Sometimes you have to take a step back and actually think about what you are publishing and writing. The past week’s senseless violence made me stop and reconsider a story that I’d been obsessing over looking for markets for it for the past 2 weeks. The story was Citizen X and it is an alternate history story. I talked a little about on the blog previously, but it takes an idea about what might the world look like if McCarthy (of the “Red Scare” & “McCarthy Trials” fame) had won the presidential election. I also added in a bit of science fiction to the world and advanced some of the technology by about 150 years just to make it a more interesting place (servebots whizzing around the place similar to our rising drone culture, for instance). My protagonists are Langston Hughes and Zora Neale Hurston and they don’t fare so well in this world, but they are the most equipped to speak out about it in this alternate history. Yet, just as McCarthy used the legal system and the “trial” as hammer in the real world, so too does he use the police force as a hammer in the world of the story.
Hence, the tie to Current Events involving police and deaths. I’m no longer comfortable with the ending that I wrote for Citizen X. (Even the title of the story is meant to evoke the slain militant civil rights leader Malcolm X–a conscious decision on my part).
Now, even though this story was written a while ago, the events that have happened this week are simply too tragic and horrific to be trivialized. Do I want my story to be relevant? Yes, but not at the expense of minimizing the tragedies of people losing their lives. I decided, for the time-being, that I did not want to submit Citizen X out to markets until I either was comfortable with submitting it again or found an ending that is different from its current ending. I actually have a new ending in mind (it is the original ending for the story from a dream I had that helped me conceive the story in the first place), but I wrote away from that ending and tried to make the story “edgy” and “relevant.” But now I’m considering a return back to the old (dream-inspired) ending. As I am discovering, being “edgy” and “relevant” doesn’t make my story better, rather it is a distraction that keeps my art from doing what (I think) good art should: giving a commentary on what it is to be human without me (the author) telling you (the audience) what to think, but rather letting you come to the conclusion on your own. In other words, being “edgy” & “relevant” puts too much of me in the story and serves as a distraction.
Lesson Learned = don’t try to be edgy (or relevant). Just get out the way and tell the best story I can.