Sunday, November 24, 2013

The Adam & Eve angle in my story "Scents" takes a twist

One more brief insider scoop for you regarding "Scents," my world-gone-stinky flash piece.

I've always had a soft spot for Adam and Eve threads in science fiction tales. I also enjoy dystopian stories. Quite often one outcome for those is a literal or figurative do-over, particularly at the conclusion. In other words, center the plot on thwarting the bad, oppressive society/regime/environment somehow and then give the heros a chance to start anew, the notion being this time all will be better. It's a fitting reward for a titanic struggle.

Except in my own stories. 

Being the dark fiction slinger that I am, I don't expect I'll ever spin a tale where my victors go on to found a whole new utopia unmolested. Oh sure, they might desire to. They might think they will. Perhaps it will even start out that way. But I seriously doubt I'll be able to resist introducing some destabilizing factor to undermine their reward. 

Let's face it. A true Garden of Eden is lush, sanguine and idyllic. In other words, conflict free. Add a serpent and now you have the makings of a real story. That's my job as a writer: inject conflict and tension, shake vigorously, see what falls out. 

When I conceptualized "Scents," I knew it would have an Adam and Eve theme woven into it (albeit somewhat reversed). I also knew my Eve would be fiercely devoted to her mate and never inclined to abandon her love even though Eden or, in this case the world outside their domed prison, beckoned and was hers for the taking. That's not to say she didn't want that life of total freedom under the stars. She just didn't want it alone. My Eve's bond was that strong. 

At the point where I was prepared to actually introduce Eve's mate into "Scents," I paused. This was where the typical trope would have me supply an Adam and, I admit, would be a typical storyline for me to write. 

That's when I asked myself why? Why did it have to be an Adam and an Eve? Why not an Eve and Eve? Or an Adam and Adam for that matter. After all, "Scents" was a story about love and utter devotion. Period. Biological reproduction never entered the equation. 

That was my liberating moment. The result was my first Eve and Eve story. Darkened, of course. 

Monday, November 18, 2013

The inside scoop on my story "Scents"

What if, in the span of a decade or two, Earth changed to become intolerable to humans? Yeah, I know: tired, old, sci-fi trope, right? But I don't mean excessive heat, water, cold, radiation or some kind of zombie apocalypse.

What if Earth just suddenly stank?

I'm talking a whole lot of stink here, the kind that introduces your stomach to your larynx. Repeatedly.

This is the premise of my flash piece, "Scents," which premiers on November 19 at Every Day Fiction. I thought I'd take a moment and reflect on where the germ of the story came from.

I have two words for you: paper mill.

If you ever lived in the vicinity of a paper mill, you'll know what I mean when I say the aroma one of those facilities can put forth is quite breathtaking. And I do mean that in the literal sense.

When I was a little boy, well before we had Facebook and console games, for entertainment we had something called bicycles. At the time I had a close friend and we rode a lot. Our butts were permanently molded into the shape of a bike saddle because of the hours we spent riding. This was in a Midwest town in the US heartland. For mindless trivial fun, bike riding was about as good as it got.

Except when the wind blew from a certain direction.

Why? Because the paper mill was that direction parked on the outskirts of town. On days when the wind blew into town from the paper mill, the smell was so nauseating that skunks actually complained to the mayor.

Fast forward to a recent morning when I was on a power walk not long after sun rise. The air was warm and clear. I had a good pace going. All was well with the world.

And then I entered a stench zone. It was revoltingly bad. Gave me the dry heaves (breakfast hadn't occurred yet, thankfully). I think it persisted for like a hundred yards or so but it felt more like a hundred miles. When I finally emerged and gulped fresh air, the memory came roaring back of those miserable days downwind of the paper mill.

Odors can be one of the most powerful exciters of deep memories. In my case, it worked like a charm. I was a young boy back on a bike again, desperately trying to get home after the wind had shifted on a warm summer day. Then, barely making it alive, I barricaded myself there, trying not to let the foul fumes suffocate me.

That's about the point where my muse said, "Hey, what if the whole world stunk like that? Cool story, eh?"

Half a second later, the muse came up with, "Wow, what if the world stunk and one person didn't have a sense of smell? What would that be like?"

You can read one possibility on Every Day Fiction starting November 19.