"In the Fading Light of Sundown" began as an entry in the yearly Codexian Idol story contest. Codexian Idol is a beloved tradition in my online writers' group (which, if you haven't already guessed, is called Codex.) Inspired by the popular tv show American Idol, the contest is run in three rounds. In the first round, authors upload 500 words of a newly-written story. The submissions that rank highest in the voting proceed to Round 2, in which the authors upload the next 1000 words, and the top-ranking stories proceed to the final round, in which the entire story is submitted. Since the authors are writing the stories as the contest progresses, there's a sort of frantic scramble to keep up with your story as it proceeds from round to round.
Now, it so happens that my Nebula Nominated short story "Movement" began its existence as a Codexian Idol contest entry, exactly one year before I wrote "In the Fading Light of Sundown". A lot of things went wrong for me in that contest. I'd fumbled the opening of "Movement" a bit, and it got voted out in the first round. This was good in many ways, because it helped me hone in on the critical conflict of "Movement" and put it right there in the opening scene; obviously a good decision given the way that particular story has taken off.
But... dang. Getting booted out of the first round of Codexian Idol was a bit bruising to my esteem.
So when I wrote "In the Fading Light of Sundown", I took great care to introduce a vivid world, a character with heart, and a central conflict early on. I also wrote the entire story during Round 1. (This is legal. It even says so in the contest rules.) I'm often an organic writer, and I frequently go back and tweak a story's opening once I've finished the first draft and actually know where the plot is going. Since Codexian Idol forbids you to change your first 500 words once they're submitted, the only way to be certain I'd gotten the opening right was to write the whole dang story at the outset.
The story seed for "In the Fading Light of Sundown" was a fabulous picture located by our contest coordinator. The picture showed a boat, pulled up on a sandy shore, with roots sprouting from the planks and gnarling their way to the ground. That picture became the basis for the Livewood and the central speculative premise of the story. In choosing a character to sail my boat, I consciously chose to use an old man. Why? Because I was in the middle of writing several stories with young, spunky female protagonists, and I wanted to stretch myself. With Tobis I was forced to tread new ground, look at life from a new angle and discover a kind of story I wouldn't otherwise have written.
I am very, very pleased with the way it all turned out.
Asst. Editor’s note: Ms. Fulda mentioned it above, but I thought I’d re-mention it for those that read quickly: her amazing short story, MOVEMENT has been nominated for a Nebula award. The ending alone is strong enough to recommend it for a win, and that’s without considering the extremely well-composed beginning and middle.
Here’s a link (in case you missed the one provided by Ms. Fulda in her write-up.
-- Scott M. Roberts