The above picture is a painting by Richard Caton Woodville, Jr. It is a painting of the “Charge of the Light Brigade,” made famous by the poem of the same name by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. I am using this poem as an epigraph for my story “Project Light.” I am also using the poem to help define the theme of the story. I’ll do a proper Author’s Note on the story after I finish it, but I wanted to jot down my reactions on creating this story up to this point.
This is the story that I wanted to work on after Ship of Shadows (aka “Project Shadow”). However, this story wasn’t coming together. I knew the main character, I knew the plot, I knew how I wanted the story to end, but this story would not come together. Here are 3 reasons why (after reflecting about it and looking at it through the lens of hindsight):
- It was conceived in the weeks after my grandmother died. It was conceived as sort of an elegy to her. A celebration of her strength and determination and of living well despite a life of unfulfilled dreams. She often lamented that she was born “50 years too soon.” It staggers my mind and boggles me when I think of all of the opportunities that she missed now that the world has changed. I wanted a way to celebrate her in writing and this story came to me. This is an emotional story to write as I want to get it right and I’ll accept nothing less than “perfection” for this particular story.
- As a result of number one above, it is a very personal story. The hero has more of “me” (the author) in him than any of my other stories. To be clear, the main character is NOT me, the author. It just means that at any given time their are more of my thoughts and traits in him than for other protagonists that I’ve created. In other words, I’ve made up “less” and reached into myself “more” when illustrating the things he does, where as other main characters, I’ve tried to pull out my own personal traits and thoughts and put in the traits/thoughts of others who I’ve run across. This probably the most “autobiographical” story that I’ve done (which just means that the rejections are going to be harder to take whenever I do finish and start submitting this story)
- It deals with a number of topics that are (to put it bluntly) pretty harsh. It deals with the idea of losing ones family, of continuing through on through the pain of loss, and of the nature of death. I’ve been in a college classroom where a student unbeknownst to me committed suicide and I was asked if I knew him because I sat only a few seats from him. I’ve been in another college classroom where a classmate died only a few weeks before the class was finished because he didn’t have medical insurance and refused to go to the doctor due to the cost.
None of these things are easy to deal with. Add to the fact that I try to use my writing and reading to “escape” from these topics mean that this story is hard to write to say the least. My sci-fi and my fantasy are the very definition of escapism. Yet this story demands to be written. Like another story I have in mind (another “hard to write” one–for different reasons), it will NOT leave my mind. I can see it just as well as I see this one and eventually I’m going to have to put it down on paper as well.
Yet, I can’t make myself to give into the “Grim Dark” movement that is currently so popular. Will my protagonist make it out or will he succumb to darkness? The plan is that he will come out, but will be forever changed by his experience. And that, to Edgar Allan Poe (creator of the short story form) and to Alfred, Lord Tennyson (author of The Charge of the Light Brigade) is very purpose of fiction: to inform, to elucidate, and to illuminate the human condition.