In which stories do not write themselves

It was my stated intention today to complete “Emancipated Child,” an Archers Beach short story, in first draft. I would have had to write at least 6,000 words to have accomplished that; I only wrote slightly in excess of 2,000, and there you have it.

Contributing to the Unconscionable Delay of Progress was that I had to do research. Yes, I’m writing fiction, but I’m writing fiction set in an only slightly alternative iteration of several places that exist in real-time geography. It strikes me that I need to spend a good long day or two at the History House at Old Orchard — something to put on the list of must-dos for September. First, there was — and remains — the wretched business of the Vanished Avenue; now there’s this other thing — when did Old Orchard Beach, a created town in its own right*, gobble up Surfside?

And! For eight hundred dollars and the car! Why can’t I find any real history of Surfside on Teh Intertubes?

So, anyhow, establishing boundaries for half-imaginary towns, not to mention deciding important things like the size of its population “now” kinda chewed into the writing time.

Other than that, the project’s going well. The story flipped about three sentences in, taking a sharp left turn from the outline, gaining speed the further away it got. Typical, really.

Left turn or not, the story remains about Jason Thibodeau (pronounced TEEbow. Yes, I know. But it is. Really.), the emancipated child of the title. We meet Jason as he’s running away from his cousin Matt, who is bent on beating the crap out of him. For having gone and gotten himself emancipated, but that’s sort of beside the point.

The point. . .is that my protagonist — short, smart, ambitious, and attitudinal — is running away from a bully.

And that got me thinking about how very many science fiction and fantasy stories start with the protagonist running away from a bully, or a mob of bullies, or having come fresh from an encounter with a bully.

Bullying is a hot topic nowadays — y’all know that. I’m not saying that’s wrong; in fact, I think it’s wonderful that we’re talking about this and trying to make change.

But the thing is — science fiction and fantasy writers have been saying this for years, and years, and years — that Funny Looking Kids are bullied for no reason other than that they look funny**; that not fitting in can be a death sentence for some kids, absent a magical intervention. They’ve said it so often, and at such a pitch that it’s become a cliche.

Was no one listening?

No one?

That’s. . .rather depressing. I like to think that people can — and do — learn from stories. But, I guess if you don’t read — or if you don’t read “that trash” — or. . .

I mean, honestly — did you think we were making this stuff up?


Tomorrow’s goal is to finish “Emancipated Child” in first draft. Could be I’ll actually manage it.

*Old Orchard Beach separated from Saco, Maine in 1883.

**Trust me — a girl who was six foot tall before she was twelve years old, having, in addition, a really weird and screamingly funny speech impediment? Knows something up close and personal about the treatment dished out to Funny Looking Kids.

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