10 January 2012

Walk in the Light While There Is Light

Frankenstein by Lynd Ward

A new story of mine, "Walk in the Light While There Is Light", is being serialized in two parts at Failbetter.com, with the first part now posted. Here's the first paragraph, to tempt you:
Baskerville decided to become a monster because he had chewed his way far into the Earth, and he lived now in the space he had chewed for himself, a musty cavern beneath a knoll in an unnamed wilderness in northern Maine. He had been on vacation, alone, hiking and camping, trying to forget his latest failed encounter with something resembling love, when he was seized with the desire to devour some soil. His friend Cal the Freudian would have said this desire was fueled by a need to consume and obliterate his mother—the Earth, of course, being the biggest mother of them all—but Baskerville thought this was bullshit, because Freud was bullshit, and if Cal had been there with him, Baskerville would have accused him of being a coprophiliac for all the bullshit he ate, and that would have set Cal a-thinking for so long that he might have shut up for a while.
The story was inspired by a few things -- some random passages from Frankenstein, The Hound of the Baskervilles, some stray bits of Kafka, original newspaper reports of Kaspar Hauser, and Tolstoy's essay "What is Art?" (Also, I stole the title from Tolstoy.) Some of those things I used directly, some I stuck into Microsoft Word and pureéd with the summarize feature, reducing, for instance, the entire text of The Hound of the Baskervilles to something like 250 words. The challenge then was to take all this random matter and try to weave a story between it.

What ultimately gave me the story, though, was the reissue of Frankenstein illustrated by Lynd Ward. The illustrations captivated me, and somehow sparked the story of Baskerville and his plight, and that led my brain to see links between the various bits of prose I'd been collecting.

Having it published by Failbetter is especially nice right now, because a little over ten years ago, Failbetter published my story "Getting a Date for Amelia", the first of what I generally consider my professional fiction. I didn't publish another story for a few years after that one, so with luck I'll have a little less of a gap this time, though I'm not exactly the world's most prolific fiction writer.

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