Saturday, May 14, 2016

Quick Thoughts - "A Million Future Days"

My latest publication, "A Million Future Days," is available now in the Governments issue of Lackington's (issue 10). It will be available for free later on (in a few months) but right now you can check it out along with the rest of the issue in various ebook formats.

I am super happy and super scared about this. First, I love Lackington's, and this is the first of my stories to appear with original art (one of the reasons I love Lackington's is the art) and it is amazing! There's a youtube video where the artist works on the piece and it's all so good! Thanks to Stacy Nguyen for the amazing work! I love how it captures that last moment and all the possibility of it and also the threat of it, the danger, the destruction.

Second, this is one of the first (maybe the first) story that takes place in Eau Claire, where I live and have lived since 2004. Probably not what the city would prefer I write about but...well...whatever. The story revolves a bit around the idea of charity and the social safety net and choice. [SPOILERS FOR THE STORY] The main character is homeless and living at a charity, which is based on the Hope Gospel Mission in town, which I understand from speaking to people who have tried to get assistance there requires a two year "commitment" and requires people receiving aid to attend religious services and...well, that's where some the story came out of. The other is from arguments I've heard from people wishing to abolish the federal and state social safety net and replace it with charity programs. Which...there is no end to how terrible an idea that is.

When I say that the story is about choice, it's perhaps a bit more about the illusion of choice for people who find themselves in bad situations. The main character is plagued by future selves who try and give advice, but increasingly he finds that regardless of what they tell him to do he can't really get out. There is too much pressuring him, too much guiding him down a very limited avenue. Choice requires money, basically, and he doesn't have any and can't exactly get access to it. And yet even so he has more options than many of the other characters he interacts with. And in many ways it's about not wanting to take a chance, not wanting to lose what little he has. He keeps hope maybe that there's a way out but ultimately refuses to take action against the system in the hope that, maybe, he will end up on the benefiting side of it. [END OF SPOILERS]

This story also kicked off a string of short short stories, something that I'm still kind of trying to pull myself out of. It's under 3000 words, which puts it on the light side, and I will admit to really having issues with the ending. Or maybe not the ending itself, but what directly preceded it, which used to be much longer and tried to explain exactly what was happening. I probably have too much an urge to moralize my endings and there was probably a bit more of a call to action or something in the first draft. I'm very glad it's no longer there. Part of why I still like this story is that I feel that it's open enough at the ending to give people different readings. And I like that.

This story also includes a small amount of sex. So be warned. It's not overly erotic, in part because the relationship there is rather messed up. But it's there and I continue to enjoy trying to bring a bit more smut into my stories. Not for everyone, obviously, and sorry to any put off by it, but I think sex and sexual violence and threat go rather hand in hand here, are a part of the character's life. He's in a vulnerable situation and his fears reflect that and also the way he uses sex, as punishment and as trying to take control of his situation. And my apologies as well that this is sort of a tragic queer story (with most readings, at least, I imagine). I've been in a weird place mentally and this story came out of that and I have more hopeful stuff getting ready and out on submission so...yeah.

But ultimately this story is about my home. About Eau Claire and about governments, especially Wisconsin government which is just utter shit right now. So yeah, check it out if  you like and thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

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