Death and Perfectionism: “A Stop on the Journey”

The redone cover

If you want to read the story I’m writing about, click on the link above while it’s free, all day Thursday. If you’re reading this and it’s not Thursday I don’t want you feel this is just an ad, so feel free to keep looking.

I’ve sold short stories. That’s more than a lot of writers can say.

I don’t make my living at writing. I probably never will. The reasons aren’t important for now. What is important is making genre writing — specifically the pulp and ‘low-rent’ genres of the past — compelling for today.

I once was so sick of zombie stories that I decided to write one. It sold to the first editor who read it. When the magazine was out, the issue was reviewed. The reviewer wrote something that surprised me — he understood that the story of a little girl who is becoming something horrible was actually about the school system, and how we treat children.

He got it. He understood what I was trying to do.

I wrote that zombie story because I was sick of zombie stories. They were everywhere, and they would be gone very soon, I was sure of it. This was in 2006.

When it came to end of the world stories I suspected they would be around a long time. What angle hadn’t been tried? At the time (I won’t bother with the date), apocalypse stories centered on tough-talking loner heroes and their weapons as they battled zombies or mobs or aliens.

How to make it new? Who could star in such a story who was by his or her nature different from the movie hero fantasy figures? That was the key for me, to make the story NOT be a wish-fulfillment fantasy about power. How to make it about someone who was powerless, who found a position, ultimately, that made him more than what he was when things ran smoothly?

The original (bad) cover

I hadn’t read many stories starring anyone in a wheelchair. How would he survive with everyone dead, the streets clogged with cars, no one around?

“A Stop on the Journey” is my answer.

The story placed in a small press anthology. I wanted more people to read it, so I put it on Amazon. I didn’t have any spare money so I made the cover myself. I was actually proud of it.

I redid the cover the other night, along with several other covers to short stories I had put on Amazon and then removed. I wanted to give them one more crack, to tighten them up.

Then I read something about procrastination and perfectionism, and how people never do so many things because they wait for a perfect…something. Perfect never comes.

The story is about me. It’s about hiding, and what happens when you don’t hide anymore.

It’s not a great story, but it (and the one about the zombie girl) are among my favorites of those I’ve written. No one else may like them — no, that’s not true, people have already read them and liked them. What was I afraid of?

Dying without my work being read.

That won’t happen now.