Will Gwaun’s story “Mission and Submission” was published in Metaphorosis on Friday, 11 March 2022.
As with most of my stories, they seem to appear out of ideas sort of slamming together and producing a narrative. In the past these were usually pretty abstract and weird, (‘What about the medieval catholic idea of itemised penance per mile of pilgrimage, combined with the technical problems of robots creating maps of their environments!?’ is an example of something my brain will bother me with in the middle of the night, and then not leave me alone till I’ve written about it. See my very old story ‘No S.L.A.M Maps for These Territories’ for the result.) but recently they seem to be getting much more personal.
This one came about in the sort of emotional whiplash that followed finally finishing (after many false starts and near giving ups) my first novel after five years, and then not managing to sell it anywhere. I’m not under any illusion that I ‘deserved’ to sell it, after all you’re competing with all the books ever written, plus the thousands of others from talented people arriving on editors’ desks every month, and getting good at something usually takes more than one try, but it is a weird thing to pour all that work and effort into something and then just put it in a drawer. Writing seems unlike any other artistic endeavour in that way. At least with music or painting, even if you don’t sell something you get to jam with your friends (or some other phrase that will make me sound less uncool) or hang it on your wall, but who has the time to read people’s (probably often deservedly) unpublished novels, when there isn’t the time to read all the amazing published novels that are in the world already?
Anyway, I was trying to find a way to express that feeling of sending bits of fiction you’ve poured all that work into out into the void of publishing, waiting for months (hats off to Metaphorosis for answering at what is practically lightspeed) and then receiving some form rejection.
At the same time, I was going through all the turmoil of working out of when it would make sense to start a family in the midst of trying to forge a career in a foreign country, and realising that this emphasis we have in our culture on ‘never giving up on your dream’ can be a pretty toxic thing for a lot of people, given the sacrifices it can mean. Finally, the of Boomer/Millennials/Gen-Z conflict narrative was starting to appear a lot online and in the media, which I found sort of alternately fascinating and depressing.
All of these things were sort of washing around in my head, and what fiction, especially speculative fiction, allows you to do is sort of cram all those ideas down into a single narrative thread, in a situation of heightened intensity, and then explore why that matters to the characters.
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