“In all things of nature, there is something of the marvelous” Aristotle, according to the little paper attached to my tea bag.
Two things conspired on me this morning: one was submitting a flash fiction to Flash Fiction Online (the staff is interesting, the work is solid, but dear g-d that has to be the dullest title of any magazine I’ve seen yet. perhaps created during the early digital optimization days when it was oh-so-important to have a title that would come up in google. or not. maybe the editors were simply tired by the need to have clever titles.) I don’t know if this was in the hard sells section or just general advice, but the editor explicitly states that she’s tired of misery. She makes the argument, which has been on my mind of late, that given the generally agreed upon depressing state of affairs, doesn’t it behoove us to write something upbeat. She even refers to the Depression/postwar penchant for optimistic media, a point which I just used in an fight with my brother.
Except, of course, I was arguing that folks like him [which is to say, doing really well] are obsessed with dystopia worlds, because that’s their form of escapism. Free me from this plenty!
It’s a shame, then, that I sent a dystopian flash fiction piece. On the bright side, when I receive my inevitable rejection, I’ll be able to to assuage my grief with the notion that at least they were pretty clear that this was not what they wanted to see. [and on a curious other note, hard sells included mother/child stories. Since I just decided that the overarching theme I want to pursue is not feminism or gender issues, but pointedly maternal issues, this came as a kind of side blow. Really? Really!? There’s LOTS of mother/child stories? Am I that much under a rock? I mean, I am. I know I am. But. Damn. Still disappointing.]
But what I actually wanted to think about in this post is: how to write interesting, but not dark fiction?
I read this part of their website just before listening to a segment on wnyc on Dutch author Rutger Bregman’s new book about utopia via open borders and universal basic income. There’s an author whose name I don’t recall, interviewed in Clarkesworld (maybe. it was years ago) and he said that he has set several stories in utopias and guess what? There was still plenty to say, still plenty of action.
I’m not terribly drawn to the idea of dreaming up utopia or for that matter, dystopias: if the story (or the character or the conceit) needs a utopia or dystopia, then that’s what the world will be. Actually, now that it’s in my head, why not create *my* take on utopia? (From my current set of half writtens, Flippers or the IT Manager might actually be more compelling if set in a utopia) For now, I’ll leave that challenge alone for the more interesting one: writing something … what’s the right word? Upbeat? Cheerful? Wholesome? All those words make me cringe.
But what doesn’t make me cringe is an awesome story where there’s real love, courage, moments where you go, Yeah! Go, go, go!
If I’m honest, I, too, am exhausted by dark worlds where no one can be trusted and nothing is what it seems.
But. Let’s be honest. Disney and disneyfication* exhausts my patience as well.
The answer is good art, but that’s tricky. For all the commentary on the different elements of Stranger Things, from the use of pastiche to the music and everything else, it was just good. Good as in it made you feel good. There was also a surprising triumph of good&love&courage in the show. Bwah. But it’s just not that easy.
How do you do it?
And the final thought for today: The Mother & Other Stories. That’s going to be the name of the collection of speculative fiction short stories I am working on. It’s going to begin with the short story “The Mother” and end with the novella “The Fire God and Nothing.” Maybe done by 2020 at my snail’s pace? Maybe self published on Amazon because I’ll finally have reconciled myself to just loving my work without the need for recognition?
*disneyfication actually refers to the colonization by Disney of real spaces, not fictional ones. But you get the idea.