Monday, December 27, 2010

The American—Bruce Worden

Like many stories, The American grew out of a collection of ideas. It began with the concept of a singularity, but I wanted to use the concept in a new way. At some point I read that the United States spends more on its military than all other countries in the world combined. That may be an exaggeration, but it is certainly true that the U.S. accounts for a strikingly disproportionate fraction of the world’s defense spending. From this observation came the idea that the paranoid preoccupation with security, when carried to its logical conclusion, might result in a limitless appetite for information and an obsessive commitment to secrecy. In other words, it might result in a State that is both expansionist and closed – the characteristics of a black hole. The idea for The American was born.

Someone once said that good science fiction stories take place at the edge of ideas, where the ordinary meets the extraordinary. So the-american I began to wonder what would happen at the “event horizon,” the area where regular people came in contact with the looming but unknowable force personified by the Americans. How would ordinary people react? With denial? Resignation? Violence? The American is a story about how one woman reacts. She is confronted with something unimaginably more powerful than herself - something that, from her point of view, might as well be a god. In classical mythology, Zeus often took the form of animals for his liaisons on earth. From this came the idea that the eponymous American in the story might assume the form of a stag, a creature that is powerful, solitary, and mythical.

Once the pieces were in place, the first draft of the story came out fairly easily. Then the work began. Easy birth, rough childhood. While most of the major elements remain in the final version, I rewrote the story several times over a period of months, at one point cutting its length by 25% (a painful experience), before submitting to IGMS. But I think the rewrites made it a better story, and with some helpful suggestions from IGMS editor Edmund Schubert, this final version says what I wanted to say. I hope you enjoy it.

--Bruce Worden

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