405 words long
Ooh! I Distract You With New Fiction!
Because writing new stories is always easier than editing rough drafts, isn't it? Yeah, I know. I know. But--hey! New story!
First off, this story is not a Jumper rip-off. Promise.
While I was at the World Horror Convention the other weekend, I had a momentary conversation in the elevator with a man who had just arrived that afternoon. His morning had been spent teaching math at a local high-school. He could only come to the Con after he got off work. He found it amusing, how different the two environments were: a Salt Lake City high school, the World Horror Convention. Indeed.
So I got out the elevator on Floor 3 and moseyed over to the suite in which the film series was showing. The movie scheduled for that two-hour block was Poltergeist, which I'd last seen on HBO in, like, 1983. I hadn't watched it since, mainly because it scared the pants off me (I was six) but partly also because on the third night after watching it Mom told me, "If you really feel the need to sleep in here with us again, you just can't watch that movie anymore." So I didn't. In many ways I was a mindlessly obedient child. (Hey, I still feel like I'm doing something forbidden when I go looking for something in my parents' walk-in attic. I wasn't allowed in there as a kid.)
All of which is beside the point, which is that the casual elevator conversation sort of transmogrified itself in my head during the movie until it became something around which the short story began to take shape. The conversation instead took place at an office party somewhere in the U.S., and the main character was listening with half an ear to a man from London talk about how he used to teach in high school. "Teach what?" she asks, making conversation. "Maths," he says. And she sort of drifts off, thinking about how plurals are even more plural in London, except that Sports sort of become singular, and there are a lot more "U"s to go around, and then as she continues daydreaming about what it must be like across the Atlantic she literally drifts off--vanishes out of the boring office party and finds herself in a classroom in London. She has a rather hard time getting home.
At first I thought she'd be stuck there permanently for some reason, like maybe she was meant to be in London and had to find out why, but I couldn't really get interested in taking the story in that direction. All the fantastic would sort of stop at that point. Besides, it was too much like playing a tabletop role-playing game in which an inept gamemaster clumsily assembles the party by authorial fiat. "OK, so, you're in the middle of whatever you're doing when this mysterious guy appears and says 'You are needed elsewhere.' Then suddenly, like, whoa! You're standing in the woods and there's four people there looking at you--OK, everyone describe your characters to each other."
So instead of making her unable to teleport again, I thought about the other extreme. What would happen if the ability to teleport came so easily to her that she started doing it accidentally? If it was as easy as imagining a place, any place, real or fictional? If it was as easy as thinking--and as hard not to do?
Ever had someone distract you from your hiccups by telling you not to think of purple foxes?
So that's my excuse for not having worked on anything in my editing queue today. I got clobbered by a new story instead. Not that I've left my editing queue entirely untouched, understand - the other day I rewrote "The Witness" from scratch and from memory. That's the story I read for the Twilight Tales Flash Fiction Contest at World Horror 2007. (You can read the winning stories from that year at the Twilight Tales website. Start here with the 1st place story and follow the links back to 2nd and 3rd.) I think I know how to make it better now. I think some of what will make it better is in the new version I wrote the other day. Maybe tomorrow I'll take both versions out, side by side, and - I dunno - synthesize them or something.
Oh, and Poltergeist still scares the pants off me. SRSLY.
Like an End Of Con Report, only less useful to people who aren't me
World Horror Convention 2007 is over now, bar the drinking. And there's still a good deal of drinking going on, if the population of the hotel lounge is any indication. By all accounts, it's been a good WHC.
"Captain Hook" finally got some peer review here. I hadn't planned on it, actually, but when I arrived Saturday at the Twilight Tales Open Mic critique session, intending to be part of the audience, I was immediately accosted with, "So are you gonna sign up?" with a clear subtext of do, please! And I thought, well, I do have something appropriate...
Boy, howdy, was that a good thing. I mean, right up front, it was educational, that crawling in my stomach as I realized I was reading aloud three whole pages of exposition to an audience more patient than the story deserved. But had I read it aloud alone, I probably would have just come away with "Yes, that's a heavily front-loaded story. I need to cut that." What I got from this critique session was much more concrete: which three sentence clauses of the exposition were actually needed, where to put them, and then how to collapse this scene with that character dynamic to improve the whole immensely. Eric Cherry deserves a round of kudos for being such a swell critic. He MC'd the events and acted as critique facilitator, leading off the discussion with his exceedingly insightful comments.
I was relieved to hear that the ending worked. Reactions ranged from "I didn't see that coming" to "I saw it coming and I hoped it wouldn't happen." This is a very good thing. It's always a good thing when the critiques reaffirm your own assessment of which bits succeed and which bits need work. It's also good when you can make an audience of veteran horror readers flinch.
Later that night I read for the Twilight Tales Flash Fiction Contest. I didn't place this year, but I didn't expect to. The story I read had only been written over the past couple of days, after all. Simply that I produced new fiction in time to perform it Saturday night made me feel proud of myself.
Today and Friday (once I arrived) were more relaxed. Attended a panel here and there (in addition to his other stellar qualities, Mort Castle is a brilliant panel moderator), stuck my head in at a few parties, ate out a little, saw a very small corner of Toronto with my very own eyes. Did a little knitting show-n-tell with fellow stitchers (including the designer of the dread Knithulhu!). Today, a local couple (the Knithulhu designer and her husband) led me via street car and subway to an excellent Irish pub at King and Brant Streets. I wish I could have seen more of this city, but I don't wish it enough to exchange my Amtrak tickets for a later date and check into a hostel. I'm ready to go home. I feel like I've been traveling non-stop, even though I've been in the same place since Friday night. I'm missing my husband and our cats and our home and the coffee house down the street. I guess there's a limit to how long I can drift before I get antsy.
Getting on the Maple Leaf tomorrow morning at 8:30. Should be in Denver by the same hour on Wednesday. Might check in on Tuesday morning from Chicago. If not, I'll say hi when I get home.