DEBRIEF: Director’s Cut (Harlot Media)

I’m shamelessly stealing the following blog format from the excellent B.R. Sanders, who’s been posting these about their own short fiction. (Seriously, I’ve even stolen the title.) Partly this serves as a shameless announcement (Hey you! Go read my story!), partly a record of my writing along side the record of reading that this blog exists as. But I also think that writers don’t always talk about the industry as much as they should, and I find it fascinating to read about when other writers so perhaps someone will enjoy it in return. (It sure helps when you receive your 27th rejection note to be able to read of other stories that have met the same fate.)

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‘Director’s Cut’: Eugene Watkins knows there is only one ending for him: tragedy. That is the only ending permitted for a gay man in his era and his narrative. But Eugene Watkins isn’t too happy with his story, so he’s going to bend the rules.

The story is serialised at Harlot Media, and you can read it for free here:
PART ONE / PART TWO / PART THREE

Publication date: May 2016

Completion date: November 2015

Number of times subbed: 3

Placing the story: This story had two rejections before it found a home. I’m normally pretty good at rejections, but these ones did sting because I had no idea where to place such a bizarre queer metafictional spec-fic period piece as ‘Director’s Cut’. And then the call for Harlot Media’s fiction section swung around,  which seemed a great fit. Thankfully they agreed.

The story of the story: I don’t usually work deliberately to a ‘theme’ for a story, and it’s not an approach that writers usually recommend, but I specifically set out with this story to pick apart the trope of ‘queer tragedy’ in fiction (i.e. that a gay character can exist provided their story ends in misery, which was borderline-explicit in the early days of Hollywood and has turned into something more ingrained and subtextual these days.) This took me the longest to write of any short story all year, and more redrafting and cutting and staring blankly while necking wine than is my usual. I’m indebted to the assistance of Steve Berman as my beta-reader/editor overlord, because otherwise I’d have probably got myself completely lost in the complex tangle of making this story work itself into something that makes sense and retains some resonance.

I’m also going to mention my line edits from Benjanun Sriduangkaew, for the specific reason that one of my word-choices was removed for it’s misogynistic overtones. My grounding is queer lit, so I’m more than hyper-aware of semantic implications on minorities that word choices can often unconsciously include, but I mention this because I wanted to underline: even if you think you’re on top of something like that, you never stop learning, and you should learn it from the people who live it.

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