Saturday, June 13, 2015

Quick Thoughts - Rubbing is Writing

Okay so that title turned out to be a bit more suggestive than I had imagined. Ahem. If you hadn't guessed, though, it's time for me to talk about my new story that is out, "Rubbing is Racing." Go check it out right now at Lightspeed Magazine! I still can't really believe that it got into the issue. That I am in such an amazing collection. But I will do my best to write about the story a bit, in case anyone is interested.

Sometimes a story surprises you. Sometimes a story just flows out in one go like uncorking a bottle and it's all you can do to slow down the thoughts enough that your hands can keep up. Sometimes you look up after a very productive few hours to find a story staring at you in the face. "Spring Thaw" was a bit like that, a story that was drafted in a day and that didn't require too much major revision. "Rubbing is Racing" was definitely not one of those stories. For all that, as I reread it now, it seems like it should have been easy, that it should have been as quick to write as it is to read, it was a bit of a chore, to be honest.

It started life as that first image, the lights of a racetrack which I always thought was a neat way of racing, blinking the red, then the single yellow, then green. I had thought that this was going to be something fun and fast and I started writing it and…well, it just wasn't working. I got about 2500 words into it, in which the pilot had to deal with a lot more, where there were one-on-one duels between people and one of the pilot's ex-lovers (a different pilot) was there as a secondary character. It was a mess. I didn't even get them to shore. It was bloated and I just sort of stared at it for a while wondering what to do about it.

A few days later I came back to it and tried to push on. I was writing toward an ending where the pilot would get shot down and be stuck at one of the checkpoints and meet one of the natives and that was going to be the story. Only the story did not want to work that way. It felt…well, it felt bad. So I scrapped it. Or most of it. The first five hundred words or so I still liked, so I kept it. I began again, but still the damned story was not cooperating. I just couldn't figure out how to maintain that speed at the beginning. I wanted to do too much after the shore. I wanted the checkpoints to lead all over, wanted a race to the ship that would house all the smaller ships in their escape. I wanted too much. So after having written another thousand words or so, I scrapped that, too.

The thing is, there was still something about this story that I liked. The tone, or the character, or the situation. Most of the time when a story gives me this much trouble I just forget it and move on. But I decided to cut out everything but the core. Keep the pilot, keep the premise. Shift things around a bit and cut out everything after the city. And that's when the character starting making sense, not as just someone addicted to adrenaline but as someone who was saved from their planet in this fashion. As someone who races in part to save others in the same manner. And to relive the fatality of the event, the drive, to make up for having lived. That's when the story made sense to me, and how I finished it.

Of course, I hadn't been planning on submitting it to Queers Destroy Science Fiction. It still wasn't what I consider Flash (being over a thousand words) and I was already submitting to QDSF like crazy. But all my other Flash stories (and regular stories) got rejected and this was the only other science fiction Flash that I had. So I submitted it. And here it is. Probably the least painful editing process I've ever had, too, which was nice. Of course, rereading it makes me feel almost like someone else wrote it. Which is a little odd. But I am just so honored to be included in this issue. It is amazing and I will be doing a special two-part review of it soon (the first part is already up!), so look forward to that. Look forward to it! And thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

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