Edward Ashton’s story “A Bear, or a Spider, or an Elephant” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 9 August 2019.
Most of my shorter pieces start with an image that gets stuck in my head, and won’t go away until I figure out something to say about it. In the case of “A Bear, or a Spider, or an Elephant,” that image was a night sky, clear and cold, deep black and packed tight with stars.
I do a lot of backpacking, and I’ve spent many nights alone on peaks and ridges and overlooks, staring up into the night sky and wondering what it might look like from another vantage—far out on the galactic rim, for example, or pressed tight against the core. I’ve also spent plenty of time on those nights nervously wondering what exactly made that cougar-ish noise I just heard off in the distance. Put those thoughts together, and you’ve pretty much got the opening scene for this story.
I’ve often felt that writing a short story is simply a matter of finding an opening image and a closing image, and then figuring out what exactly brings the two together. In the case of this story, that thing was the idea of mortality, and how that relates to freedom. Once I had that, the rest was just a matter of filling in the details.
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