Even though I may be thought of as a “loner” because I was an innately shy only-child, my history involves other people and their stories. Therefore, bits of the “auto” (self) parts of my biography are actually my interpretation of other people’s stories that intersected and influenced mine. Some of the stories are wonderful, even magical. And a few are dark, dire and painful. I’m proud of my part in some, and have regrets about others.
Growing up in a time and household where unsettling things weren’t spoken of (certainly not in front of children), many things were never discussed or explained —the screams that came from the neighbor’s open windows, the girls that dropped out of school to have babies… Situations were glossed over by folks who’d never learned to talk about subjects they found uncomfortable. Adults might whisper painful stories to another adult they trusted, but publicly they never admitted shame. Other folk’s issues were “not their business.”
Dark secrets were stored away in root cellars, buried in back yards, swallowed with folk medicine.
“Life, Death, and Beyond Smiggle’s Bottom” may be fiction, but it’s real to me. The people that inspired the characters are real. I may not have fully understood every incident but I recognized tension and it had an impact. The folks portrayed play a part in who I am, and perhaps I played some part in who they became. In the end it’s my story. Others are exaggerated, combined, and transformed before being revealed in my tale.
Some of my readers have recognized parts of their stories, some never will. I hope that people I don’t know, or barely know, will recognize bits of their stories embedded in mine and that they, and the folks I do know, will appreciate our connection. I hope they’re consoled by the compassion I feel for their situations and losses. I hope they’re cheered by the irreverence I have for gloom.
Artists often have great hopes for their work. I say If you’re going to hope for something, make it mighty. So my wish is that some of the shadows that have shrouded these stories will dispel in the light, and rain down like sparkling fairy dust bestowing blessings, fulfilling wishes, and obliterating some of the darkness of the world.
Terrific evening last night, reading with auspicious Asimov writers at Barnes & Noble. Thanks, Sheila.