(Warning: if you consider three rhetorical questions in one blog an overuse of rhetorical questions, then the following blog contains an overuse of rhetorical questions.)
I found this on the internet the other day:
“We are finalists in the Best Magazine category and also episode 118 Beachcombing by Ray Cluley is a finalist in the Best Story: Large Cast category.”
It came from a blog by the Dunesteef Audio Fiction Magazine, and you can read the whole thing here: http://www.dunesteef.blogspot.co.uk/2012/07/parsec-finalists.html
It was bloody good news…for about five minutes. Why only five minutes? Because when I went to the list of finalists ‘Beachcombing’ wasn’t there. Then I remembered the category, Large Cast story, and thought – well, there’s only one person in ‘Beachcombing’ really. Must be a mistake. Hope not, but it must be.
Turns out it was Jason Sanford’s story ‘The Ever-Dreaming Verdict of Plagues’ that had the rightful spot. (And if you haven’t already read it, you should – it’s great, it’s in issue 236 of Interzone, and you can hear it in two instalments at Dunesteef: here’s part one: http://dunesteef.com/2012/02/27/episode-125-the-ever-dreaming-verdict-of-plagues-part-1-by-jason-sanford/ )
Anyway, I’m counting this clerical error as good news. Why? Well, first of all, because Dunesteef said this about ‘Beachcombing’:
“It is definitely one of our best stories…perhaps of all time. It moved me in a way that no other story we’ve run has.”
The explanation of the mix up is here: http://www.dunesteef.blogspot.co.uk/2012/08/retractionsort-of.html
I’m also counting it as a good thing because while looking on the Dunesteef site I found a forum where people had lots of great things to say about the story, too. I felt bad for not having thanked people for their comments when they’d made them (I will) but I was also very pleased that they enjoyed it so much.
What’s the point of this blog? Well, the whole experience reminded me that stories stick around. ‘Beachcombing’ first appeared in issue 19 of Black Static in November 2011, and it was translated into French and republished in Ténèbres 2011 before going on to become a well produced podcast by the good folks at Dunesteef. People I’ll never know have read it/heard it in different parts of the world, and that’s awesome. It exists, it’s out there, and I made it.
As a self-confessed short story junkie, it’s easy to forget previous stories in the race forward to produce new ones and as a result I spend too much time (not enough, not enough!) looking at my ‘to finish’ pile or waiting to hear back from publishers and fretting that I’m losing momentum. I need to chill a little. Okay, you’re only as good as your last story perhaps, so the drive and associated anxiety will always be there, but there will never be enough time to write everything I want to write. I will have more notebooks of ideas than finished pieces. Sometimes, life will get in the way. It’ll get in the way a lot, probably. And that’s okay. It took a mix up to remind me, but I’ve already accomplished a big part of what it is I’ve always wanted to do, which was to produce a story worth my time, and the time of others. And that’s what it’s all about.
Tell you something, though. There’s a third reason I’m counting that “clerical error” as good news: it’s been damn motivational. Those few moments when I thought it was true felt fucking fantastic.