The Story of the Story: The Space Within These Lines Is Not Dedicated

cicada-hi

“You had to make the choice to give this part of yourself to the world. It’s hard work and a big commitment.”—Lenny, the talking cicada.

I have yet to write about how I came up with the idea for The Space Within These Lines Is Not Dedicated. I’ve been avoiding it, but, also, I don’t know where to start. This will be a rambling post.

I could say that the crux of the story comes from eating lunch in Rittenhouse Square. There used to be this woman who fed the pigeons and always had a flock following her around. It’s a pretty typical scene and character for a city. At the same time Rittenhouse is filled with nature and she is yet one facet of that natural presence. This character, the homeless lady in the square, turns up again in La Chanson de l’Observation in a completely different way. But that’s another story. I could say that the whole story comes from my love for house centipedes, cicadas, and tango and I needed them all to exist in one story. I could say that at the time I was in a miserable job that I desperately needed to escape. The story was born from my partner’s belief that there was something out there that was better suited for my life.

They sing of the dreams of underground. The long warm life buried under the earth and the inevitable passage of life. The possibility of renewal.–from The Space Within These Lines Is Not Dedicated.

In large and small ways the story does originate from all these instances. It also shares its roots in the following:

  1. Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.
    1. Man’s Search for Meaning is a crucial existential text and a source text for me. If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend.

  2. Andre Norton’s Star Ka’at
    1. Norton’s wonderful Star Ka’at series is the reason I became a writer. I was introduced to the text by my school librarian when I was in fourth grade. I didn’t know that Science Fiction could affect me on such a profound emotional level. I knew after reading that first book. I wanted to write stories like that.

  3. Concerns for the natural world and our interaction with it.
  4. Placing Queerness as a central in my writing
  5. Write a fiction story incorporating philosophy and make it enjoyable if not understandable.
  6. Create a world that acknowledges sadness, but reminds us that life can be joyful and full of wonderment.
  7. Focus on the importance of love and family in their different, sometimes flawed, forms.

There’s no elegant encapsulation about this story’s origin. However, while The Memory of a Salt Shaker was the start of the collection, The Space Within These Lines Is Not Dedicated is really where it started to take form. It also serves as the title of the collection: The Space Within These Lines.

Explosions of light all along the horizon, followed by delayed thunder. She would whisper to them, asking what they were doing, where they were going. They would tell her love and death, they are here and they are there. — from The Space Within These Lines Is Not Dedicated

During workshop I received much grief for writing this story. Primarily I was called out for the talking animals, things like “They do not talk and do not have an evolved view of the world.” This I knew I would get, but there were also comments about the lesbian protagonist and me writing a female character since I was a large, hairy, bear/man. These comments were often the more difficult to suffer through. The only defense given on my behalf by another student (as we cannot talk while our stories are workshopped) was that I am not a talking cicada either. In the end, there were few helpful comments. The best feedback I received was from my thesis advisor who told me that the beginning was too long and I needed to cut it down.  This resulted in around 10 or 15 pages being removed from the entire manuscript.

This story is not clearly Literary Fiction and it’s not clearly Fantasy. It’s a cross genre piece that uses elements from both, as well as Romance and Magical Realism. It’s hard to talk about and it’s hard to define. The whole collection is. The story hasn’t sold well, but I believe it can. But I am not doing a great job of market it well as I can’t describe it well. Maybe one of you who have read it can better describe it. If you can, please do leave a comment below.

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