Friday, October 19, 2018

Mechanical Animals - Two Bees Dancing

Preorder MECHANICAL ANIMALS here and here.

Two Bees Dancing is the first (and only) story I've written since "all that stuff happened". There's a reprint of Acception coming soon, but reprints require exactly zero angst on my part, so in this instance it doesn't count.

Angst, man. What even.

How long have I known the story was accepted for publication? Ages. Um, possibly more than a year.  How long has the cover art been sitting in my inbox, with links to the preorders? Months. Have I advertised the anthology? Nope.


This is not bog-standard writer insecurity, which I've had. And to be fair, still have, but it is entirely eclipsed by this dread sitting heavy in my belly and choking my words. I just...can't...draw attention to myself.

So this isn't a post letting all know that I've a story coming out. This is a record documenting the evolution of the story, and it's just for me. Just a little bit of sleight of mind.

I'm always surprised when editors solicit me to submit. It's not that I doubt my craft - I'm not winning awards, but my writing doesn't suck - it's just that my publication record is so very thin and sporadic. My rate of production is so low I'm surprised I remain on anyone's radar. But S did ask me, and the theme for MECHANICAL ANIMALS is just, I mean, c'mon. How could I not?

I had no story lying around to cannibalise, so I had to start from scratch. Pretty early on I settled on mechanical bees as a tool of state surveillance. Metadata and the government's desired powers over it were topical at the time, so privacy was high on my mind. I spent months fleshing out the infrastructure of these bees, brainstorming sessions with friends and so many pages in my notebook just thinking in longhand. Concept is my strength. Finding the narrative/plot in that concept is not. The bees were not telling me a story.

I don't remember how or when the narrative actually came to me. I think I recognised that, still burnt and wounded from "all that stuff that happened", the narrative structure needed to be simple, and the voice not so removed from my own. At that point, I didn't have a voice. To a point, I still do not. But this felt like learning to trust myself as a writer all over again. Small steps. Strip the concept down to bare bones and bloody hell don't make the POV some corrupted AI bee-bot.

The conflict between surveillance and privacy remains in the narrative, but now playing harmony with the disempowerment of the disabled and chronically ill.

Because I was, then, just dragging myself out of deep incapacitation. Trying to conjure a future for myself when my present was still open wounds and trauma and the horror of minutes that never end, knowing that if there was only a little more support, I could-

Two Bees Dancing feels like the spiritual sequel to Acception. Actually I look at them and I'm like, Tessa, you've written the same story twice now. Perhaps that's simply because the journey to the end product was so similar. Perhaps because they're both born of deep-welling magma. But they aren't the same story. (THIS ONE IS ACTUALLY WITHIN THE WORD LIMIT. IT IS ACTUALLY A PROPER SHORT STORY. ARE YOU PROUD OF ME I"M PROUD OF ME.)

S gave me a chance to prove myself, to myself. It's surprising to be invited to submit, but also gratifying and humbling that an editor have faith that the story produced will be worthwhile. This opportunity gave me far more than publication. I've no idea how to make 'thank you' convey everything I want to convey. Two words and I'm a writer undone. Regardless, thank you.

MECHANICAL ANIMALS offers a table of contents that is quietly jaw-dropping and promises to offer a deliciously diverse range of interpretations on the theme. And the titles! Gracious, the titles. Not going to lie, a good title will win me over every time, as coming up with even just an 'okay' title is hard. Like this, The Hard Spot in the Glacier. How enticing and tantalising is that? I need exams to be over so I can eat this.

MECHANICAL ANIMALS will be shipped on 27 November.