Monday, November 26, 2012

"A Darker Cycle" in Nihilist Sci Fi, Issue 1

Hey! Sold my Week 5 Clarion West short story to the lovely folk(s?) over at Nihilist Sci Fi in their first issue, for five dollars used American currency!

I'm just happy it's found a home, cause this has been one of my most problematic stories. (When I saw the market, Nihilist Sci Fi, come up, I immediately thought of this story. This story is nihilist as shit!) Two professional novelists have torn it asunder. And yet, it's still one of my favorites. It's from an old conversation I had with a friend, oh, say, 7 years ago. Would a peaceful society make war on itself in order to test whether or not peace is superior to war?

My background is in anthropology, the Franz De Waal branch, which recognizes peacemaking and reconciliation are more common than aggression, and that cooperative peaceful societies (species) tend to out-produce war-like ones (mind you, this doesn't mean the war-like ones won't destroy the peaceful ones, thus in the end out-producing the otherwise more productive society). But what if we did have total war? Always? What if that was our laudable goal? What if we were Klingons? Personally, I don't think Klingons would make it into space. And yes, we are really having a Star Trek conversation right now. 

Civilization is, at least in part, built on cooperation, with slavery being forced 'cooperation'. We might be able to slave ourselves into space, but could we war ourselves into space? If you had paradise and perhaps even a means to rebuild your civilization if it turns out that war leads to ultimate destruction (because you're in a posthuman post-scarcity god-like civilization) might you be seduced into war just to make sure peace was the right choice all along? Add to that a bit of historical amnesia and a dash of boredom, and voila!

Originally, this story was of two posthumans in a trench, reciting poems to each other, who the capture an enemy they don't really know what to do with. Halfway through I remembered just how bad I am at poetry.

I workshopped this with Charles Stross. Charlie is a bit of an idol of mine, I'm not ashamed to say. I loved Singularity Sky and Iron Sunrise and was blown away by his short story collection Wireless. He ripped my story a new one. Everything he said was absolutely on point. What remained after his public flogging I swept up and pieced together. Later, I workshopped this with another group and got accused of being a closet torturer. That also wasn't the most pleasant experience. "A Darker Cycle" has an opening that makes people bounce. But if you write provocative things you best be prepared for what you provoke.

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