“Describe the first story you ever sold to any publication. What was the title of the story? The name of the publication? The plot? The public reception to your work?”
It’s kinda like ‘what I did on my school break’, but nonetheless, let me trip down memory lane to recall the sunny times. ;)
The year was 2000 & I had managed to put endings on all of about 2 stories. The rest of my writing to date was a collection of fragments that I didn’t have the writing muscle to deal with. A mess of ideas & scenes with no coherence.
The second story I ever completed was called ‘The First and Final Game’. It sold to Altair, & editor Robert Stephenson, who was enthusiastic & supportive & entirely forgiving of my newbie status, put the story online for 3 months. I remember saying something to him like, ‘oh, will anyone read it, do you think?’
Because I was dumb. And unnerved. An Editor had Called Me, for goodness sake. I was out of my mind with fear.
Robert said yes, people would read it — & I think he went above & beyond to draw people’s attention to my story. Then he published it again in the Issue 6/7 print edition of Altair, alongside such luminaries as Kelly Link & Gavin Grant & stephen_dedman.
The story was told from the point of view of a woman, except she wasn’t a woman. She was, I guess, a metaphysical creation, born as a result of a particular serial killer whose evil was so pure it had dragged her from her realm of chaos. So the idea was: his evil had become palpable, & it was returning for him. See? She came either to join or to kill him — she herself wasn’t sure, & he had no idea what he was getting himself into. The two of them faced off while he was on a killing spree in a remote district. What I liked most about the story was her, the unnamed ‘she’, her delight at being born & her fascination with her own dark power, & her adoration for & frustration with the man who made her. In the end, the game changes & she herself is surprised…
Also, it kinda begins in second person. Which I’m told you shouldn’t do. Eh. I liked it.
I haven’t read the story for ages, but I remember tying myself up in knots with it, second-guessing every damn word for months, & being fueled by an outrage over some injustice or other, some fictional movie serial killer I’d recently seen, or something. I was fuming, and wanted to know how to stop evil, and it seemed to me the only way was to become evil ourselves, to fight fire with fire, to throw ourselves into the pit, to consume all that was unwholesome & smile, & then spit it all back out again. In short, to half-destroy ourselves in a kind of ‘you WANT me on that wall, you NEED me on that wall’ self-righteous nihilistic embrace of destruction. I was raging not so much against the dying of the light, but the way the light is sometimes ripped the fuck away from us.
I wanted to outwit death, or if not to outwit it, to destroy it.
The story seemed to attract a lot of reading & there was a kind of ‘buzz’ about it locally. Which freaked me out, because I was new, & dumb. I got a severe case of stage fright & retreated for a while. Meanwhile, ‘Game’ went on to win the Aurealis Award for Best Horror Short Story that year, & I won the very first Ditmar Award for Best New Talent the year after.
Yup. I like to say ‘my best work is behind me’. ;)