Story Notes -- "Apple" / What I'm Reading

Some stories are a lot more work than others. My latest one, "Apple," is one of those. It was originally written several years ago for a Star Trek-themed issue of an online lit mag. It didn't make the cut, but I tinkered with it off and on for the next few years while I was working on other projects, and it's found a place to live at Boudin, the online home of the McNeese Review, which gave it the swanky retro-tv artwork you see here.
Image courtesy of McNeese Review

It's hard to believe that I hadn't found a way to weave Star Trek into one of my stories until I started writing this one. I began watching the original series in syndication, when it aired in the afternoons just as I was getting home from school, and as I grew older the franchise grew with me. It's fair to say that it remains one of my earliest and most enduring influences. "Apple" is in some ways a love letter to Star Trek. But there's something in me that makes me want to burn down even that which I hold most sacred in my stories, so it's a dark and twisted little love letter. It's narrated by Will Hill, a kid who recounts how his Trek-obsessed father unravels after his mother leaves with another man. I'll refrain from saying much more than that for fear of spoiling the story, but suffice it to say that things go downhill pretty quickly.

When I started this story, I didn't know exactly where it was going. I just wanted to write a story that featured Star Trek in all its incarnations as a sort of backdrop. During the drafting process, I ran across an article about violent Buddhist extremists in Sri Lanka, and I became fascinated by how such a seemingly inherently peaceful belief system could breed sectarian violence. That idea found its way into the story that would eventually become "Apple," piggy-backing on its exploration of an emotionally-stunted man trying to navigate the minefields of heartache and grief. It took a long time to come together, so I'm glad to have it out in the world at Boudin and forthcoming in I Have Always Been Here Before.

While I'm here, a quick note on what I've been reading lately ...

Lisa Ko's The Leavers came into my hands quite by accident. I was looking for something to read in the tiny fiction stack (literally, it's like a dozen books) at the library at the satellite campus of the local community college where I teach. I'd heard of it (it was a National Book Award finalist) but didn't know much about it. I had some of the same reservations that Gish Jen expresses in her review, but overall I thought it was great. I don't think I'd ever read any fiction set inside modern-day China, as The Leavers is, at least in part, so that was fascinating, and the immigration stuff is of course very prescient. There are a lot of ways that I judge books. One of them is by how much I learn from them or how much more sensitive to some aspect of the world I feel after reading them. By that criteria, The Leavers was excellent.

I also recently read Sheldon Lee Compton's novel Dysphoria. It's billed as an Appalachian gothic, and it delivers on that promise, especially as it ramps up to its breathless final act. It's the first book from Cowboy Jamboree Press, which will be publishing I Have Always Been Here Before next year, and I'm honored that my collection found a home alongside it.


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