Good morning! Allow me to welcome you to another Thursday, which I know you’ve been awaiting with bated breath. It’s the first Thursday of December 2018, and the new year rapidly approaches. Hanukkah has already begun, and some other biggish holiday is also coming up, based on the various decorations and songs one hears in the shops.
I’ve been working steadily, if sometimes not as quickly as I like. Solitaire should be ready to publish soon, probably before the end of the year. We’ve already begun working on the cover design, which I don’t expect to be a great surprise, but which nevertheless is so appropriate as to be all but inevitable.
I’m excited about publishing Solitaire, and I’m enthusiastic about people reading it, but I want to say again before that day arrives: this is not a happy story. It has its moments of sardonic humor, I suppose, but it is supremely dark…so dark that, when I originally wrote it, I couldn’t imagine where to send it to get it published. I couldn’t see how any magazine would want it.
Not that it’s not a good story; obviously, I think it is. But it’s not science fiction, and it’s not supernatural. Thus, venues dedicated to those genres were not readily available. And though there is a surprise revelation involved, it’s not really a mystery story, either. It’s the tale of an advertising executive having a breakdown, and contemplating the recent events of his life, and that of his family, while dealing out a hand of solitaire at the breakfast table.
But this is not the whole story of why I never tried to have it published; it’s actually a bit of excuse-making. The fact is, especially as a younger man, I was nervous about putting Solitaire out into the world. From then to now, the reactions of those who have read it have ranged from, “Man, that guy’s really bitter,” to “Doc, you’re fucked in the head.” These comments have always been made in good humor—the commenters clearly meaning what they said as a species of compliment—but these were people who know me, after all. They know I’m a good guy.
Strangers reading Solitaire might be rather put off. I suppose that’s okay. People who can’t handle dark things should avoid it; for certain others it may even be “triggering.” I would go so far as to say that someone in the throes of a significant mood disorder probably should not read it.
Still, I think it’s a good story, and I’m proud of it, despite its darkness…or perhaps because of it, who knows? If I don’t, I don’t see how anyone else could. I think that, although sometimes the best way to deal with darkness is to whistle past the graveyard and make jokes, at other times its just as well to dive right into the deep, dark end of the frigid pool and get it over with, or get used to it, or whatever you want to call the process. Maybe such fiction is a way of saying, “The world can be dark. Sometimes it can be very dark. We can take it. Bring it on.”
Whatever the meaning, I’m delighted to have rediscovered it, and to be able to present it to you in a venue all its own, hopefully for your enjoyment.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I’m also editing Penal Colony. It’s taking longer than Solitaire, partly because it’s a longer story, and partly because Solitaire gets priority. Penal Colony is more light-hearted, and it is definitely science fiction, though not of the ray-gun, starship variety—it takes place in the modern world, mostly in an all-night diner. Make of that what you will.
And, of course, Unanimity is moving along as well. We’re about to reach the final confrontation, something I’ve been approaching for many times longer than have the characters in the story (which takes place over only a few months). It’s been a long road, much longer than I expected, and it’s good to be able finally to catch a glimpse of the end, even if it is still off on the horizon. Or some other, better metaphor.
Have a happy holiday season, even you only tacitly celebrate the Winter Solstice. It may be cold and dark outside, at least in the northern hemisphere, but that’s okay. As I said above, we can take it.
Bring it on.