Friday, August 22, 2014

Accessing the Future: A Skinseller's Contribution

The folks at The Future Fire are crowdfunding an anthology of science fiction focusing on issues that come with disability, and they have asked science fiction writers and readers to participate in a blog hop. Here is my contribution:

1. Tell us about your Work In Progress (WIP) / Current Read (CR) and the world it's set in.

My Current Read is not fiction, but On SF, a collection of Tom Disch’s critical writing. One could, as a speculative exercise, read it in such a way as to answer these questions, with Tom as the protagonist set against a disappointing literary landscape in which he must wage a losing battle with his own mental demons. I never knew him personally, though, so I’m not comfortable doing that.

And I don’t have a Work In Progress: As a short fiction writer, most of my stories are written in sporadic short bursts, and then edited just as sporadically. In less than three years, I have written more than 20 stories, of which four have been published and three more purchased, awaiting publication. The rest are out in submission, and who knows if or when they will be published. I have some ideas for new stories, but none have crystallized enough to be called a Work In Progress.

So instead, I will tell you about my Next Story to Be Published (NS2BP). The story is “Thirty-Eight Observations on the Nature of the Self,” and it appears in Phantasm Japan, which is coming out from Haikasoru next month. The world it is set in is basically this one. The only difference, other than the fact that it has a town called “North Glamis, Maine” that does not appear on the State Gazetteer in this world, is that in the story-world, it is possible for a person’s true self--what is called the honne in Japanese--to take on a separate existence from that person’s constructed social front--known in Japanese as the tatemae. As you may imagine, such a bifurcation proves catastrophic for the person to whom it happens.

2. Who are the most powerful people in this world?

The most powerful people in this world are much like those in world in which we live: white, male, straight owners of capital. Yet those people do not appear within the frame of the story. In a small town, power is expressed and mediated through rumor and ostracism, reinforcing tendencies toward social, sexual and behavioral conformity.

3. Where does their power come from?

Power is not a substance that can come or go anywhere, at least not in the world of this story, insofar as it resembles the world in which we live. It is a relationship between human beings that inscribes itself in their bodies as a differentiated ensemble of situationally determined dispositions. To have power is, in part, to know how to behave as if one has power.

Where the world of my story differs from the world in which we conventionally live is that the honne, the true self, is allowed the temporary illusion of being able to exercise its power undetected, in pursuit of desire.

4. What physical and/or mental characteristics underpin their positions of power?

Within the frame of the story, those who are in a position to enforce social norms do so not on their own behalf, but as agents of powers that extend beyond the frame of the story, abstract universalities such as the State, the Family, the University. The mental characteristic that allows them to perform this function is the belief that they are whole unto themselves, responsible for their own actions and therefore capable of holding others responsible for theirs. The protagonist of the story has lost both this belief and the basis for this belief, which weakens him in comparison to the social expectations others hold of a person in his position.

5. How does this affect the weakest people in the world?

Though the protagonist is weak--and in writing I enjoy violating the expectations of a strong protagonist, so this is not the only story of mine with a weak protagonist--he is not the weakest of people in the world of the story. The weakest are the children, as ever, and they suffer, as ever.

I nominate the following three people to continue the blog hop:

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