Alright, the votes are in, the discussion didn’t materialize like I hoped, and I’m here to blow the lid off my Seven Truths and One Lie. But first a few prefatory remarks.
First. Overall, I don’t think I accomplished exactly what I had hoped to. I sought to pull the wool over my own eyes and generate at least one micro-short story. Unfortunately, the problem that dogs my writing – and other parts of my life – came to the fore. I’m a profoundly passive person, who finds observation, description, and analysis more interesting than any kind of action.
In my anecdotes I found it interesting that there is exactly one active character, my father, who in two stories variously drags me fearlessly into the middle of the Mexican desert to La Cantina or perilously pulls an imperialist prank on a hapless East African. Although I wrote in first person, there is never any interaction, and in three of the stories my seeking solitude is the primary motivation of the observations that comprise the bulk of the tales.
Certain persons who know me well in real life – *cough* Eric and Ken – will probably find themselves bemused by this. Ken’s followed me into an active riot zone, clouds of tear gas brilliant white against the night sky, illuminated by banks of playfield lights as bright as day. This was at my initiative, following a boisterously contentious dinner among activists and residents of Seattle during the WTO events here. “Bang!” went the grenades in the distance, and I had to be physically restrained from charging off to the scene.
Eric’s not only heard my travel tales but my many misadventures as a callow yoot, some of which I should probably develop. There’s the time a certain person (a convicted murderer on the lam from Florida, the grapevine later insisted) held a kid out the second story apartment window by his feet in a dispute over drug monies said to be owed, for example (I was nether present nor involved, may I hasten to add).
I was surprised to see themes emerge with such clarity: imperialism and colonialism, war and military might, solitude, the desert, and flight are clearly the things I have been thinking about ever since I was a child.
My personal favorite – and the piece which is most fully developed – is The Wind and Rain. Still, the piece is just the setting for a short story, the armature and stage on which persons might sing their little songs of mating and death. And that’s the problem with all these pieces. There’s no actor, just a setting.
That said, you people elected The Tumor head of the class. This story is not the lie. Each observation in the piece is factually a part of my memories of Japan. I do have recollections of the outdoors in Japan – usually in the context of a visit to a tourist destination, such as the temple complex at Nara – but because the memory of that man’s face was so stark and uncomfortable, I deliberately chose to write about what I perceived then as the Great Indoors. To this day when the SF trope of the world-city passes under my eyes in reading, it is the endless layer-cake of under Japan I visualize.
Felicity, bless her book lovin’ soul, fingered the ringer, but was buffaloed by what she visualized as a Deltawinged dive-bomber screaming down at my family by their car. In fact, the bomber was simply flying as low to the ground as possible – possibly approaching us from below the crest of the hill on which we’d parked, at a potential altitude of as low as 25 feet. Which is why we heard it so long before we saw it. The plane had probably begun to pull up a bit when he saw us, before clawing his way back up to the sky just after.
The lie, dear hearts? Well, it’s two-fold. I was frankly disappointed that no-one noticed my giant sign, planted in the Ethiopian highlands on the road to Axum. The sign? My father, after all, told the collector of The Toll a sort of lie with his crazy, dominant jabbering. That lie, as all good lies, encapsulated the truth: white men who gesture angrily on dusty third world roads are best heeded, as history has shown. Unspeakable violence may ensue.
My own lie, however, is of a different order. My parents lived and worked in Addis Ababa in the early 1960s, before I was born. The story as I wrote it here is almost exactly as my father can still tell it, to great comedic effect, amazing, pseudo-linguistic jabbering included. The details of my mother’s distress, and the need to keep the car from bursting into a storm of questions are my own fabricated contributions.
So, thanks again to those of you who dropped by and registered a vote or a thought on these, and thanks also to those of you who were interested enough to link over. I will be conducting more exercises in fictioneering here; I’m far from ready to discuss the techniques and goals I want to pursue, however.