Nymph, in thy orisons be all my blogs remember’d

It’s interesting how these things happen.  As you’ll know, if you’ve been following this blog, I finished the first draft of Unanimity at the end of January, and I decided to take a break from it at least through this month (February) before going back to begin the rewriting/editing.  During the break, my intention was to write, and possibly to rewrite and edit, one or two short stories, the choice of the first of which I had made ahead of time.  This much has gone precisely according to plan:  the first draft of that first story is completed.

Then, I had to decide what story to write next.  As I’ve detailed elsewhere, the one I originally had in mind was of too similar a character to the one I’d just finished.  So, I went to my list of (electronically) jotted-down story ideas and found one that was different enough, and interesting enough, to work on, and I started writing.

Well…this story idea, and the protagonist who came along with it, has turned out to be surprisingly deep and engaging, though I have no idea if anyone else will share my assessment.  The character’s back-story and his life experiences resonate strongly with me, so I’m not only having quite a nice time writing about him, but the story has a lot more meat than I would have expected.  It may well turn out to be more a novella than a short story.

Yes, I know, many of my “short stories” stray well over the border and into the No Man’s Land between short story and novella.  This makes me particularly grateful for e-book publishing, since it’s hard to imagine any old-school magazines publishing such stories out of length considerations, though I suppose serialization might have been possible.  This new story, though, with a very tentative title of Safety Valve, is going to end up being even more involved than is usual for me.  It doesn’t merit a full-length novel, but it’s not going to be finished in twenty or so pages, either.  In fact, it’s already reached twenty pages, and there’s quite a lot more to tell.

Of course, by nature I tend to take more of a “Cheesecake Factory” approach to writing than a “Seasons 52” approach.  This isn’t good if one is trying to watch one’s weight, as I know only too well, but when it comes to stories…well, you can’t gain weight from reading a story (nor from writing one, thank goodness).  In fact, given that the brain consumes a tremendous portion of the body’s energy budget—about twenty percent—you may burn extra calories by reading a longer story, as long as you don’t snack while doing so.

I’m pleased, bordering on delighted, to have found this story so engaging, especially since I came up with the raw idea off-the-cuff, some time ago, and just added it to the “Quick Memo” file on my smartphone.  That practice has turned out to be quite a useful one.  Incidentally, I had behaved similarly with the germ for the other story I just finished.  The “Quick Memo” habit works beautifully, at least for me, and I don’t mind throwing it out there as possibly useful for others.  We might as well take advantage of the little technological marvels that we carry with us.  We can thus avoid the classic nightmare:  a good idea occurs to us while we’re on the job, or in bed, or in some other situation in which we can’t immediately turn to it in earnest, and by the time we find an appropriate location or time, the idea is lost…“and enterprises of great pitch and moment, with this regard their currents turn awry and lose the name of action.”

Who would have thought that the words of Shakespeare would apply so well to taking notes on one’s smartphone?  Well, anyone who’s read much Shakespeare might think such a thing.  His work is incredibly powerful and broadly pertinent, worthy of deepest admiration and even excusable envy.  “If I could grow apples like that, I would call myself a gardener.”*

Well, that’s enough self-indulgence for another Thursday.  I hope the weather’s reasonably good wherever you may be, and that your week has been tolerable, and perhaps even wonderful.

TTFN


*This is not a quote from Shakespeare, by the way.  Do you know its source?  Valuable brownie points will be awarded to anyone who does and who states it in the comments below!

Genocide by Mumps

I’ve been thinking of an amusing plot idea, possibly for a pseudo-apocalyptic thriller of the sort that I wouldn’t ever be likely to write.  I’ll give you a little background information to set the stage, and if any of you ever want to use it, please be my guest.  (It would be nice if you’d let me know, so that I can keep my eyes out for the story, but it’s by no means required.)

We’re all reasonably familiar with the disease The Mumps, caused by a viral infection, and much rarer for people to get in the modern, developed world thanks to vaccination.  What some people don’t know is that, in addition to causing inflammation of the parotid glands, leading to the familiar, puffy-cheeked look of its sufferers, it can also, on occasion, cause orchiitis – an inflammation of the testicles.  In some victims, this can lead to decreased fertility and even to full-fledged sterility.

Now, what if some “mad scientist” – perhaps an eco-terrorist – carefully selected for just those strains of the virus most frequently causing orchiitis, then genetically engineered that to engender peak virulence, increased transmissibility, and so on, before releasing it into the general population?  The goal would be a form of preemptive population control, a genocide that wouldn’t require the murder of already-living people (except, of course, for that small percentage of Mumps sufferers who do die from even the ordinary illness).

One could write a story about the discovery of such a plot and the brave and dangerous attempt to head it off, or about living in a world that had already succumbed to its effects, a la “The Stand.”  The specifics, of course, would be up to the individual writer, but it could be a good story.  One (amusing?) side-effect (or benefit, depending upon one’s point of view) would be that, in the West, at least, anti-vaccers would disproportionately fall victim to the nefarious plot.

This, however, is not a good enough reason for those readers who are scientifically inclined and have the resources to choose actually to carry out such a plot in real life.  No indeed!  I would never endorse such a dreadful course of action, no matter how darkly amusing the side-effects would be, or how beneficial it might be to the beleaguered other species of plants and animals on the Earth.

(Wink, wink)

I’m kidding.  I honestly would NOT want to see such a thing happen.  I do have children, and I hope they have long, rewarding lives in a healthy world that’s achieved peace and prosperity without the mass-sterilization of the human population, if such a thing is possible.  Still, I would like to read a story about it, and it’s not my kind of story to write, so to my fellow authors a out there:  Have at it, if you’re interested.  I eagerly await any fruits of your labors.

And, to any of the other sort, as I said above:  I already HAVE kids.

Full Disclosure

For those who have any interest, I wanted to give a brief notification about a change of plans.

Though I am nearly finished with the editing of “I For One Welcome Our New Computer Overlords,” and in fact plan to publish it tomorrow, I will not immediately go back to the editing of Mark Red.  The reason?  The best one possible:  I got hit by a new short story, and it wants to be told.  It’s going to be quite short this time…or at least it should qualify for what ordinary people (i.e. not me) think of as a short story, so it should only push back the editing of Mark Red by a week or so, I’d imagine.

I plan to release this story on my blog also, unless reaction to its predecessor is uniformly condemnatory.  I don’t really expect that to happen, but we’ll see.

The way this story came to me raises interesting points about the triggers of my story ideas in general.  I don’t know how it is for other authors, but I find that about fifty percent of my stories—short and novels—originate with a title, at least lately.  Clearly, “I For One Welcome Our New Computer Overlords,” was a title-driven story, as was “Paradox City,” and “The Death Sentence” (both available to read in my collection, Welcome to Paradox City).

Other stories are triggered by a much more nebulous and varied set of stimuli.  This latest one was born of something that happened at the Tri-Rail train station in Hollywood, Florida, and grew fully into its story idea within the space of minutes.  I won’t tell you anything more about it at the moment, because that might give part of the tale away, but it should be available to read before long.

Thanks for your ongoing attention.  “I For One Welcome Our New Computer Overlords” should be available by tomorrow, barring the unforeseen.  Best wishes to you all, and in case I forget to say so later to those in the U.S., Happy Thanksgiving.

TTFN.