Saturday, July 16, 2016

Quick Thoughts - "Burning Day"

So in case people missed it, I have a story, "Burning Day," out in the latest issue of Unlikely Story, the Journal of Unlikely Observances. This is my second Unlikely sale, and the first to appear for free on their site (my other Unlikely story is "Pushpin and Pullpin" in Clowns 2.0: The Unlikely Coulrophobia Remix).

This also represents something of the end of a storm of publications that I've had out since May. Just looking at my Thoughts, pretty much every week has been about a different story or poem. Which is very nice, as a writer, but also sort of exhausting to constantly have things out. Especially because it might be a few months until my next story is out (I know I have something in September, and maybe something else then too, but otherwise…). Plus I recently launched a Patreon for my work here on Quick Sip Reviews. Plus all the everything else. But this is the writing life. If one isn't furiously treading water it feels like one is drowning.

But "Burning Day." This is actually a story a long time in the making. It started life as something completely different. In its original form it was about a man dealing with his own shit and eventually throwing himself on a pyre because the celebration is supposed to be about throwing out the unnecessary, the unfinished projects, the clutter. Following the collapse of his relationships with his wife and son he sees that he's unnecessary and goes into the fire. It…wasn't exactly a good story. And I had retired it by the time I saw the call for Unlikely Observances. Well, after that, really, because my first attempt to write a story for the theme was a similar failure, about a man who commits murder and then has himself frozen. He awakes in a future just after he thinks the statute of limitations has run out and it's like being reborn only he finds out that he's actually awake a few days early and get arrested anyway.

So this story is really the collision of a number of things I wrote poorly. I still wanted to write something for the call and that's when I revisited the idea behind Burning Day. The thought comes from the tradition in Wisconsin to get rid of brush piles either the first or last snow of the year. The thought is that the fire can't spread while there's all that snow on the ground, so people get rid of their yard waste. This takes it a step farther. Like with the story I recycled, the holiday is an excuse to get rid of the old, the unwanted. But here's a bit more personal. Here the main characters are a couple who take the opportunity to burn their personal Wraiths, dog-like creatures who are basically little bundles of destruction. Added burdens that the character are plagued by and for one day only get to live free of. They play, they fuck, they fall asleep free. In many ways this is one of the more personal stories that I've told, and one that despite the darkness is probably one of my most hopeful. A hope that things will change for the better and that with a great deal of work socially and politically and personally, burdens can be eased.

This is also my fourth SFWA qualifying sale (does a little dance). I seem to be much better at placing shorter stories than longer ones, and this one is another flash piece at a little over 1300 words. I actually have a fifth SFWA qualifying sale forthcoming, and even with that one I'm still 200 words shy of the new 10,000 word gate. Which hey, cool, I guess I'm exactly the kind of writer the new rules are designed to keep out (under the old rules I would have been in on sale #3, and under the new rules I'll need probably 6—totally not bitter about this, either). But this is also my first story that uses non-binary pronouns, which is rather cool. My headcanon for my Betwixt story, "Nothing," had the main character non-binary but this is my first story I've sold where it's been explicit. It's also a story with a nice bit of sexy times, which is fairly common in my work. Anyway, I hope you enjoy it. Thanks for reading!

All the best,

Charles Payseur

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