Hello, dreamers. It’s been a while since I’ve posted a “Short Story Saturday”. I figured that in March, while spending an entire month dedicated to short fiction, talking about it only one day a week seemed odd. Short Fiction Month has ended, however, and with that, my weekly day of short stories has resumed. Here’s what’s coming right now:
Well, this has certainly taken on a life of its own. One of my long-running short fiction projects, The Spaceman follows the experiences of an alien family who discover a crashed spacecraft on their property. The pilot, who turns out to be human, is badly injured, and after helping him, they learn that he is an explorer, part of the small crew of a spacecraft in orbit.
I have a very clear idea of where this one is going, and in fact I have for some time. The Spaceman is definitely a favorite project of mine. Not only is the premise original and captivating, but overall the writing has been nearly effortless. Most of my long-standing short story projects remain unfinished for months because I have a hard time resuming work. The Spaceman has been under nearly constant work as long as it’s existed…the problem is, it just keeps getting longer.
When I began The Spaceman, I had envisioned a roughly 3500-5000 word piece, which would be on the long end of short fiction (as it were). Now, at over 6000 words, the story is already the longest work of short fiction I’ve ever created, and it’s likely only about two-thirds of the way through to the end. As such, I’ve begun reconsidering my overall strategy on this one; originally conceived of as short fiction, The Spaceman may ultimately be expanded into a novella. I don’t feel I have anywhere near enough material to expand further into a novel, but at this point anything is possible.
It’s ironic that, while I began watching Black Mirror recently, this story was conceived of before that. The Panel takes place in a dystopian future in which unchecked global warming has continued. With the ice caps melted, global temperatures rising, and carbon dioxide levels rising to the point where humans are having trouble breathing, extreme population control measures are being put in place to ensure the survival of the human race.
The story revolves around Rayne Jensen, a scrawny, somewhat sickly laborer who was recently laid off after a new series of subterranean tunnels was completed. Following the end of his employment, he is called before a “Utility Panel”: a group of government functionaries who determine the usefulness of a member of society. Should that person be deemed of “limited utility”, the are subject to mandatory euthanasia in order to conserve air, water, and food.
This will be a dark and moving piece, as Rayne grows increasingly agitated while attempting to argue his worth. I hope to raise a few questions not only about the choices we are making with regards to our climate, but also the often callous manner in which we judge members of our society.
Heading into Short Fiction Month, I had several long-standing projects I wanted to complete. Astonishing Tales was the one of the three that didn’t make it. Needless to say, it’s currently high on my priorities list.
For those newcomers unfamiliar with this project, Astonishing Tales is a…well…quasi-biographical work about a science fiction writer suffering from writer’s block. Though the current story takes place in the 1950s, the genesis of the idea came from Stuck, which was essentially a compendium of the various silly ideas that came to me while struggling with writer’s block myself.
The story follows Perry, a staff writer for the eponymous Astonishing Tales magazine, as he attempts to break through writer’s block and produce a story for the upcoming issue. Scenes in which Perry muses on the technique of writing and the value of science fiction are interspersed with Perry’s actual writing, which is of course rich with over-the-top 1950s and 1960s sci-fi clichés.
That should do it for this week, dreamers. Watch for the Writer’s Desk later today, and as always, dare to dream.