There’s a short story contest running at the writing website Inkitt.com, where you can submit for free a single fantasy or science-fantasy story. Now that my college program is finished, my days are still hectic with my internship and applications for jobs, but I at least have more time on the weekends to write.
I realized this weekend, as I thought about some ways that I could contribute to this writing contest, that it could be an appropriate place for the return of Alice. The short story contest wouldn’t be the best context to display the character in all that she signifies. That would simply be impossible in the condensed form of a 2-3000 word story, and I haven’t even fully thought through all the philosophical implications of Alice as a character.*
* Ethically, politically, morally, sexually, epistemically, ontologically, narratively. I think I’ve made something really interesting with this character. I hope Vaka Rangi sees this post and has something to say in the comments. He’s always very insightful with these concepts.
|The cover image I'll use for my story submission, from Flickr Creative Commons.|
I’m not really sure how successful this story will even be in the contest. Its style isn’t what I’d call experimental, but it is different. My girlfriend recently finished Irvine Welsh’s novel Crime. I haven’t yet read Welsh myself, though I’ll steal this and her copy of Trainspotting soon too.
As she explained his writing style to me, I realized that it resembles the modernist techniques of James Joyce and Virginia Woolf: long, introspective, first-person, stream-of-consciousness monologues delivered with a particular ear for the character’s cultural vernacular. Welsh innovates by drawing his plots and storylines from genre fiction, as with Crime.
While I don’t have a cultural vernacular for my narrator, interstellar space pilot Jorge Patel, the story describes his “Epic World” through digressions in his memories that spark from snippets of dialogue between he and Alice as they travel to the world-ship where most androids live in their fictional universe. The story opens with a remark Alice makes about slavery.
As they speak, Jorge recalls lessons about Earth’s history on his own homeworld, Delta Pavonis, which vilified the planet as a society addicted to slave economies. But another remark later reminds him of his disillusionment with the economy and society of his own world, which quite resembles ours.
I also include a dig at Ed Miliband
and the UK’s Labour Party, who
differ from the Conservatives only in
being the pro-austerity political party
that feels a little sad about endorsing
economic policies that drag almost
the entire country’s population into
inescapable poverty. And if Liz
Kendall wins, I doubt they'll even
feel sad about it anymore.
Falling wages and a bloated oligarchy are justified to the public as the cost of staying competitive in an economy that needs planet-wide austerity for the indefinite future to overcome a crisis. He spends his teenage years watching his friends drop out of school one by one, as their families can no longer afford the fees. Unlike the rest of us, he’s able to train to become an interstellar pilot, and fly to other worlds.
I try to paint a whole world through the digressive memories of one person seeking a better life. The other stories at the Inkitt contest are pretty good, and also quite interesting. But they favour descriptions of events, followed by dialogue. For someone more accustomed to this, I admit that my style can be challenging.
The story’s politics carry an explicit left-wing message and an implicit feminist ideal. I think it’ll definitely have an appreciative audience, but most of the stories that I see at the top of its leaderboards right now are very typical fantasy plots like roguish action heroes kidnapping sarcastic princesses, or stereotypical grimdark fantasies about the horrors of war.
So I’m not sure how well my story, “Dancing in the Harshest Starlight,” will do in this context. In essence, the story is about someone who turns away from the cesspool of misery and violence that his human society has become, then discovers the paradise that superior creatures, the androids, have built. But he remains human, and the community of peace, prosperity, neighbourliness, and happiness that he sees remains forever separate from him precisely because he’s only human.