A perfunctory stare hovers above the counter of Sharpington Coffers, a small antique store on the south side of Picadilly Circus. The owner of the stare, one Mr. Bartholomew Sharpington, watches his entrance with the patience of the rat catcher, waiting outside a hole for his prey, his customer, who will be walking through those doors… any… second… now. Ching. Ching.
A tall man in a black hat steps into the store and shakes his wet jacket onto the floor without so much as an apology. Sharpington, used to the rudeness of Londoners, pulls his cheeks up into a smile as if…
I can’t seem to finish the analogy here. He smiles as if… what?
Some Notes for Future Revision:
– Get rid of the words “perfunctory,” “of the store,” and “rat catcher” (instead say, “… with the patience of a cat.” Or “a cat’s patience.” Pick one.)
– Get rid of “without so much as an apology.” Unnecessary.
– Do you need the Ching Ching?
– Don’t forget, the Insta-Karma people said that when you remove his visor, make sure the red light is off, even if his identity doesn’t take, otherwise the degeneration might accelerate. DON’T FORGET.
A stare hovers above the counter of Sharpington Coffers, a small antique store on the south side of Picadilly Circus. The owner, one Mr. Bartholomew Sharpington, watches his entrance with the patience of a cat waiting outside a hole for its prey, for his customer, who will be walking through those doors… any… second… now.
A tall man in a black hat steps into the store and shakes his wet jacket onto the wooden floor. Sharpington, used to the rudeness of Londoners, pulls up his cheeks into a smile as if editing this story might take your mind off it… Why are you still trying to fix it anyway? It’s just that… Sharpington Coffers isn’t going to be published… The 30 polite, but canned rejection letters seemed to be saying as much… not quite what they’re looking for, they said… Not quite, as if my story just slipped their version of acceptable by a thin margin, as if a human being had actually read it, as if they hadn’t just noticed it’s 49.8, and chunked it in the fucking garbage… I spent an hour on that last sentence… Flawless.
I don’t know if you know this, but the qualifying score to be considered a creative person is a fucking 50.00; if your story scans below that, well… We all keep the Creativity Aggregator a secret from the public, but every publication uses the machine to scan the new writers… It works better than an intern, but something is definitely lost without the human touch… At the office, we set the bar at 50, but I had hoped, I guess… I had just hoped, for my own sake, that a CA score of 50 wasn’t the industry standard… It’s hard not to take the score personally. Some writers can score above a 60 consistently… even without having editorial access to a CA… But I do have access, and it took four different re-writes and a bunch of antiquated words just to get Sharpington Coffers up from a 49.7… And honestly, I don’t even know if it’s better for the effort, over-edited doesn’t seem like the right word… I’ve stranged it… combed out every redundancy, every derivation… every similarity to anything in the Library of Congress’s database, syntax, flights of language, algorithms of style and word frequency… I know how the machine works, I just can’t seem to game it…
When he was still him, Dad told me that the creativity aggregator might make people forget the value of simplicity… I think he meant it as encouragement, but I took it poorly… My story’s not simple, I said. None of my stories are simple, I said. But he merely shrugged and told me it wasn’t a bad thing… I didn’t get what he was saying until it was too late for me to say so… At the time, I just couldn’t bring myself to… turn my head towards the right way of looking at it or… I don’t know, it’s hard to say, and maybe that’s my fucking problem. Maybe, you’re just not good at this shit… or at least not good enough to write a 9,486 word murder mystery set in Victorian fucking London… The cannibal twist isn’t interesting, Sharpington’s character is dead on arrival, and no one even remembers what a bicycle is, let alone a torture device made out of one… I can’t even remember the story’s original score.
A good writer should be able to sense when the creative winds are strong enough to spin the blades of the mill and when they are nothing but a capricious breeze trembling the sails. A good writer would know the difference and a better writer would know when to quit. They’d be able to sense their own lack of subtlety; their inability to penetrate a psychology other than their own… Can a good writer ignore the distortion of self-appreciation? A great writer would be able to feel their entire mechanism faltering under the strain of the task, and just… A non sequitur: Why is it so hard to get published? It seems an odd question to intrude among pretentious speculation, like it jumped the queue, or was the pretentious speculation merely a disguise to hide insecurity… I can fucking hear him… through the wall, I can hear him moaning something about wolves… it sounds so fucking awful, he can’t sleep… the visor must be hurting him…
Hector told me he got one for his mom… He said her dementia was gone in the first 6 hours. Now, he says, she walks around the house griping at him about laundry and his ex-wife, which are both totally legitimate concerns as far as Hector goes… He says it’s given him a fresh take on annoyance… But, he was lucky… The Insta-Karma people told us we’d know if the visor works within the first 48 hours… It’s been 36. After the first 48, the window closes… some identities, they said, for whatever reason, can’t be re-read once they’ve slipped away… I’m gonna try to sleep.
I can’t sleep… 11 hours.
I’ve been staring at the words above my cursor for a while now, and I think I like them better than the 9,500 below it… That’s not a good sign… I’ve been trying to think of something more to say, rubbing my forehead… I don’t know why I might need to find some coherence in all this… Fuck, isn’t that what that group counselor told you, that you need to externalize… I can’t even finish the sentence…
“You’re a writer, why don’t you try writing it down?” she said. Make something coherent out of what’s going on with your life. It’ll give you a context for all this, and maybe it’ll provide you with a sense of control… She didn’t say that last part actually, I just wish she had, but she didn’t, because it’s probably not true… I need some coffee… I’m going to get coffee…
I’m back… Let’s pretend me needing coffee and rubbing my head’s enough context for all this… sitting here, drinking coffee… talking to myself… listening to him moan about wolves… pretending this is all a fucking story… Wolves… Is he remembering?
He showed it to me a long time ago, one of the few stories he let me see… What was it? … A man playing in the snow at night and a wolf. The man was making snow angels with his son, looking up at the stars, and then suddenly a white wolf is standing over both of them. The man rolls on top of the boy, crushing him into the snow, and starts yelling at the wolf to go away. The boy is crying underneath him and tries to push him off, but the dad is too heavy… Stop Moving… I remember Dad stretched the scene out way too long, and made it seem like the boy was suffocating, but he kept using words like “almost” and “just about” for pages. And then with a single sentence the wolf leaves and that’s it. “Suddenly, the white wolf padded away and didn’t look back.” No fireworks, no climax, the wolf just runs away. Or something like that, it’s here somewhere… Then they just walk home and the man apologizes to the son and then it ends… I told him it read like a pastoral tone poem, hiding my derision with college. He told me I didn’t get it… It’s on this computer somewhere.
They scanned it and every other hard drive we had in the house, all our photos, his buying habits, where we’ve lived, all his unpublished stories, all of it, right before strapping him into a brain scanner… fuck they made me talk to him about mom, while he writhed around, confused… 4 MRI’s… We even had to sit across from that young asshole in VR goggles, pantomiming around my father’s entire life from the inside, just in case he had a question for us… Did we really need to be there for that?… I suppose digital information can only contain so much information… Is that funny?
By the end of it, the technician printed out an approximate neural map of what my Dad’s brain looked like before it deteriorated. I remember staring at it, offended by its visibility. When I asked my Dad if he still wanted to go through with it, to try and remember, he said he did. They fitted him for the Identity Keeper visor, downloaded the map into it, took all my money, and sent us home with a box full of foam packaging.
Some of it spilled on our rug when I pulled the visor out… I remember he took it from my hands, set it in his lap, and intentionally, I know he did, refused to acknowledge it. I remember him turning his head… toward nothing, an open doorway maybe, and interlocking his fingers across his stomach, a familiar posture in the house. Maybe, he remembered sitting with the technician; I wasn’t sure, but I let him hold for a few moments. Then I took it back… and put it on his head, and the man. fucking. winced… I saw it. He winced. I couldn’t believe it… He didn’t tell that fucking technician the visor was hurting him, he told him it felt fine. “Really?” the boy asked. “Usually we have to adjust it…” He let us go home with it after almost no alterations. It’s probably still hurting him. I tried to adjust it myself and he made this fucking noise… I’ve been listening to it all day, this noise, letting it feed me a steady drip of stress at the office… Obviously it wasn’t just physical discomfort, because he was smiling too when he made it, but… Imagine you understand the perversity of this situation without knowing the context, or our relationship, which I don’t have the skill to adequately express. He moaned because he thought I’d find it funny and he was in pain and he couldn’t remember what was going on, but he remembered just enough to be stressed the fuck out. All of it… What time is it? He’s got 10 hours… I’ll have to call in to work soon, tell them I’m not coming in… They won’t need me tomorrow anyway… The whole thing’s formatted already. After our editor’s meeting, I spent most of today locked in the VR server, updating our author’s databases, sending out teaser blurbs about the 8 stories, going over the check list, watching to see if that girl got any branches… 10 hours…
We got lucky this month. Three giant authors, all-frequencies no less, reached out to our publication in the same week and we snatched them up without reading them. Tremendously well written stories by today’s top authors:
1. Johnny Grab – The You in the Light Switch – 4,300 words. – “A subtle elegy on the various ways one might see death differently… not positively, differently.” (64.8)
2. Obri Okafor – Images of Neo-Glasnost – 8,000 words. – “Gorgeously worded barbs of deceit and intrigue wrapped around a post-modern essay on contemporary politics.” (59.9)
3. Mia Paladucci – A Tremor Nearer – 2,400 words. – “Too often short fiction allows us a reprieve from our present day problems without easing us back into the real world, but Paladucci’s prose provides us both an escape and return passage back to our own lives, better for the trip.” (60.3)
“The first two are fine, but the Paladucci blurb needs to be re-written. I’m surprised you didn’t catch it, Frank.” The head editor says this to me in front of the other editors.
“What’s wrong with it?” I ask.
“It’s just generic, son.” he says. “Not incisive.” he says. “Keep the alliteration.” he says. “Lose the shittiness.” he says.
I immediately start re-writing it while he discusses a formatting issue with the Johnny Grab story. I realize my editor sounds like a shitty character; would be a shitty character if it were fiction, and I wonder if it’s because I don’t understand him; wouldn’t bother trying, though. Maybe I’m a good writer after all.
3. Mia Paladucci – A Tremor Nearer – 2,400 words. “Too often short fiction leaves the reader feeling short changed, but Paladucci’s prose packs the same punch as a trilogy of novels… simply incredible.”
“Better.” He admits. “Okay, we’ve got 5 slots left… and 9 options. I’m assuming we’ve all read the picks.”
There were almost 400 submissions, maybe 500, I could look up the exact number, but a small town sent us their stories … unimaginable time and effort… And from those, the creativity aggregator decided just 9 were creative enough. It’s a big time saver, designed to weed out stories that we shouldn’t bother reading. Needless to say, the device cannot truly measure the worth of a good story, but I’d say a good 90% of the time, it’s an accurate measure of shit… I usually read one or two of the stories that score below a 50. I’ve only found 3 that weren’t absolute garbage… I don’t know what that says about me.
After ditching them, the remaining choice is between five stories from semi-established authors with more than 100 pre-downloads and four back-ups with 0 – in other words, newbies. The newbies don’t have much of a chance, since our readers customize their subscriptions. Some authors have 100 pre-downloads, some have more than 10,000 (the all frequencies), others have none. The honest truth is that most authors, as in most people, have no pre-downloads, so people, like readers and editors, overlook them. 5 stories. 5 slots. The End. The decision is a foregone conclusion, but it’s our dramatic policy to vote on every story, and it’s a good thing we do.
We unanimously vote for four of the five established authors without discussion, but the fifth draws debate. It is a woman with just 124 pre-downloads, hundreds less than the other 4 authors. I vote against it like the other editors do, and listen to their complaints. They found it boring. It lacked action, no real hook. They say its themes were heavy handed and the characters didn’t seem realistic. One of them says, “Caricatures of archetypes… Lifeless. What is her problem?” I know what her problem is; she’s in free-fall. The woman has only been published twice in 6 years, but the memory of being accepted, that sweet dopamine rush, addicted her to this gambling. She couldn’t stop trying to get published, even when she began to realize those two stories were flukes. She can’t stop. She’s not good enough. The hurt claws from her story like a zombie, implying pain between her clumsy syntax and the many skipped words that might as well have been intentional. I say nothing and we dump it like an unread suicide note… 9 hours.
Which leaves the newbies.
“Any of the other 4 even slightly published?” Asks our lead editor, flipping through the pages. Hector’s in charge of our newbie slush pile. He shakes his head.
We look at their titles and the names of the authors. None of us have heard of any of them:
1. “The Trapeze Parallax Quandary.” – Temple Ritter
2. “Shotgun Party” – Polita Valdez
3. “A Chance to Remember” – Athena Moonglow
4. “There Won’t Be Much Left” – Gretchen Pull
I have no illusions about this process. The reality is that we are deciding which invisible stranger will be dancing around their kitchen in their underwear re-evaluating their own self-worth and which invisible strangers will simply sigh and remind themselves they knew it’d never happen anyway.
“Well, which story should we pick?”
None of my father’s stories were ever published. Sometimes, he’d try to hint that I should publish them at my prestigious job, but I didn’t bother. My reputation was tenuous as it was, considering that of the 6 editors, I am the only writer without pre-downloads of my own, so I couldn’t get published there either… In fact, very few times have I been published at all. Only once at a semi-professional publication early on, a now-defunct paper magazine. It was about a cat that gets run over on a highway. It was a stupid story… When I ran it later, the creativity aggregator only gave it a 52.4, but it was mine and it was published, which is more than I can say of any of my dad’s stories… 8 hours.
“It hurts my ears.”
When I tried adjusting it for him, he asked, “What is this thing, Frankie?”
“It’s the Insta-Karma Identity Keeper. You wanted it, remember?”
He shrugged as if none of it mattered and looked away, cool and disaffected beneath my hands.
I remember I finished messing with it and asked, “That still hurt?” but he said nothing and interlocked his fingers.
“Hey Pops.” I asked. “You said it hurt your ears… does it still hurt?”
“My ears don’t hurt.” He told me innocently.
Then he told me “all that” foam packaging would need to get cleaned up before I went home. I couldn’t believe he said it. It wasn’t the nerve of him telling me what to do, but that he thought I was leaving, that I could leave… What did he think home was? How far back did he have to go to believe I was only there for a visit? He pointed to the mess on the floor and smiled like that was the joke. To be honest, this was all his idea, he just can’t remember, and this cowardly smile must be so fucking deep within him if he’s still doing it by rote. The little disguise of kindness he makes when he imposes on others… My mother once told me that his kindness was never a disguise, after I delivered that line to her in the kitchen. “It’s irritating how he disguises imposition with kindness.” I said proudly, publishing myself in the air between us, but she overlooked the sentence’s deft syntax and literary merit and just told me I didn’t know shit about my father. I already knew that.
“I’ll clean it up.” I said.
“You made a mess.”
“I know I did, Pops. s’okay.”
He smiled. “It’s not that big.”
He winked when he said it, and I just seem to… I don’t know what I was going to say there. I read over what I wrote, and I’m afraid he’s coming off like a sad bastard, and I know that’s a cardinal rule for writers: show, not tell, but he’s not a sad bastard. He’s amazing, and in person his patience still gets translated through him despite his failing mind, but somehow I can’t even show it with a few fucking words… I’d have to use flashbacks from other times, of… other things in our lives that penetrated memory, experiences that might show the other side of the coin for you, make it shine underwater. My writer’s impulse, another limp breeze, would like to show another flashback, a tender moment between my father and my mother, but I don’t want to. I can’t think of one… 7 hours.
A good writer could… and a better writer would have realized there’s no more story to tell long before and gone to sleep… They would’ve quit mid-way through the second paragraph and decided to move on to something else, something easier, something within their framework of experience without simply wallowing in the distortion of self-appreciation or pity, whatever that means… a better writer would make the shit with my father and my stupid job interweave, use them to make sense of the other. Do they offer contextual counterpoint? Do they amplify each other like a goddamn helix because nothing’s fucking happening… When Dad finally put it on his head, the red light blinked, and so did Dad. Nothing, but something was supposed to be fucking happening, so, I looked at the instructions again, very aware of his agitation and stress. I had to yell at him not to take it off. He didn’t know why he couldn’t take it off. I wish he’d forget about anxiety altogether, but that never seems to leave. He’s not that far gone… but it’s encroaching on us, I can tell. Some secret whisper, some inside joke he’s hearing out of context… In fact, Jesus, that’s what it’s all about, isn’t it? The slow slip from context. Fragments. Dropping dishes. Staring at something uninteresting too long. I don’t know. The way he starts doing some things and not doing others. Improvising… Trying to clean the food off his plate, scraping it into the sink even though he’s still hungry…
It’s supposed to have been cured by now. They’ve been telling him this his whole fucking life… Advancement after god damn advancement, just a few more years and they’d have it. The future will save you… “With VR imagery we can analyze the micro-biology of neural pathways to best determine how to restrict degeneration and possibly… “ He’s getting up. He’s using the bathroom… At least, we’re not there yet… He’s got 6 hours left and she still hasn’t gotten any branches… Since, I run the publication’s servers, I can monitor the database from home, but there’s only so much I can do with my Dad’s desktop… I had planned on buying a VR hook up so I could actually work on the server from home, but instead I bought an expensive hat… I might be able to get a cheaper one later this year, but it won’t be one with the same visualization…
Imagine a giant globe; not outside of one, but rather inside… you’re inside this giant 1,000 foot VR globe. It’s filled with blinking lights all around. Thousands and thousands of different colored lights fold across your horizon. Every light is one of our subscribers, and the light’s variegated color is actually code for that particular subscriber’s location, among other things, like credit card information blah blah blah. But you’re inside of it and it is massive. You’ll have to look up because the interface doesn’t let you fly around or anything, just kind of situates you at the base of the sphere in front a 1,000 foot translucent column of light that stretches all the way to the top of the globe. This simple visual is actually the… you know, just imagine I said some inscrutable techno-nonsense like most sci-fi writers do and pretend I know what I’m talking about… The file, some story we’re publishing, waits beside me like a giant firefly winking soft purple and gray plush and when I pull it into the beam, it floats up the column of light towards the very center of globe. It is very beautiful, because… it’s just beautiful, and as it ascends, the story stops in the globe’s center, gently hovering in the air. Then, it explodes. Branches of white light burst from the author’s story towards pre-downloaded subscribers, growing into a giant tree of pure light. Each branch a memory. In real life, the story is simply being uploaded into the public access servers, but in the VR space, it appears like it is being raptured up to heaven, not a joke… barely figurative. Potentially thousands of people might access it, converting it to memory, immortalizing it. It’s as good a rapture as any.
I sit inside the VR globe sometimes, pretending to work, and watch the process as a little known author’s story finds its readers. Unlike the automatic pre-downloads, the voluntary downloads grow, not from the story outward, but from the reader, reaching inward, like a hand. I always see it like that, like a hand, from the reader to the story. The dim beam emerges from the subscriber, a single point of color and slowly extends into the center beam, so that column and branch become one. Then they read it. Every sentence that passes through a reader’s processors, makes the branch become brighter and brighter and brighter… Some readers quit midway, and after a week the beam spreads the accumulated glitter across its length, gradating the dim inwards… saving memory. Let’s say I described that well enough… But, if the reader finishes the story, the beam turns into a solid white light, fully downloaded into the reader’s memory banks. Once this happens, famous author or not, there is no way to tell which branches were pre-downloaded and which were voluntary. They all look alike. By the end of the month, most of our stories look like luminous pixelated trees, a shimmering digital core floating within it like a sleeping princess waiting to be kissed. Then, we flush it, waive our rights, and start again… 5 hours.
Uploading an all-frequency is not as beautiful as uploading a story with only 500 pre-downloads, because there’s no nuance to the form, no subtlety, no anticipation… just an immediate transference. They do not look like trees with branches in various states of glow, they look like fucking sunbursts. These people are so famous, that every one of our readers has digitally said, “I want any story by this author downloaded directly into my brain. No questions asked.” Sometimes, I wonder if the other editors even bother reading them. I wouldn’t blame them if they didn’t. What would be the point? They float up and then, boom, sun. And, maybe this is the jealousy talking, but I’d bet that stories who get their branches from subscriber to story voluntarily are often better… Truth be told, I’ve found a few stories by all-frequencies that scored below a 50. We don’t run all-frequencies through the aggregator, but I do, just to see… just like I sneak in and run my own stories… Flawless segue.
“What are the newbies’ scores?”
“77.8, 58.2, 57.1, and 60.6.”
“Is the 77.8 the parallax one?”
“Did it gets its score for the reasons I think it did?”
He nods again.
“Well then, don’t include it next time… The 60, which one’s that?”
“It’s called “A Chance to Remember” by Athena Moonglow?” The newbie editor’s voice rises like it’s a question, “It’s good.”
“Shitty title… Shitty fake name… Fine. We’ll load it up. Does it need any work?”
“Anybody else read it?” he asks.
I did. She speaks with the voice of someone who has known real loss, her words shaped around the outlines of… absences, ghosts, things that weren’t there, presences, and not just implications. She’s got it… but I take too long to say so.
“No one? Well, let’s upload it anyway. We’re already set this month.” He shrugs at the newbie editor. “Hopefully someone’ll read it besides you.”
Not an idle threat… I’ve seen a few stories go the full month without getting a single branch. They just hang there in our server for 30 days like a ghostly tree trunk, uncommitted to memory. Athena Moonglow…
I am in the doorway when Hector tells Athena Moonglow her story has been accepted. She screams so loud the display glitches and he has to call her back. She claps and agrees to everything he asks. We’re addicting her to gambling, just like the woman with 124 pre-downloads. I have to leave the room. For some reason, we treat her like a professional writer and give her online access to her own download stats, so she can sit there and watch how many people read her story… or don’t read her story… all month. I’m worried for her… My father was so cavalier about his own rejections. It wasn’t that the editors didn’t get it, he’d say, it was that they couldn’t… He’s moving around again, I can hear the mattress creaking… Maybe it’s hurting his ears again, maybe it got roughed by the pillow when he came from the bathroom. I tried tilting it before he went to bed so that the diodes weren’t rubbing against his temple, but then he started telling me a story about something he and mom did a few years ago… Then, he looked around and asked me about her… wondered where she was. I started to make something up, then I just said I didn’t know, which was the truth, and let him go… 4 hours.
Let’s say I manage to tie these two narratives together into a satisfying conclusion. If I were a better writer though, I’d just stop now, instead of sitting here at 5 AM waiting for my dad to wake up and watching the stats for A Chance to Remember. It’s a stupid fucking title. It’s been in the public server all day and nothing. Not a single download… Athena Moonglow… A non sequitur: Why would anyone label themselves that on purpose? The name shrieks insecurity. It begs the game of Jungian shadows, right? We have to assume that Ms. Matthews, or whatever her real name is, I didn’t check, would be sifting through her own potential memories, an avid reader herself, and a new name would pop across her perception, why, it’s an author she’s never heard of before. Athena Moonglow… ‘What a name!?!’ She’d think. ‘This fellow goddess cloaks herself in the diction of mystery and power; therefore, her narratives must be weighted with the grace evoked from a supreme feminine majesty… just. like. me!’ And then, Ms. Matthews would instantly download the new author’s story simply because of the name, Athena Moonglow… The name surely echoes when you say it out loud. This young girl, watching her screen, refreshing the page again and again… The worst part was the sight of her stupid novelty glasses bobbing around her excited face; the frames were MOON SHAPED! Imagine that. Whoever she meets, she knows the moment her fancy pseudonym drops, the mystery will begin to unravel. They’ll make the connection… ‘Their eyes seem to be focused on something,’ she’d think to herself… but she knows where they’re looking; what they’re thinking. They are assigning her, Ms. Matthews, depth; a depth that is not suggested by her common name and her common face. Name. Glasses. Name. Glasses. She wouldn’t dare draw attention to it, but she’ll let them figure it out for themselves like a good author. And because she’s afraid she isn’t what she wants to be, she uses her glasses, just like her name, as a not-so-subtle instruction for others to know how they should see her, how colorful she is, how quirky. It’s a verifiable fact, look at my fucking glasses. ‘Here’s a girl that has the creative spark bubbling beneath those unique rims.’ She’d think they think… and we must assume that Ms. Matthews believes the rest of the world operates using that exact same inanity, opening their mouths, stretching out their sanitized tongues, waiting for the right words to trigger their
It’s six in the morning. I’m holding the visor. He walked in and made me take it off him. He’s back in bed now… I’ve put it on my own head. Don’t worry, I made sure the red light was off. That’d be strange, wouldn’t it? De-limited to only think and feel like my dad… used to. I could access his memories… but only the way he used to perceive them. Strange. I’m not even sure it works like that, but it sounds like an interesting story… Best to leave it for a better writer. I’m too good for it.
The thing finally uploaded his identity at 6:12 in the A.M. Almost 45 hours later. It worked. He woke up, himself again, and the first thing he remembered was her. My Dad, fully my Dad, made me take it off him. I tried to make my Dad keep it on, talk to my Dad, reason with my Dad, but he didn’t want it and he handed it back to me, cognizant of what it meant. I couldn’t help but tell him I love him, and watch him, sentient, process the words before he faded from me again… smiling all the way down. He knew it was an imposition on me.
His tree, the map of his identity… they gave me a copy of it. Oh my God, that, A Chance to Remember, I swear I’m not doing it on purpose like those fucking glasses… Anyway, I had the thought, at the time, that the file’s programming appeared as text, or could be translated into it at least. I said so to the technician and he told me “sure.” It’s not farfetched. The text appears linear, from top to bottom, or rather inside-out. From core motivations outward to convictions, beliefs, contradictions toward quirk, minutiae, preference. Beginning, Middle, and End. Trunk, branch, leaf. Parts 1, 2, and 3. Each particular is punctuated with a quantized memory, the one most idiosyncratically aligned with the neural shape to serve as an example of the programming’s… what… veracity? A flashback, I guess. The whole thing comes to around 6,500 words, a short story. Of course, it occurred to me to upload it.
I’d watch my father’s identity, rise into the air, and witness reader after reader reach out to his story and dedicate it to their memory. The branches of light, a multiplicity, plenary apotheosis, a sycamore of pure energy goading forever to chuckle at the seed of his former limitation, until it finally became the sun itself… Or… all the more likely, no one would read it and it’ll just sit there in the upload beam for a month ghosting, and then I’d get fired. It probably wouldn’t get above a 50 on the aggregator anyway. That’s not to say it’s bad, just not original… But, I wouldn’t fucking know. I’m not reading it.
Athena still has no downloads. I want to anonymously tell her that when we publish even one all-frequency, let alone three, chances are, people will venture out less. Usually, people only read one story a month. Space is a commodity… It doesn’t mean her story is bad. It’s just that everything unfamiliar is an unread magazine beside a mental toilet. Choice is hard. If a subscriber didn’t pre-download it, they’d have to manually click on it and brave the potential for boredom without spraying pre-nostalgia all over their experience like pesticide. They’d have to decide to read something new without any memories, commercials of familiarity, providing a cozy context for the story’s consumption… I’m not going to do it.
I thought about buying a subscription under my dad’s name and pre-downloading Athena Moonglow, subscribing to her. She’d see it, know someone read her story, but so would the other editors. They know my name, my Dad’s name, Sr. I’m not going to do it.
You know, when I first started editing Sharpington Coffers two years ago, I was so egotistical as to imagine that each tiny change was so profound, would be so appreciated, that I actually… I actually imagined releasing it as a book, from first draft to final draft, each re-iteration a chapter… I wonder if good writers aggrandize their own thoughts into narration, the way shitty writers do… Maybe good writers know the difference between what is story and what is simply themselves.
The visor is heavier than it looks and it’s hurting my ears… I take it off and set it on some of Dad’s legal junk. He’s not going to wear it. I should’ve known. He’ll never wear it… and it was so damn expensive, too. The thought makes me laugh… I’m going to bed.
Some Notes for Future Revision:
– Write an epilogue. Explain how you randomly found this file a week ago, and when you ran it through the creativity aggregator without the vestigial 9,500… IT GOT A 54.7! Talk about how you’re thinking about publishing it, as is…
– Try to fix it so you don’t come across like an asshole…
– Delete extraneous ellipses and the sentence fragments.
– Re-write VR process imagery without the self-conscious nonsense.
– Tie up Athena Moonglow thing. Find out how many reads she got last month, like 100 or something. Talk about how that’s not bad for a new writer. (Change her name and that embarrassing title… maybe, pretend the whole thing is fiction… like you wrote it all on purpose.)
– Mention how the woman with 124 pre-downloads still hasn’t published anything… Why would you do that?
– Re-iterate how you know you’ll have to re-write the whole thing – Tie into the ending somehow. Should you bookend the thing by finishing the paragraph you started at the beginning?
– Pick a tense.
– Pick a point of view.
– Re-write descriptions of Dad’s personality. They’re not right and sound incomplete. Include a flashback with Mom, and write a better summary for his wolf story. You could do better.
– In epilogue of story, include how you’ve tried putting the visor on him again, but each time, 45 hours later, he makes you take it off. Talk about how you knew he would, but you do it anyway just to see him in that moment. I’ve done it 8 times… Don’t include that. Maybe write some poetic nonsense… a happy ending?
– “My dad was the perfect reader for his own story, but in the end, even he didn’t want to read it. It didn’t let him escape, but instead brought him back to reality… 4 out 5 stars.” (Revise.)
– Since it’s fiction now, what is the overall task the narrator cannot seem to accomplish? His writing, some anger he can’t express… Does the narrator worry whether his father knows he loves him? Can he adequately express it? (Revise thematic questions.)
– And since it’s fiction now, tie the happy ending into the speculation about writing from the beginning… Is there a sense of authorship that accompanies a memory, something that brings it to life? Is that good? Tie this question of the authorship of memories throughout, and for the final paragraph, write a gentle meditation about revision, hinting at the parallel with real life… don’t make it obvious.
– And since it’s fiction, make it seem like the narrator got a higher score on the aggregator… 64.9 or higher… and change the title to “Wolves.” It’ll sound cooler.