Sunday, November 06, 2005

Reflections on "For Us, the Living"

I'm sure everyone has a story the wrote when they were really young that they latest admitted schtunck! I actually finished a story in 1987, when I was 30, which I still have sitting in a folder. After I finished it, I just stashed it away, because I knew it wasn't that good. I was more interested in pursuing my career in journalism at the time, anyway.

I didn't look at the story for 16 years, and then ran across it after moving in 2003. It was set at the turn of the century, and boy did I call the history wrong! I had the Berlin Wall falling ten years too late, and the Christian Coalition taking over the country too early (I had Pat Robertson winning the 1992 presidential election).

BUT... reading the story now, I realize that if I had kept after it, rewrote it and few times, and maybe got some feedback, it might have been usable. The problem wasn't with the story, it was with me - I wasn't interested enough in writing fiction then.

By 2002, when I started writing s-f again, I had achieved a number of personal and professional goals which had been unfulfilled earlier. I was ready to try something new.

I also think 16 more years as a writer also really helped. I remember when I tried writing in the 1980s how labored it seemed to me - the actual writing process. Now, the writing seems easy - my problem is coming with clever, biting and original ideas. Which is a problem everyone faces.

The story I wrote up in 1987 still has an idea I'd love to explore - western society collapses in anarchy and violence as people go crazy because of their inability to handle the pace of technological change in their everyday lives.

Just as in "For Us, the Living", you can see the seeds of Heinlein's later works, when I found the manuscript of this story, I could see the roots of what I wrote later. The story is mostly a monologue, by the last man who makes it into a cave in Central Texas before they close the entrance. Above insanity and destruction spreads. The newcomer explains to another man that, essentially, he saw it all coming, and was ready to make a fast break when the collapse happened.

By the time I found the story and reread it, I had sent off "A Rocket for the Republic" - which, of course, is a monologue. The other story isn't quite a monologue - the other fellow gets a few words in - but you know what I mean.

I also found the handwritten beginning of another story - equally optimistic - that starts out pretty much like "A Canticle for Liebowitz", except that civilization didn't collapse due to war or disaster, but instead because people's collective intelligence ultimately lagged so far behind their technology that no one understood how stuff worked, and then - after free trade agreements bring in foreign made electronic goods that are especially shabbily made and prone to failure - people stop believing that the stuff works and it DOES stop working because of their collective disbelief. Somehow the laws of physics are changed because of the dead weight of doubt and ignorance.

The story would have a young monk who finds an old textbook by a Mr. Wizard type fellow, and the text is so clear and easy to understand that the monk "gets it" and some of the old technology starts working again for him.

I never even finished a first draft of that story.

Even back then, I would write potential story titles down. My wife was the one who actually found the box with these old papers while we were unpacking after a move, and she went through them.

She found an old brown crumbling sheet of paper where I had written down story titles, and pointed out one was "Circe in Vitro".

Pretty funny, I finally came up with a story to match that title last year. It was published by Astounding Tales, and was one of my Honorable Mentions in "The Year's Best Science Fiction, 22nd annual collection".

Lou Antonelli

No comments:

Post a Comment

Latest reviews

"It’s possible that you haven’t run into the stories of Lou Antonelli. Since 2003, he’s been publishing delightful short tales of alternate history all over the nooks and crannies of the SF world. Thanks to Fantastic Books, we now have 28 of these little gems in one place. "Many of Antonelli’s stories have an unexpected twist ending. And many of them are what he calls “secret history” stories, which aren’t exactly alternate history—they’re set in our familiar history, but there’s always some element that contemporary observers missed. " -

- Don Sakers, The Reference Library, Analog July-Aug. 2014

A better path develops for a distraught man in “Double Exposure” by Lou Antonelli (debut 6/11 and reviewed by Frank D). Jake is about to end it all. He has been trying to keep his high maintenance wife happy for decades and has needed to embezzle to satisfy her spending habits. Now, on the verge of indictment and abandoned by his spouse, he buys a gun. Before he pulls the trigger, he spies a Kodak one-day photo hut. Curious, he pulls up to the window. They are holding pictures of him and his last girlfriend from 30 years before. The package is a lot thicker than it should be. Double Exposure” is listed as an Alternative History story but I would classify it as a Magical Realism tale. It is set as a second chance tale, a look into a life that should have been. The author is inspired by his memories of the old photo huts (I remember them) and of their disappearance. A cool idea (photos of another life), one that I could imagine would make for a great anthology.

- Frank Dutkiewicz, Diabolical Plots

“Great White Ship”: A traveler stuck waiting for a flight strikes up a conversation with an old airline employee. The Old Timer tells him a story of a Great White Airship that arrives from a most unusual destination. The story of a craft from an alternate reality and how it got there is only the precursor to the final act. This is one of my favorite stories from this site. I have a great passion for lighter-than-air craft and their potential as a future means of transport, which opens the story. The author uses this speculation to launch into an engaging tale. As fascinating as the main story line is, the alternate history premise that accompanies it is just as worthwhile. This story was well written and very well thought out. It is well worth the read. Recommended.

- James Hanzelka, Diabolical Plots

Blog Archive


The content of this web site is subject to the following creative commons license: Click here for the fine print