of those lies can persuade us to believe them, or at least distract us long enough to accomplish what we need to. Even more surprising, we often discover that lies like these were true all along.


What are you working on now?

Long short fiction. Yes, that’s an oxymoron. No, that’s not a mistake. I’ve been writing short fiction for the better part of two years, but so far it’s been limited mostly to flash. I love flash fiction and think it’s a fantastic medium for the new writer (i.e. me) because of how much practice you can achieve in such a short time, but I’m currently focusing on longer pieces and learning to sustain a narrative for more than just a few pages. It’s been an incredible (and frustrating) learning experience so far!


Anything else you’d like to add?

Thanks for giving me the chance to spout nonsense on your blog, and thanks to anyone who took the time to read this post or my story! It still astounds me that anyone is interested in reading my writing, and that’s been a constant inspiration for me to keep practicing and (hopefully) improving. I can’t think of a better way to start 2018 than getting to share a piece I loved writing in one of my all-time favorite magazines!

Thanks again for the read, and I hope you spend some time thinking about a man who’s not named Levi and the lies you tell yourself every day.


“A List of Forty-Nine Lies” appears in the January/February 2018 issue of F&SF.

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Learn more about Steven Fischer at his website:


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