My short story “Host” is in the March/April issue of Analog Magazine, available right now. I’m ridiculously happy this got published, I was worried that due to its structure it would be unpublishable. My attempt at portraying Very Alien minds probably could have been much more explicit.
This story is more autobiographical than any of the others I’ve written. That’s not necessarily saying a lot, as I’m pretty sure that it’s impossible for a writer to NOT write everything at least partially autobiographical. At least if it’s any good. Some part of you will always suffuse what your write. Your fears, your passions, your formative experiences. All fiction is a window into the writer’s mind.
But in this particular case, chunks of the story were lifted directly from my teenage years. The isolation, the dissociation, the loss of The One Friend. Obviously not the Space Zombies. :) It was a shitty period, despite the fact that by almost any objective measurement my life was peachy. Mental issues don’t give a fuck. In that time of my life I welcomed human annihilation, if it would have made things un-broken. Especially because this is what the religion I had been raised in promised as the desirable end-state for humanity anyway. The apocalypse was already ingrained as a good thing in my mind.
Which is where the real autobiographical stuff comes in. This pro-apocalypse position was one of the many things that drove me away from my religion. NOT the death-worship, mind you. Rather, the fact that no one seemed to take it as seriously as it should be taken. I’ve said this a few times before, and I still stick with it – The Spanish Inquisition was doing The Right Thing in a world where their beliefs are objectively true. It is everyone’s moral obligation to act as they did, and anyone who doesn’t is a monster. The paltry sufferings of human life are so utterly irrelevant in the face of eternal suffering/joy that absolutely any price is not only justified, but required. They were Doing The Most Good, by far. The only problem is that in the world they operate in (ie: the real world) there is no God, and they were torturing and murdering people for no reason. Objective facts fucking matter. And since we’re fallible, we should also temper our actions with some degree of uncertainty.
But my religion didn’t preach uncertainty. They knew, as did I, that God existed, and what fate awaited non-believers. And all they did was… knock on doors and try to pass out cheap pamphlets? Guys, that level of failure to actually save people is disgusting. It’s as if Singer’s Well-Dressed Man stood at the edge of the pond and shouted encouragement to The Drowning Child, rather than wading in and doing something. It’s unacceptable. And while I could understand that the Laws of the Corrupt, Fallen Government may be against us, hampering us in being really effective… we nonetheless were NOT talking about how to subvert them, or how to really SAVE people. No one gave any of this the urgency it required. It was like a casual hobby.
I’m a big fan of Ted Chiang, and his ability to take a premise and assume it’s true, and then write the world that would exist under that assumption. I tried to do the same here with my religion’s false premise (and, frankly, the premise of many fundamentalist evangelical religions). I don’t think I really worked out any of my issues, but I stand by Julian’s parting words to his father.
Unrelated but fun note — When I submitted “Host” for critique to my Writer’s Workshop (who made it a lot better, thanks guys!!!) they said that starting with the “In The Beginning” snippet was a mistake, and I should move it to later. So instead the first scene is Julian exiting his high school and describing the space station. Literally the week after I made those changes I came upon a satirical SF story that started out with the protagonist describing a giant piece of impressive human engineering in his daily life. The second paragraph began with (paraphrased) “Of course John Doe saw this every day on his way to work, so there was no particular reason for him to really ponder upon it today. But he knew that if he didn’t ponder right at the top, this would never get published in Analog Magazine.” I thought “Haha, maybe this’ll help me sell to Analog, lolz.” Lo and behold, I ended up getting published in Analog Magazine. :P
It’s 17June2017 and I just finished reading “Host” in the march/april Analog (shows how slow I am at keeping up with things). Since my mind is a little slow, too, I had to slow down further and re-read parts of the story to understand it better. However, it was worth the effort. I began to see significant manifestations of a cogent values system expressed in the story. I’m now spending some spare moments reading your blogs. I must say, I find you perspective on society, religion and human behavior quite valid. That’s probably because my views on society, religion, politics and human behavior are very similar to yours. I have come to abhor violence as a solution to problems, even though it puts those of us that won’t use violence at a disadvantage. I read about how you are frustrated by the ‘I’m oppressed and abused” syndrome and I agree, we shouldn’t cast ourselves in the role of ‘victims’ or use it as an excuse to ‘oppress and abuse’ others. Please, continue to write and blog, your messages are helpful and pertinent to the mess we find ourselves in today.
Thank you! I appreciate you taking the time to comment, feedback like this among the best thing a writer can get. :) I’ll endevour to keep writing well!
It’s July and I still haven’t finished the whole Analog issue with “Host” in it, but I did just finish Host. Host is a thought provoking story and hopefully portends many future explorations of Very Alien minds. It definitely go me thinking.
I felt that the portrayal of heaven and hell was compelling as well as the creation of a war to spread the “blessings” to all.
Keep up the good work!
Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it! :)
This is an incredible story. Kind of heart-rending and/or gut-wrenching in a way I don’t think I’ve felt before. (Everything else I tried to write here felt overly analytical.)
Thank you so much! :) I hope I can keep it up!