This story was really hard to write. It’s taken me over a month and a half, which is not my usual way of doing things. Normally, I write in a couple of long bursts and hack to pieces, but this was “write a little, refine, distill, tweak, write a little more.” Luckily, this approach suited the format. I’m not sure if it’s just because I wanted to be careful with this story, or if it’s because it’s personal --- obviously personal in all sorts of ways that I’m sure would say a lot about my psyche to anyone who’d care to analyse. Or if it’s just that it’s a relatively difficult concept.
To me, it always seems like my most involved stories come with me having difficulty regarding Sam’s characterisation. I --- I do not think Sam is always an emo ball of doom who collapses into fits of tears. I don’t. But he had to be, in this story. He had to be the emotionally weak one, had to suffer. And I’ll admit that it infuriates me. I want to rattle at the screen and say, “but, no! Sam is not a wimp!” I think this comes through in Gene’s reaction. And I’d like to think that Sam is no more emo or melodramatic than in the show.
Plus, Sam still solves the Hopkins dilemma, because even at his most insane, he’s a good cop. He still fights to get back to his dreamworld, because Sam is a fighter. He doesn’t drop at the first moment. There are good reasons he’s cracking apart.
I identify with Sam. I always have. More than I should. It’s why he’s often the character I use as my point of view, because I am invariably automatically thinking through his perspective. But I don’t agree with everything Sam does. He is selfish and small-minded --- and I understand that selfishness, and small-mindedness, don’t get me wrong, it’s refreshing he’s not a perfect hero and simply a fallible guy. But he is imperfect in all of these kinds of ways and it’s fascinating exploring that.
The genesis of this story was listening to Crowded House’s “Weather With You”, hence the title. But the actual soundtrack for this story is undoubtedly Beck’s album “Sea Change”, with songs such as “Lonesome Tears”, “Lost Cause”, “End of the Day” and “It’s All In Your Mind”. I’m not entirely sure where the actual idea for can fight the sleep but not the dream came from, except that it was hobbled together from ideas I’ve had for years. I’d already explored part of it in The Too, Too Fragile Mind --- the idea of Sam breaking down and Gene (and in that story, Annie), watching on in horror.
I haven’t written a story bouncing point of view for a remarkably long time, but I made the conscious decision that we needed Gene’s perspective before I started writing --- and in fact, whilst we spend more time with Sam, we’re really meant to be 'on Gene’s side’. We start and end with Gene. He’s the character I most feel for in this story. Here he is, in love with a man going through a mental breakdown, and he doesn’t have the strength to tell him (the one thing that might tether Sam to reality) – he's constrained by society and his own ingrained prejudices. That’s got to suck.
In some ways I was back in my comfort zone with this story, because I have written quite a bit of Sam/Gene fluff lately, and whilst I like Sam/Gene fluff, and enjoy writing Sam/Gene fluff, it takes me stepping just a little bit extra to the left. Fatalistic Sam/Gene fics, though? Oh yeah, I’m right in my element. (No, I don’t know why. I think I may just be a miserable git.) On the other hand, this is nothing quite like anything I’ve ever written before --- and I like it for that. I want to try and write almost everything at least once. And, damn it, I may just succeed with time.
I wanted readers to get to a point where they were as unsure as Sam as to what was reality and what was unreality --- and, in fact, whether parallel dimensions weren’t, perhaps, involved. I wanted it to end on a note of hope --- for there to be redemption and the sense that, hey, you know what, these crazy kids might just pull through. But, obviously, it was angst, and in a lot of ways it was tragedy, and I honestly do not know why I keep doing this to people, but I’m glad there are masochists out there who like to read stories that are actually really fucking depressing.
I think this is my tightest narrative since Palimpsest. I’m mostly really pleased with the plot progression and pacing --- and since my pacing is usually wildly off (and I always know it is), I find myself dancing around a little at the fact I think it’s pretty spot on this time. I don’t joke when I say I have difficulty with plot. I really, really do. I have all of these ideas, but they rarely go anywhere. I get scenes and nothing more.
This has a set structure and I really think it works for what I wanted to convey. I spent a lot of time plotting and was very prescriptive with how I wanted things to pan out. Usually I’m relatively vague --- I’ll have a plot point, but no real idea how to get there, I just go with the flow, let the dialogue come to me any whichway. This time I knew every scene before it was written. It’s all very self-contained. I strived hard for it to be internally consistent and logical. It requires suspension of disbelief, but it’s not beyond the realms of reason --- especially for Life on Mars, since it’s essentially an echo of the themes of the show --- with a spin, of course, because otherwise, what’s the point?
I didn’t particularly want to warn for character death --- since it’s actually not character death and I felt like the warning would put off potential readers, but I did warn, because I also didn’t want to upset people who avoid death!fic. I also had no real idea how to summarise, but I did my best.
I think this story was largely successful in telling the story I wanted to tell. Now, I need to finish that other depressing Sam/Gene story that’s burning away at the back of the stovetop. Then there’s “Yay, Annie!” fiction aplenty. And I think I really, really have to write a story where Sam is a made of win and awesome strong hero, because he totally is and I don’t think that gets explored enough.
No rest for the