Q & A the first

Didn't know what to write about, so I asked people what they wanted to read about. Here's a question from Darren:

I have to admit, I'm very interested to know about your inspiration for stories and when we were chatting over the origins of 'Ms Nyberg and I' it was really fun to hear about it. I understand though that the magician should never reveal how they work their magic so I can appreciate that such things might not be suited to public exposure. But it sure would be interesting to here the genesis of some of your ideas.

Most of my stories come from word salad - writing down whatever shows up in my head. It'll go something like

Maybe about children in a doomed city. The child workers on the space ships. But that's not really a narrative. Let go into automatic - transient walruses don't have a lot to do with it, it's more of a question about distributing the fat well. Without good fat distribution the whole organism wilts, should I really say "wilt" I mean dies in horrible agony. The skipper laughed at his own joke without waiting for anyone else to do the same. (from a recent notebook)

Then I sift through the pile of words and see if something shows up.

Some stories spring almost fully-fledged out of your head. Others come from old false starts or several different notes and shed their skins many times before finding their final shape. Occasionally a sentence pops up out of nowhere. I was walking across a street when the sentence of “Beatrice” came floating into my brain: “Franz Hiller fell in love with an airship.” I knew exactly how the story would play out. “Rebecka” was the same thing: it started with the first sentence and I wrote the story in two hours. The final version is very close to the original.

“Some Letters For Ove Lindström” rose out of the corpse of an older story, which was about a daughter searching for her lost father but only finding his notebook, where he detailed his attempts to break into another world to find his lost wife. It didn't work, because the whole story just became a vehicle for an essay on parallel worlds, completely without tension (It -was- a kind of essay: I was really just nattering on about my favourite Fortean ideas). I threw the dad's notes away, kept the rules, and decided to write the story without the father explaining anything. With that decision, one of those sentences floated in: “Hi Dad. It's been thirty-six days since they found you.” Epistolary, eh? What can you do but go with it.

“Miss Nyberg and I” has its inspiration in the actual Miss Nyberg, a lovely lady who does grow strange things on her balcony, and my suspicion that something like this has already happened. It's still fiction, mind you, just with Miss Nyberg's approval to use her name and balcony.

“Who is Arvid Pekon?” has its beginnings in an avantgarde LARP-version of Hamlet that I took part in 2002. It was set in a bunker under Elsinore castle during the 1930's, a very elaborate and completely immersive game. There were three or four old field telephones present in the game area, from which you could call to a “switchboard” and ask to be connected to characters not in the game. This was a tremendously useful system for dropping plot information to the players, advancing the plot, or just giving the players an extra dimension by letting them have a conversation with their mother or a friend. I was a player in the first staging of the game; the second one I was at the switchboard behind the scenes. We had a great time calling players up to give them plot information, or impersonating the people they wanted to talk to, all the while trying to keep track of who had said what and when. The next day I woke up with the idea of what happened if such a switchboard existed in real life.

So, some ideas come from a known source and some just show up, like the final distilled drop out of Professor Balthasar's machine. The mind is a midden run by strange little engineers who occasionally run up to the conscious mind with a crumpled note.

In other words, there are no secrets to give away, no magic trick. I have a lot of non-secret, non-magic tricks. But creating stories centers on letting your brain talk without interruption.