On Genesis … and Persistence
Contradiction is a quality I find oddly comforting … when nothing else is sure, you can rely on exceptions, polar opposites, and conflict. Something about that is right; it fits with the natural order**. So it is with short stories – how they get created (the lighting visit of Genesis), and how they get out into the world (the long haul with Persistence). And this is about one story in particular – my doomed salvage captain story, ‘Deep Deck 9’, which has just been accepted for publication at Luna Station Quarterly. (Huzzah!)
Genesis, you see, is flashy thing. He’s animal power. Fast. Overpowering. You know instantly whether you’re attracted to what he’s got. He’s often noisy, and insistent. But you have to take care, because he has no investment.
Now, I’m never usually interested in how writers get their ideas; it seems a banal question. The world is full of stories. Genesis is always flashing about. But sometimes, … well, sometimes he gets you going with not very much. You see, in 2008, I went to see Burn After Reading. I remember two things from that movie – ‘The Chair’ (and, oh lord, you know what I mean) – and the end, where the agents describe all the shenanigans of the past 90 mins as a clusterfuck. There it was. Genesis. I wanted that word in my story, and I wanted it now. Nothing more complicated.
It took only a few minutes to generate the premise … what could be worse than knowing you were going to die because of a crap job you didn’t want to take, and more, that you weren’t sure even your death would end it? My voice settled in the head of a captain about to burn up on re-entry. Genesis left me while I wrote (always a quick exit).
And then, I had to wait for Persistence.
You see, that was 2008. In the four years since, the story got edited, beta-read, edited again (a few times). And then it went out into markets. My submission tracker (spreadsheet I use to keep straight all the works I’ve got out in the world) tells me it’s been rejected seven times – and I know it was a few more than that – the story is older than the tracker itself. Persistence has been my man through this time. He’s the steady one, the one without ego that calmly writes ‘Rejected’ and copies the title to the next line, ready to submit again. He reminds me that there is another day, and another, and that steps come one at a time.
So Persistence is the one who gets you home, but you never begin without Genesis. I am glad for them both: the surprise and the follow-through. And now, with the help of both, my story is going into the world. 🙂 [‘Deep Deck 9’ is out 1 June]
**Neal Stephenson said it better in The Diamond Age.