Today's Speculative Fiction Writer is the prolific and talented writer, Milo James Fowler. He is also a co-founder of Write 1 Sub 1, which will be entering it's third year in 2013. Please give him a warm welcome.
My Own Worst Enemy
by Milo James Fowler
Have you ever had a story to tell, and you knew it was inside you waiting to burst forth, but you were too afraid you wouldn't be able to do it justice?
This kind of stinkin' thinkin' hit me hard when I came up with the idea for my story "Soulless in His Sight." Who was I to think I could write an homage to Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and McCarthy's The Road with Diogenes (crossbow and hatchet instead of a lamp) tossed in for good measure?
Here's the concept: What if Faulkner's Vardaman didn't know his own strength, and he hurt someone close to him? His father, a violent incarnation of McCarthy's paternal character, believes his son was born without a soul. Like Diogenes on the hunt for an honest man, the father must find a soul for his son so he can go to heaven and see his mother.
On Week #9 of Write1Sub1, I finally decided to give it a go. I wrote, polished, and submitted "Soulless in His Sight" to Shimmer, a market I'd been stalking for over a year. The editor eventually responded, "I've read this story a few times now, and though I like it very much, the ending still makes me hesitate. I think if you were to be more concrete with it, the story would be a home run."
I was definitely open to a rewrite, and after making a few minor edits and overhauling the end, the editor replied, "I like the revisions very much. Fatha and Boy are just great; the story has a genuine voice that shines."
In spite of my self-doubt, "Soulless in His Sight" appeared in Shimmer's July issue and recently tied for the Reader's Choice win—right after Shimmer officially became a pro-zine. And if that wasn't enough to get me stoked, the reviews have been pretty good, too.
From Locus Online:
“Soulless in His Sight” by Milo James Fowler. Post apocalypse. Boy and Fatha are among the few people left alive, but Fatha is convinced that Boy was born without a soul, so he kills any man coming through town, trying to harvest one for him so Boy can go to Heaven when he dies. What Boy actually needs is a higher-powered brain, but Fatha doesn’t seem so well equipped in this area, either.
"It’s always been Fatha and me and nobody else since Mama, and the ones who pass through don’t go no further. But I don’t tell Gwyn this; he wouldn’t understand, at least I don’t think he would."
Less overtly horrific than it initially seems, with an unexpected humane touch.
The issue concludes with "Soulless in His Sight" by Milo James Fowler. Set in some post-apocalyptic Earth, our narrator is an (apparently) brain-damaged young boy whose Fatha has been killing people who come to their town. Fatha tells our narrator that he is searching for a soul for the boy so that he will see his mother in Heaven when he dies. Why he is doing this and the method to his madness only becomes clear at the end and that is what really makes for a fine story.
"Soulless in His Sight" was a challenge for me to write, but I'm so glad I stuck with it and now have a story I can point to as one I didn't allow to beat me.
We don't have to be our own worst critics.
Believe in yourself. Believe in your work.
Cool stuff will happen.
Thank you, Milo. Congratulations on the publication of Soulless in His Sight! You've certainly proved the old adage, never give up on a story.