5500 words long
this fictionette registered late for grad school
OK, so, I'm not sending "Late Registration" anywhere tonight. It needs more than a quick once-over in order for me to feel happy with it out there bearing my by-line. But! I did finally post the Friday Ficitonette for August 12. Revel in it! It's called "Dr. Green Ascends to the Nether World" and that is not a typo. It's about BEING A SCIENTIST even when that means breaking through barbed wire fences and climbing sheer cliffsides to FIGURE SHIT OUT.
Here's the thing I never count on when I say "I'll be able to get so much done Saturday afternoon!" Getting sick. It starts with post nasal drip and that itchy, raw spot high up at the back of the throat, and next think I know I'm in bed, sniffling and miserable, and then I'm in the bathroom pawing through the medicine supplies and saying things like "I don't care if the doctor says it'll raise my blood pressure--pseudoephedrine is necessary for me to function. What do you mean I only have five more of the 4-hour tablets left? And how did we wind up with an odd number? We better not have dropped one on the floor. This stuff is gold." Sudafed is a modern day miracle. It makes the difference between 1. flat in bed wishing for unconsciousness, and 2. upright at the desk getting things done.
But the things I get done are still only getting done slowly. And not with a heck of a lot of concentration. So after I got the Fictionette up today--which took most of the day because I couldn't wrangle enough concentration to work straight through it (and also because I took a brief walk to the drug store to get more pseudoephedrine, the 12-hour kind this time)--I kept getting distracted by stuff rather than moving on to the short story. Besides, I really doubt I'd have any better chance of getting it ready had I started at 6 PM as opposed to 10 PM.
My initial thought was, "It's an anthology that pays only token rates. I can send it something from the college file. I mean, I'll need to polish off the obvious infelicities and maybe update some references, give the main character a cell phone, that kind of thing..." Then I settled down to work on it, and I had a second thought. "I don't care how little the market pays. It's going to have my name on it! It had better be perfect." And, well, maybe perfect is the wrong word, but... I have standards. And it was going to take more than just a handful of hours to bring this old story up to those standards.
On the other hand, hearing about the anthology did get me to dig this story up and reread it. And, having read it, I've decided I really do want to rehabilitate it and get it into the submissions cycle. It's a good little story. It's got characters I'd like to reacquaint myself with. I mean, hell, back in the day I had the idea of doing a series of related stories starring these characters. It's good to be reminded of these old goals that once fell by the wayside. I can pick them back up, brush the dust off, and breathe a little life back into them.
So even though I didn't end up submitting to the anthology I had in mind, a great deal of good came out of considering submitting to it. Neat.
if it was good enough for 20-yr-old me maybe 40-yr-old me should be cautious
The Friday Fictionette for August 12 will be coming out later on in the weekend because Aarrgh. That isn't an OMG ALL THE THINGS "aarrgh." That's a self-disgusted "aarrgh" which acknowledges personal responsibility in terms of an ongoing trend of badness which is in my personal power to fix but somehow I still haven't fixed. Aarrgh.
So instead what I've got to blog about is being in the preliminary stages of resurrecting a college-era short story for possible submission to a paying market today, nearly 20 years later.
Among writers, a perennial topic of discussion is "What do you do with your old/'trunked' manuscripts?" Opinions seem to range from "BURN THEM ALL" to "Dig them up occasionally to see how far you've come and maybe laugh." I do not often see the viewpoint "Consider submitting them for publication today" represented, and no wonder. 20-year-old me had a great facility with words and ideas, and she wrote things that impressed her peers and sometimes editors, but she did not have the same standards as 40-year-old me. She had a tendency to show off her witty dialogue skills and her overly clever metaphors. And she was, more or less, despite the 2 in the tens digit, a teenager.
I have a lot of sympathy for teenage me, but I think it would say something unflattering about my current maturity level (such as it is) if some of my teenage memories didn't embarrass me. I mean, for example: I'm a huge fan of the rock band Rush today. I was a raging fanatic about Rush when I was in high school and college. One difference being, I have more reservations and less uncompromising enthusiasm these days about some of their lyrics. Thinking about "Cinderella Man" from the A Farewell to Kings album (1977), only because that's the song that got stuck in my head the other day:
Because he was human, because he had goodness
Because he was moral, they called him insane
Teenage me waved that lyric like a battle flag. Present-day me winces a little and thinks it sounds like something you'd read in the diary of a teenager who thought they were the first person to discover moral intergrity. (Both of me cringed a little at the unfortunate phrase "had goodness," for whatever that's worth.)
So there's an element of that sort of combination of lack of life experience and fervent intensity in my early writing. Some of it makes me flinch. Still, I'd want teenage me to be proud of present-day me, or at least not be disappointed by what she has or has not become. I stand by a heck of a lot of what teenage me wanted and needed in terms of, yes, moral integrity and justice. ("Hang on to your plans / Try as they might they cannot steal your dreams") I just think that maybe present-day me might be able to express adjacent concerns with more nuance, less willful blindness to complexities, more acknowledgment of other points of view.
In the case of "Late Registration," the writing problems are less about that, thank goodness, and more about the "Look at ME!" school of writing. So it may be possible to have something worth submitting on Monday after a relatively quick revision pass.
It was surprisingly hard to find the story. I have a record in my personal database of submitting it to two places in 1997 and '98. The first was Mind's Eye Fiction, one of the earliest venues for online short fiction. They preferred submissions to be as close to web-ready as possible, with a break indicated between the first part of the story which could be read for free and the second part which would be for paid accounts only. I must have had a master manuscript document, undoubtedly in Word Perfect for DOS 5.2 format, but all I could find on my hard drive at present was the HTML version I prepared for submission to Mind's Eye.
So that's what I imported into Scrivener and am using as a basis to type up a new version, lightly edited, that is acceptable to present-day me.