The new SF short is going by the title of “Sarscon 8,” for now. I’d intended it to be a Lovecraft ode, but it’s turned out more of a Caitlín R. Kiernan ode, which is more my preference (and perhaps renders it unsuitable for the market I’d written it for). It’s been an unusual story for me – typically, I start a story with the relationships between characters, the emotion one (or more) feels in a certain environment/after an event, and the story unfolds from there. But “Sarscon 8” has been different. It started with the alien, the reactions to its behavior, the off-world life, and now that I’ve got it all written down and mostly fleshed out, I’m stuck on the main relationship. The soul, the core of the story, isn’t there. And it’s driving me mad, because I can’t force it to work. I can’t hammer something out to fill in the space because it’s not a hammering out kind of thing, the way you can toss in some worldbuilding and/or plot elements and clear them up later.

Without its core, I’m not certain it’s worth pushing out to my crit partners, because they’ll miss the heart of the story, too. It’s a bit of a bummer, to know the best thing to do is wait and let it come to me when it’s ready. On the other hand, could a new perspective help? Help me find the ending that’s not quite there, or the emotional core that I normally get from the beginning?

And then there’s consistency factor. I read a phenomenal story today in the Lightspeed slush that made me think yes yes yes yes for nearly 3/4ths of it, and then I thought what? What just happened? To be so very close, and then just drop the reader. It’s tricky, this emotional game played by the writer, the balance he or she creates for the reader in the unfolding of events. And that’s the reason why I love short stories so much – the reader expects an experience in the brief amount of words, and when they’re really taken for a ride, how exciting that is!

Which leads me to…30 days until Clarion!

We have a private blog for the Clarion class of 2011, where we’ve gotten to know a little more about each other as well as the instructors. Karen Joy Fowler, current president of the Clarion Foundation (and author of the unbelievable story “The Pelican Bar” in the tremendous anthology Eclipse 3, which every short story lover should own; it happens to be my favorite of the Eclipse anthos, too, by the way) has written several motivating and encouraging posts, including one with the following paragraph:

You have to find ways to protect the joy of writing, those things that first gave you pleasure and made you want to do it again. Anytime you feel yourself losing that, it’s worth taking a long hard look at what can be done. Because something must be done! I don’t mean that every day you love it. But the overall trend should be toward continuing to feel the things that made you want to be a writer in the first place.

And so I’ll brainstorm “Sarscon 8” a while longer.