09 JAN 2018
It is always useful to bring up concrete examples when arguing your side. I was thinking earlier about this discussion/thread on reddit.com/r/writing. The poster was asking why the subreddit’s focus seem to be mostly on writing the novel and not so much on the short story. There weren’t that many interesting replies, and some were outright not useful at all. One posted that short stories are harder to write than novels, for example. I disagree with this. I’ve written short stories, and I couldn’t even imagine how I would write a novel. I can’t write based on chapters it seems, maybe I should try it one of these days. My point is that I should have brought up William Gibson into the discussion. William Gibson wrote novels and short stories. I think he is equally known for both of these types of narrative works. I have read I think four of his novels, and several of his short stories. They are all equally wonderful. He writes the most poetic, breathtaking lines. He has this amazing skill of describing things – like the watch in ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ for example, or the personality of the assassin character.
In the end they are all just words. One sentence at a time, as Stephen King once said. The difference is length – a novel has around one hundred thousand words. A short story can go from one thousand to seven thousand words. It’s not the production of words that is the problem, it is the structuring of these words so that they make sense, so that they are engaging to the reader. I think I have proven now, it’s been five days since I started, that writing a thousand words a day isn’t that hard. What is difficult is writing a thousand words a day that is actually meaningful. And I’m not even talking yet about writing actual fiction with characters interacting in the world created. These are all just writing ‘at the sides’.
She’s tired of it all, being stuck here in this place, subject to the whims of her audience, who most probably are all fat, hairy and have questionable hygiene. But not tired enough of it that she would go out into the outside world and engage with it like a real normal human being. She wonders how her classmates back in elementary are doing right now. Maybe they’re dealing with the world so much better than her. She feels envious of them, and this time, thinking this, she actually means it. She just wants to melt into the crowd, live a different timeline, disappear into normality. Instead she faces the unblinking metal eye of the camera day in and day out.
After her session for the day, she goes out into the nearby cafe where she’s a regular, and the workers recognize her. Some even try to befriend her, but she’s cold towards them because she just wants to be left alone, reading her book, sipping her coffee, gazing at the world. The world being the street where vehicles and pedestrians pass on by, not looking at her, not minding her. It is she who is looking at the world now. In the story she’s reading, the Dark Lord of the Universe has finished another genocide. It is to pacify the galaxy, he claims to the multitude he is addressing. His speech is broadcast to all the worlds of the system that he has ‘pacified’, on massive screens, projected onto sides of buildings, etc. This latest speech, more of a harangue really, has been going on for six imperial hours now. This triumph of the army is the triumph of the people. You are all my children, you are in my heart, I think about you day and night, and even when I sleep I think of all of you, those who have been in my care for a long time, and those of you who are recently arrived. Then he starts to sing, this is the sign that he is about to end his speech. The latest song is a version of a war poem that is taught to all schools in the imperial world system.
“Here’s your coffee ma’am” the waiter said.
“Thank you” she replied. She turns to the next page of the book.
The poem on which the song is based tells the story of a soldier who came from a backwoods settlement in some insignificant little planet. The soldier is young and strong, as his world is an agricultural planet where they grow various crops and these crops require manual labor, and it is being engaged with hard labor growing these crops since he was old enough to walk that has molded his physique all through the years. Then he is conscripted along with hundreds of young men in his town to the planetary army, then there is a selection process assessing strength, mental and physical, and those who pass this is sent off-world for continued training into one of the military planets. He passes these all with flying colors. His first assignment is to a rebellious colony, where he is wounded.
She turns the next page, and the girl behind the counter is looking at her. She is short, petite, cute, short hair, kind of curvy in all the right places. In short, she is just her type. The girl behind the counter smiles at her. She winks back at her and continues to read on.
Pages upon pages later, and now the people are revolting against the Dark Lord of the Universe. To quell the uprising, he sent out his clandestine torture squad. Young men and women are captured and tortured for no apparent reason at all. They didn’t even ask whether they were part of the resistance or not. The unit just picked them off the street and then later on had their mutilated bodies dumped in the middle of the street so that everyone could see what happens to those who even disagree with how the Dark Lord of the Universe phrases his sentences. Families lost sons and daughters, fathers and mothers. Friends lost friends. Lovers lost the ones they most valued in the world.
This is getting dark, she thinks, and so puts the book down. She looks up and the girl is sitting on the other side of the table. THe girl has changed from work clothes into a blank white t-shirt and tight-fitting blue jeans.
“So how was it?” she said to her.
“This book is terrible” she replied.
And they go back to her apartment, to her room, and they take off their clothes, get into the bed and watch some anime in the girl’s laptop.
09 JAN 2018