My upcoming book of short short stories, Shake Away These Constant Days, originated as a project called Our Band Could Be Your Lit, in which I wrote a story under 1000 words every week. To generate this much content, I based the stories on songs suggested my musicians and writers from around the world. The original idea was 100 songs, 100 stories: find the creative common ground between two mediums and cultivating the virtue found therein.
Until September 25th, I'll be doing a blog post a day about the stories in the book. After that, it's all up to you.
(Read "Sergei Avdeyev" in JDP's gracious preview of Shake Away These Constant Days.)
Originally OBCBYL #28. Writing about isolation means writing through isolation to evoke empathy. A story that makes a reader feel alone goes against the one morality we can almost all agree that storytelling is supposed to achieve. What good is a cathedral without people in it?
The story itself came about pretty quickly once I stumbled upon Russian cosmonaut Sergei Avdayev, which took for fucking ever to stumble upon. Sergei holds the record for time dilation experienced by a human being. What this basically means is that he was in space for so long at such a rapid speed--a cumulative 747 days at an average speed of about 27,360 km/h--that he actually aged roughly 0.02 seconds less than an Earthbound person would have. He is, and this is how simple my brain works, a traveler in time.
In my head, the narrator was stranded in Moscow for a similar reason Ethan Hawke's character in Before Sunrise was stranded in Europe before meeting up with Julie Delpy's character: translatlantic travel that resulted in a break-up upon arrival. When I wrote this, I was finally becoming sick of writing bad relationship stories--both stories that were about bad relationships and bad stories about relationships. I left the "lovesick and stranded" part out of it entirely.
Really, though, I don't think it matters why the narrator's in Moscow. He's just there. Sometimes people end up places by themselves, which the narrator subtly notes right away in the first sentence. This goes back to the idea of isolation in writing: if there's nothing that can be done, then you have to do nothing.
I was worried about the interaction with Sergei because I didn't want to have to keep saying shit like "Sergei spoke elegantly in Russian and gestured toward WHATEVER." I can't remember if I was too lazy to actually find out if Sergei knew English or if I searched around for about five minutes and didn't find anything to confirm that. Regardless, it worked out in my favor. Sergei is silently stoic and all their interaction is physical, which really helps the scenes play out. The narrator and Sergei playing darts is one of my favorite things I've written.
I submitted this story to Cartographer and they got back to me--on my birthday, no less--saying they'd agree to publish "Sergei Avdeyev" upon deletion of the last sentence. I offered them an alternate last sentence that was a nice compromise between what I had--a punchline--and what they wanted--less of a punchline. I never heard back from them.
And that's why I don't celebrate my birthday.
Tomorrow: A story named "Look At How Fast I Can Go Nowhere At All" that is based on the song "Life Passed Me By" by Super Stereo. Suggested by writer Monica Rodriguez.
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Pre-order the book so I have a reason to leave my basement.