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January 7th, 2010

Petrol Queen
My goal for 2010 is to write a speculative fiction story using these criteria:

1. My story will be at least 8000 words. Not so much to make it difficult to market, but because it'll be a bit thin on plot and readers love a story with a lot of padding.

2. This story will be written in second person because second person is your friend. There's nothing wrong with second person—I do enjoy it from time to time, and have used it myself successfully in the past—but it does wear thin quickly. Can you imagine a novel written in second person? A fat fantasy trilogy? So why am I choosing second person? To create a false sense of innovation, why else?

3. To suck readers in, I've decided to go with a cast of flat, miserable characters no one likes or can feel any affinity for. A story peopled with characters who not only despise humanity in general but loathe themselves as well. Ultimately, my goal is to conceive a protag who is misanthropic, full of self-doubt, self-hatred, and basically no fun to be around. A protag with a first name like Beckett or Eldritch or Garth or Jake. This will create the illusion that I have something cogent to say about the human condition instead of admitting I'm baffled by it, and that I've let my lousy people skills filter over into my fiction.

In other words, I shall avoid the cardinal sin of sentimentality by using the cleverest of postmodern techniques: frigidity. Emotional characters who feel too much will be murdered in their sleep before they morph into something "warm and fuzzy" and make me look like I write from the heart.

4. I shall strive to be lit'ry. This will go far in disguising the fact that I can't plot or create interesting characters, and that I basically have no story to tell. To this end I vow that my average sentence will be 51 words in length, with many parenthetical thoughts sequestered between dashes and parentheses, that I will chose the ten-dollar word over the simple, straightforward one, regaling the reader with "pulchritudinous," "verisimilitude" and "opprobrium," because words like "beauty," "truth" and "disgrace" would be a copout. In addition, I will employ overly complex, abstract thought and imagery, because lucid, salient metaphors and unpretentious images only make the writer look simpleminded.

I need not worry that I'll be called on these affectations, as in today's short fiction publishing climate, pointing out that "The Emperor isn't wearing any clothes" has gone out of vogue, and no one will dare say it for fear of looking stupid, uneducated or just plain unhip.

5. I shan't have an original idea! Not that there aren't any out there, just that they're so damned hard to come up with and inventing them makes my brain hurt. Besides, research has replaced the outmoded practice of ideation and speculation anyway. Readers today have been conditioned to believe that a writer cribbing off his/her textbook is capturing the same animal once known as creativity. And I'll have my library printout of the books I checked out to prove that I didn't steal but merely "borrowed" the worlds I built and tried to fob off as my own. In other words, I will not think outside of the box!

6. I will build this story from a kit! And then I will workshop it to death so as to drain any life that might remain.

7. The ultimate ingredient. Today, creating a profound work of short speculative fiction of philosophical weight involves the use of two important literary tropes: gloom and doom. Hence, my goal is to create a narrative that doesn't enlighten, inform or uplift, but achieves grandeur by pointing to the eternal hopelessness of the human condition. These are desperate, troubled times we are living in and far be it from me to show that there might be a better way to view the oyster if the world was tilted a bit to the right, or to the left. And writers who write about loneliness and suffering and misery are perceived to be deep-thinkers, are they not? Hey baby, it's all about the perception.

So, what do you think? Would you care to read this story?

Or have you been reading too many of them already? I have.

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