I seem to be predisposed to writing slash at the moment. I’m not sure why. All I know is that I get a story idea and it’s invariably of a slashy nature.
This is another story with a character driven plot. That makes three. I’m on a roll. This one had a lot of careful plotting. I deliberately wanted the story shaped like a V – with long sections at the top and shorter sections tapering off until it dwindles into nothing. It took me a long time to decide which elements to change from 1973 to something closer to present day first. I went with a spoon for a Matrix reference.
In contrast to an earlier statement in one of these things, I actually do think having a set structure helps me. Sure, it makes it more constricting, but I need that scaffold, I think. I’ve had that scaffold in most of my best pieces, anyway. Obviously, this still isn’t much of a narrative. What happens? Well, severa described it in a single sentence: “And then his emo causes a rapid modernization of his world.” But there is cause and effect, at least. That’s better than some of my stuff. I wish I knew what my hang-ups were about writing actual narratives, then I could work on them. I think it might be pervading cynicism. The idea that it’s all been done before, so why I should I bother?
I guess this is me trying to be brave. Writing both a Sam and a Gene I dislike. Writing an unambiguously unhappy ending. I’ve never really done that before. Palimpsest ends with a reset and Put Away Childish Things ends with things being enough. I suppose To Fall for Fixation has a fairly awful ending. And No Sweeping Exits or Offstage Lines hasn’t got a particularly wonderful conclusion either. Oh, and This I Know To Be True is mean. Okay. So let me reframe that. This was me purposely setting out to end on a note of doom and gloom instead of just finding myself there by accident.
I’m always saying angst isn’t for me, that I can’t do angst, but clearly I lie. I just don’t go for melodrama, usually. I mean, I’ll never say never, but it’s unlikely you’ll find me writing a story where one of the characters gets beat up and then their puppy gets run over and they lose their lottery ticket and then discover their one true love is off with their half-brother, you know? (Because these ‘angst’ fics really exist, I’ve said so.) I think it comes down to not really understanding the genre of ‘angst’. I read to enjoy myself. I do most things to enjoy myself. And I don’t enjoy pain. So why the hell do I write it?
I suppose because I feel pain. And it’s less confronting putting that onto someone else.
So what's this story about, really? It's a kind of confirmation of the show, in a way. The concept that 1973 is for feelings and 2007 is for nothing; at least for Sam. Everything is up to Sam, he is the master of his fate. Why doesn't he change his world so that his relationship with Gene is seen as acceptable by those around him, by Gene? Why does he change his world and not his heart? Sam constructed 1973 in the first place. He's not quite right in the head, is he? What kind of person creates a coma world where they're stripped of power, understanding and comfort? Where they have to view the truth about the father they loved? Where they're plagued by a girl from a Test Card? Sam hates himself, doesn't he? Despite that "people love me" egotism, deep down, Sam hates who he is and doesn't think he deserves happiness. His fantasy girl turned him down for a one night stand. So it makes sense that instead of enlightenment, Sam gains meaninglessness.
The music challenge at 1973flashfic was perfect for this. I would have written it anyway, since many of my titles are from lyrics and others are inspired directly by songs, but it was convenient. It gave me the opportunity. And “Everybody’s Gotta Learn Sometimes” is, without a doubt, one of my very favourite songs. Obviously there was also inspiration from Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind creeping through, except it’s not just Sam’s mind changing, it’s his world – because Sam’s mind is his world, and vice versa.
The thing that really surprised me about the feedback I got for this was the lack of condemnation in Gene’s direction. I think this is the first time I’ve had Gene being fully horrible, without any kind of support for his behaviour. He does the same thing he does in PACT, but at least in the earlier story, you can see that he loves Sam, that he’s battling with that and his deep-seated homophobia. In the end, he even comes to some sort of grudging acceptance. And I wonder if that’s readers inferring that here, or whether I expect much more from Gene than others do. Once again, it’s my natural tendency to sanitise him, even though I know it weakens him. Or perhaps the readers’ reaction was an understanding that Gene is really only an aspect of Sam, one that can be changed, moulded. It’s the confusion between reality and unreality. How can you condemn a character who isn’t really there? (But we do it all the time.)
When I first got this idea I was really excited about it. But now I just feel… I don’t know if it’s that I don’t like unhappy endings. Or whether I’m just tired. But all I really want to do is write something HAPPY. And you know me, I probably will.