My short story Dear Dad is available to read free of charge at CinderQ, Taliesin Nexus’s online literary magazine. It shares space with Andrew Klavan’s story Goodfellow, so it’s in great company. Before you read further, you might want to check out Dear Dad if you haven’t already.
CinderQ wanted something connected to one of my earlier works, and at the time I had just published the Appalling Stories anthology. Returning to the strange world I’d created in the short story The Bitterness of Honey was a natural fit. My stories Bake Me a Cake (satire), Melanie’s Becoming (thriller), and Cultural Overtones (science fiction) didn’t leave me with anywhere to go, but Honey was a world I wanted to return to. It posits a bizarre apocalypse scenario: environmental extremists working with the once-vanished, now-returned honeybees to return the world to a pre-technological state. The bees are back, the tagline might say, and they sure are pissed! Beemageddon. Beepocalypse.
I always liked the gray alien science fiction stories: Whitley Streiber’s Communion and other fictionalized accounts of First Contact with extraterrestrials. Are the ETs hostile, friendly, or so alien that we can’t divine their motives? My intent was to do a First Contact story with these apparently intelligent bees: awestruck humans learning that the world’s a lot bigger and stranger than they thought, and how/why they’d work with such creatures to destroy human civilization.
In Dear Dad I didn’t quite get there. Which is a shame, because the story didn’t wind up where I’d planned it, but also a good thing, because the story I still want to write remains to be told.
Instead, Dear Dad became a story about a love triangle, of sorts, with bees and sex and murder. I found it in the black space in my brain that all of my ideas come from, the black space that’s so damned hard to get into and so easy to slip out of. The Muse. The Muse’s womb. The unconscious. The creative process. Whatever.
I enjoy reading first-person perspective fiction as much as anyone, but writing it isn’t easy. There’s nowhere else to go: you’re stuck with the same protagonist, so you better like him. And the readers better like him. Contrast that with my Armageddon trilogy, a very long, epic-style work with multiple protagonists, and you can see how I might find first-person perspective more difficult to write. I always have to have a reason for the narrator to write, a format for writing it, and a way of the account getting to the reader. In the short story Her Bodies, Her Choice in Appalling Stories 2, the narrator is talking to a video camera. In Appalling Stories 3, the narrator scribbles his story on scraps of rice paper.
In Dear Dad, the narrator writes an email to his estranged father. Hence the title.
The protagonist’s relationship with his father is a heartbreaker for me. My son’s still in single digits, so he needs me and we see each other every day and spend time together. He’s my little boy and I love him. Many of my friends have older/adult children, so they see their kids less often. They’re less involved in the day-to-day. It’s part of the maturation process and it’s what’s supposed to happen. The 2019 me doesn’t like to think about how the father-son relationship will become more distant for the 2029 me, but by then I’ll be fine with it. For now, it’s bad enough that my protagonist is in a position to have that adult relationship with his father, but it’s worse that he has no relationship with his father, and is reaching out to send one last message. I wanted to communicate that anger and resentment and longing and foolishness, and I hope I managed it in some small way.
Someday I’ll write the First Contact bee story. Someday. For now, enjoy Dear Dad.