Monday, December 11, 2017

Story Notes: "The Big So-So"

I write relatively few stories in first person. (Regular-sized stories, that is. I write a lot of flash in first person but writing flash is in my opinion completely different from writing a regular-sized story, so of course the techniques are going to change.) I can think of some reasons why that might be, but I think the main one is that most of my stories don't need a first person narrator. Besides, at any length much above a thousand words my own internal voice is going to kick in, and I don't want all of my stories to sound the same.

But hey, I can have one story like that. One story where I get to indulge a goofy internal narrative style. One story that's more about the way the story is being told than plot or conflict, one story that needs to be in first person because that's the only way it can be written. And that story is this story, "The Big So-So," which is out in the current issue of Interzone (November/December 2017).

I look over at Dorky. She looks over at me. She mouths the words "play along."

And I mouth the word "what?" because for the life of me I can't figure out what the hell the point of this little stunt is.

The seed of this story came out of my novel Stay Crazy, specifically the fact that while I share many demographic particulars with Em-the-protagonist, I don't have schizophrenia, though am "neuro-atypical" (a term I grudgingly use) in other ways. This led to a lot of waffling about whether I could really consider the book "ownvoices," and I decided that as a kind of balancing tactic I'd write a story about a character with my own strain of "neurodiversity": attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.

One of the quirks of ADHD is that chemicals (especially stimulants, but others too) don't affect us in the same way as non-ADHD people. So for "The Big So-So," I came up with the idea of an alien love drug that has a drastic effect on everyone except Sylvia, the attention-deficient narrator. But being spared from the high also means Syl is saved from the crash that happens when the aliens withdraw the drug, which means she's in an excellent position to help society rebuild.

In addition to neurodiversity, I wanted to write a story where restoration of the world after social collapse happened slowly and organically, and not as the result of any sudden heroics on Syl's part or anyone else's. Small actions making a positive change in the world one at a time. This may just be the most positive story I've ever written. (If you're curious, the band in the story sounds a lot like Brokencyde. Also, you should probably not listen to that video.)

And the story is set in Pittsburgh, because what city better exemplifies a slow recovery from a death spiral, and is also a place I lived for five years?

If you want to read the story, you can buy the issue here from TTA Press, or email me at satifka at gmail dot com. By the way, the title comes from the opening line of the song below. Sleater-Kinney is a much better band than the one in the story.


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