Wilde Stories 2016

I never blogged about this! Because I’m terrible at promoting myself, and this particular story has been a curious one. “What Lasts,” the flash piece accepted July of 2015 in Daily Science Fiction, was reprinted in August in Wilde Stories: Year’s Best Gay Speculative Fiction. img_20160811_170212

The collection itself is put together by Lethe Press, who do incredible work. Here’s a link to their Patreon. They do good work! Without more support, they won’t be able to have more annual collections like this one, which is a total shame. The last thing the publishing industry needs is to become more homogenized and bland and have Year’s Best collections that don’t publish me.

As to the story. It’s a big source of impostor syndrome for me, for several reasons. The least of these is the incredible TOC! E. Catherine Tobler and A. Merc Rustad and Sam J. Miller and Haralambi Markov and agh! All fantastic stories, engaging and beautiful, and it got a starred review from Publishers Weekly. So now PW has said of my story that “love transcends humanity,” which, you’re goddamned right.

Impostor syndrome, though. I can handle being in a big-named TOC. Totally fine with that. It’s a weird story because “What Lasts” is 800 words of flash sci-fi I riffed off at work. I love it, it’s a little gem, and it’s (loosely) part of my novel’s universe, but I wrote it in an ephemeral heat, showed it to no one, did no editing, and sent it to Daily Science Fiction. Which I say not to brag at all, but it threw me through a bit of a loop. Rejectomancy can be a confounding beast, so here’s Jared W. Cooper, with his more ambitious stories and plots and more rounded characters, his stories upwards of 3,000 words, and those are bouncing off with form rejections and lovely personals.

But I’m a slusher. That’s the game. I get that. Impostorism is not rational. So when I doubt, I just have to open this genuinely good-looking hardcover and see my own name.


Early Eras: Frankenstein


Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein at nineteen. As of this moment the book has 800,000 ratings and over 17,000 reviews on Goodreads. I am super glad the novel I produced at nineteen does not have that kind of exposure. (I also did not invent science fiction, so, good thing Shelley’s got us covered.)

Initially upon reading Frankenstein I’m reminded of The Island of Doctor Moreau: The story begins, not with the guy it’s about, but another guy telling us about the guy it’s about. Frankenstein begins with a man’s letters to his sister about how he’s friendless and on a mission, and while working a ship he fishes up Victor. Then we roll into Chapter 1, now from Frankenstein’s POV, and the man also has a “soft,” compassionate sister and is on a mission. That mission is science, and the result is the monster. The curveball POV has my attention more than that.

Almost eighty years separate Frankenstein and Doctor Moreau, but to a modern reader they might feel contemporaries. With many big classics, I feel, they permeate our culture; we know what they’re about without having to read them. Thus, the reveal, the most interesting part of the story, is buried beneath chapters of exposition that modern sensibilities might find slow. The act of creating life are more or less glossed over, as sfnal elements, in both Moreau and Frankenstein; the fact that it happens has to be intuited in the latter, and it’s explained secondhand to our hapless protagonist in the former.

I use Frankentstein as a benchmark, since it’s good for any sci-fictionist to know their roots. The excellent compendium at HiLobrow has lists of various ages of sci-fi, putting The Last Man and “The Sandman” chronologically before Frankenstein (and, FWIW, both in the pre-Scientific Romance era, which predates the Radium age, which predates the Golden age.) I couldn’t find an easily accessible version of Le Dernier Homme, but quick Googling will find you a copy of ETA Hoffman’s “The Sandman.” If Frankenstein is the birth of sci-fi, this story is called the first detective story. It, too, leans heavily on the correspondence format, its information delivered at a remove, etc. While I haven’t had time to dig into Jane C. Loudon’s The Mummy, it is cool to see a twenty-something British woman taking Shelley’s lead and doing adventure sci-fi as a response, even if the book, by today’s standards, might seem ponderous.

(And now, of course, I need to go down HiLobrow’s list to study the growth of prose in sci-fi.)

As to the “indirectly delivered format,” modern readers want their stories told now, by or related to the people they’re about. Not some guy telling random other guys the story a la Heart of Darkness, or someone writing to a loved one as in Moreau. While reading Moreau and Frankenstein, I thought a little bit of the ultra-polished The Name of the Wind. POV and tense in the Kingkiller Chronicle are an interesting deal, because we have one dude telling another dude a life story, but it’s his own life–it’s just that he’s not exactly that person anymore. We don’t have that remove. I don’t think the modern reader would tolerate that. We do have, it in a sense: Our narrator is diminished enough, and the reader is intrigued as to what turned Kvothe into Kote. There’s an evolution there, of course; the idea of a frame story is used in countless stories across media.

But the novel reminds me of those guys on boats, relating a story that might be interesting, had you been there.