The fall 2013 issue of Dialogue went live yesterday to electronic subscribers. Print editions are in the mail (or will soon be). I’m delighted and a bit awed that this issue devotes more than 20 pages to my story Dark Watch–it’s my longest published story to date. The way I usually describe it is: post-apocalyptic Mormon fiction told in alternating second person.
Dark Watch began as 8 or 9 lines of verse hastily scribbled at least a decade ago, perhaps longer. It continued to percolate. I think I added a second stanza. At some point it turned into the beginnings of a story. Sadly, I can’t find the original source material nor the notes that transitioned it into a science fiction story. I can picture the scraps of paper in the faded manila envelope I had collected them in, but I can’t find that envelope. I can say this the initial image–one member of a couple watching a storm flow across a broken plateau, her spouse startling himself awake–is where it all began and made it all the way through to the final product.
To date, Dark Watch is the story that has taken the longest to come to full fruition. I’ve rewritten numerous times, and, somehow, I think, managed to make it better each time (sometimes rewrites ruin a story). More importantly, it proved to me that I am capable of layering in complexity, resonance and better prose, which means (sadly) that I’m the kind of author who works best via accretion or sedimentation.
As I recall, I wrote the first 2,000 words of it many years ago, and then set it aside when I read Folk of the Fringe and was chagrined to find that, yet again, OSC got there first. I picked it back up again three and half years ago when I realized that a) I wanted to write SF&F b) I needed to get over myself and do my own thing instead and c) I now knew what the story was really about. That last one is always the most important, in my experience.
1. The setting is (sort of but not really) Kanab, UT.
2. When I wrote the story, the use of “peculiar” to mean Mormon hadn’t been so widely adopted. I’m pleased to see it that it for some Mormon readers.
3. I got great editing on this story. I didn’t have to change much, but it’s those few details that make all the difference. Thanks Heather and Kristine.
4. The story kind of has a sequel featuring the crazy old man who is off screen in Dark Watch. If all goes according to plan, you all will be able to read that story sometime next year.
Finally, the story is a tribute to all the amazing LDS couples out there. It may be a strange tribute, but there’s a reason it’s told in alternating second person.
Also: make sure you also look for the poem by AMVer S.P. Bailey.