A few days ago I found out that The Cocoon had won the Wishful Thinking contest and will be published at Criminal Element, and I am still thrilled about and humbled by that. The publication of The Cocoon is preceded by the publication of Coming Home, another story I'm especially proud of, and definitely one of the best short stories I've ever written. It's now up at Bartleby Snopes, as the final story of their June issue. So there's one good pair – two favorite stories finding superb homes.
Here's an excerpt from the beginning to get you started:
They call us names we don't recognize. Mr. Altman, Jacob, Fat Jack. They chuckle when they say the latter, and look at their shoes. “Can't really call you that anymore, eh?” It's been a long time since the man was fat. We try to smile, a reluctant people-smile, faint, close-mouthed.
The first time they see us they holler and laugh, hug us with their ten arms. We try not to step on any of their ten feet. The laughter fades. They say, “Your mother. Oh, God, your mother.” They let us call her, and on the other side of the telephone a voice – high pitched, not like ours, but like one of the five people around us – says, “Jack, no, you can't be Jack. Jack's dead.”
I try to write the sort of fiction I'd like to read, and I think I've succeeded here, particularly in regard to sci-fi. I like to think of science fiction as the realism of the possible, which means that except in setting it should be approached exactly like realism – the creativity that goes into the setting should come in addition to, not instead of, subtlety and human depth. And neither should human depth be confused with feelz and melodrama.
A good example of art that pushes all the right sci-fi buttons for me is Isaac Asimov's Robot series, and particularly the character of Elijah Baley. A better and more obvious example is Tarkovsky's Solaris (but not Lem's, and that's exactly the point).
I'm proud of Coming Home because I think in writing it I managed to uphold the ideal of the realism of the possible. The fantastical is revealed slowly, quietly – bit by bit the mystery of “What happened?” is unraveled – but the pushing force of the story, the climax, the “What's happening,” is real.
But that's my take; the final word is the reader's. Please, feel free to drop me a line. I'd love to know what you thought of the story.