Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Things You Can Create: Anthology Blog Hop

The eBook speculative fiction anthology Things You Can Create is now available for purchase on Smashwords.

Readers of this blog can also get a coupon to purchase the anthology for 1/3 off. Go to and use coupon code LL29S (not case sensitive) during checkout.

The following is my contribution to the "blog hop" by authors whose stories appear in the anthology:

1. What is the title of your story?


2. Describe your story in 1 sentence.

There is a twist, but not in the ending.

3. Where did you get the idea for this story?

This is the first short story that I have written in my adult life that did not make me want to curl up and die of embarrassment. Prior to its writing, my wife and I had been driving around a suburban neighborhood, near a place where I was considering taking a job. The drive was making it clear that neither of us would be happy living there, and as we often do when we are uncomfortable, we were cheering each other up with jokes. Some of my jokes were mathematical in nature. And I was engaged in some well-timed reading of Raymond Carver. I told my wife that this could be a story, and she challenged me to write it. The idea took shape in the midst of its writing.

4. If your story were optioned for film, what actors would play the main characters and why?

Bear in mind, as you read my response, that the last time I went to see a film in a theater was more than six years ago. Also, if this story were optioned as a film, it would have to be some 15-minute student thesis project, or one of those short films that fill programming gaps at festivals. The actor portraying Anton would need to come across as intelligent, but a bit manic, and be able to do accents convincingly. To convey that Lila is a school librarian soon to become a stay-at-home mother, she would need to diverge somewhat from Hollywood conventions of beauty, since film as a genre traffics in visual stereotypes--but still be beautiful, so that audience members could visually perceive that Anton is lucky to be with her. She would have to be talented enough to convey rapid emotional changes and silent trains of thought with hardly any words. I think Adrien Brody and Anne Hathaway could pull it off, but I can't imagine either of them signing up for a student thesis film.

5. Who are your favorite writers? Why?

Were I to answer this question as it has been asked, I would have to say "It depends on my mood," my stock response to all questions about my favorite anything. So instead I will answer this question as if I had been asked, "If you were stranded on a desert island with the collected works of three writers, which would you want them to be?" My answer to that would be: Samuel Beckett, Franz Kafka and Jorge Luis Borges. As to why, it would be because I could read their works, again and again, always finding new things to contemplate, without triggering nostalgia for the world I have lost. In the case of Beckett, it would either put in me in the right frame of mind to curtail the solitary ordeal by drowning myself in the sea, or worse yet, to indefinitely delay that drowning and thereby to gain the strength to endure.

6. What else about this story will enthrall readers?

I would be rather disappointed if any readers were enthralled by my story. I don't set out to enthrall, that is, to enslave, to bind a reader to the yoke of a narrative and set them to work rowing the galleon along for me. I prefer it if readers resist the story point by point, only to find themselves at the end of it wondering, "What the heck was that?", and thinking about it. No, I don't think this story does that even one-hundredth as well as the works of the writers I referred to above. What I aim to do is not to transport the reader into another world, but to transfigure how the reader sees the world he or she is in, and thereby to understand it better.

Incidentally, that is how Samuel Delaney described the function of science fiction in his essays collected in Starboard Wine, but before I read those essays, I naively thought that was what one ought to expect of all fiction. I still think that, less naively now.

7. What are you working on, now?

Holding down a full-time job as a grant writer and research administrator, while trying to be a decent father to my daughter and husband to my wife.

In terms of writing, I usually have several things going at once: In the 15 months since I first wrote One-Sided, I have written 15 stories that I consider to be complete. Two of those have been published: This one, and Moose Season in The Big Click. Most of the rest are currently submitted and pending consideration with various publications. Some are in the realm of speculative fiction, others crime fiction, and some appear to adhere to the conventions of literary realism. Others are just bizarre. My aim for this year is to get enough of these stories published that I can make a credible pitch to agents or publishers for a collection.

There are several more stories I am working on that are either incomplete or in need of significant editing. I take those up as the mood takes me.

I also have two ideas for novels, but both are in very preliminary stages. One is to try and take inspiration from the epic dysfunctionality of the Tomaras family, and tell a story that is neither tell-all nor lightly "fictionalized" memoir. I'm not sure where I'm going with that yet, only that the moirai will figure heavily in it. For the other idea--a kind of Cloud Atlas-y thing involving Benedict Spinoza--I at least have a working title (From the Point of View of Eternity), but I won't be able to do any serious writing on it until I have time and money for a trip to the Netherlands. I need to be able to smell the canals.

When I'm not making progress with fiction, I have been sporadically working at translations of pieces by the early 20th century Yiddish poet Yosl Grinshpan.

For previous entries in the Things You Can Create blog hop, please visit:

For today's other entry, please visit Michelle Markey Butler's blog.

If you've bought the anthology and read One-Sided, please feel free to leave your comments about it--positive or negative, but please keep it constructive--here.

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