Struggling with a short story

While looking for a new place to send an older short story, I came across a submissions call that I would love to submit to. But drat, I didn’t have a short story that would be appropriate.

They’re looking for science fiction written by queer authors. Their submission guidelines specify that their definition of queer includes asexual people, and that it’s the identity of the author–not the content of the story–that qualifies them to submit for the special issue. I don’t actually write a lot of straight-up science fiction that doesn’t lean fantasy, and I don’t normally write stories deliberately for specific markets (though the one time I did, it ended well). But I thought about whether I had any science fiction–ish ideas, picked one of my half-formed ones, and started writing it.

Banged out 3,000 words in a couple hours. Loved it. Banged out another 2,000 words the next day. Got to the end and reread it and didn’t love the beginning as much. Fiddled with another 500 words yesterday. Still can’t quite figure out how to end it. And now I kinda hate the whole thing and think it’s nowhere near as clever, interesting, or worthwhile as I thought.

I hate when that happens.

The beginning: Mostly setup for how the protagonist got in the situation he’s in, retold unconventionally, framed in a way I convinced myself was humorous. It probably isn’t as funny as I think.

The middle: Mostly a straightforward conversation between the protagonist and the other focus character of the story, which is the meeting that the beginning of the story prepared us for. Most of it features the protagonist being awkward and the other character wiping the floor with him. And it’s also kind of preachy.

The ending: I don’t know, because the protagonist didn’t like the middle of the story and now he wants to pretend it didn’t happen, and I’m not sure where to go with that. Usually characters are changed by significant events in their lives, and they move forward somehow transformed, and that’s the exact kind of thing I usually write about. But since this character doesn’t really seem to be interested in processing what went on, now I have to figure out what happens if he just rejects the whole thing out of hand.

Usually my characters figure this stuff out for themselves. I’m writing a rather unsympathetic character, and he says and does a lot of things I disagree with, so I decided to write him in third person–not just to avoid the discomfort I would probably have to deal with in thinking his thoughts for him in first person, but because it’s easier to make the narration critical of offensive characters if the storytelling isn’t tied to their perspective. I’m afraid his terrible ideas would be too convincing if I flung them around the story in first person, so I’m maintaining the distance so readers will clearly see the story itself doesn’t condone its protagonist’s actions. However, I think maybe that distance has diminished my ability to make my characters solve their own problems convincingly.

So I don’t know where this is going to go. But I think I might decide to title it “Everyone’s Gay in Space.”

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