La Petite Mort

You may remember that I’ve done some illustration work for the online fiction magazine Fictive Dream. I love working for editor Laura Black and I also love being involved in the world of short fiction in this way. I’ve found the process of reading a story and turning it to something visual to be really satisfying in a way I can’t quite describe – there’s the challenge of “seeing” what the words say and then conveying it that I love.

Recently Laura asked me if I would illustrate an upcoming story for the magazine. Given the world situation at the time she asked me, in April, I was not focusing very well and it seemed to me that coming up with an illustration that would do justice to a story was just beyond me.

As with another story I worked on at that time, I searched my archives to see if anything might fill the bill. I have literally thousands of images of my artworks dating back twenty years and I thought I might find something there to work from.

Contrary to my usual practice, I did not want to read the story itself, feeling that doing so would cause me to restrict the possibilities and overlook something that might work. Therefore, I asked her for a general idea of what she was looking for. It worked out well – I was able to come up with a variety of images of wildly differing subjects.

I sent Laura a selection of images. It so happened that I did not have anything for the story she was thinking of, but there was one that worked for a different story, La Petite Mort, by Louis Gallo.

Here is the image she chose, a mail art postcard:

Postcard marionette figure 3-1801

But, as you may remember from previous posts I have done on illustrating for Fictive Dream, the layout of the image needs to be landscape-oriented, not portrait. Laura was thinking of simply turning the image on its side. But I felt I could give her a better set of options.

I tried some digital collaging techniques and, using my original image, created some digital collages that fit the size and orientation parameters. Here they are:


I sent the assortment to Laura and she liked the idea, choosing one to illustrate the story.

Now it’s up to you:

Go to Fictive Dream and read the story – see  which one Laura chose and how it fits the story…


Now that you’ve viewed the art, here’s more info if you are interested in seeing past works of illustration for Fictive Dream – I’ve given a few links and if you want to know more, search my blog under the topic: Fictive Dream. 

September Slam 2018

Flash Fiction February 2019

Flash Fiction February 2020

Revisits 2019

And…here are links to the events at the magazine’s site, Fictive Dream.

Flash Fiction February 2019

Flash Fiction February 2020


9 thoughts on “La Petite Mort

  1. Fictive Dream

    Today’s story La Petite Mort by Louis Gallo gave me some problems in thinking about a suitable illustration. When you sent me images for another story and I saw the mail art postcard I was delighted. It engaged with the themes of ageing and memory loss that the characters demonstrate in Gallo’s story. However, when you decided to adapt the postcard the result was absolutely perfect. In the end, I chose the image with four faces because it reminded me of a face being replicated in mirrors and which engages with the confused narrator. Anyway, Claudia, thank you very much for an image that I would never have thought of.

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      I really enjoy hearing your thoughts on this image, since, as you remember, I did not read the story (on purpose, so that I did not restrict the images I sent to you). Looking through my archives I tried to choose pictures that fit any aspect of the information you gave me about the story, in hopes that you would see a connection . I looked for a variety of images, some with only a vague tie, I thought, but I hoped that at the least they would help lay out a direction that I could look for more images. I think this worked out really well in this story and I enjoyed taking my own artwork and altering it by digital means. Not something I do often at all and I enjoyed it.

  2. memadtwo

    She picked a perfect piece of art, but the story left me strangely unsatisfied. I really like the beginning–it’s a great description of how one’s life can shrink and become incidental to the rest of the world. I think that’s especially true in these times. But the ending didn’t follow through on that for me. (K)

    1. Claudia McGill Post author

      Reading the story for the first time now, I see what you mean. Inconclusive and I don’t know if it was on purpose and if I should be drawing a conclusion from that. I agree also with you about the beginning and the painful depiction of as you say, how life can shrink. I see it in my own life because of my age, and because of today’s world. It gave me a reminder of needing to work harder to be part of this world, maybe a different part than before, but still a part.

      1. memadtwo

        That’s exactly the feeling I had. It’s very easy for me in this situation to feel like I no longer count. I suppose it won’t really disappear until I can have more physical interactions, but I do need to work against it.

        1. Claudia McGill Post author

          Funny you say this, I have realized (my husband and I were talking about this the other day) that how easily it is to become untethered without even the transient interactions of going to the store, etc. I have worried about how I will make things work with no library or cafe or the like to go to where I was used to being part of humanity though on the fringe (where I am happiest). I realize I must manufacture reasons to go out. Thank goodness for walks and our impromptu travel every trail we can find quest, plus – grocery shopping more often. That’s a start.

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