My Computer is sick. It has reached its mid-twenties in computer years and much like humans, its inherent instabilities are manifesting. If only their were a USB Prozac I could plug into the thing and make everything alright. I can’t count the number of friends I have that drifted into insanity, addiction or just out-and-out weirdness as they transitioned from adolescence to middle age. One minute you”re sitting in a bar with a friend talking about the relative merits of knees and elbows and the next minute that friend is being carried out of the bar screaming French at the cops while the mini-skirt he’s wearing rides up to expose his junk flopping around like a boneless appendage signing the guilty plea to his third indecent exposure charge in as many weeks. That was an interesting evening. I couldn’t help but think that he wasn’t really all that into the whole transvestite gig as the skirt was made of cheap black jersey material and the top didn’t even try to match. What a digression.
My computer is getting drunk and wearing a miniskirt from K-mart. I’d call it a cry for attention, but it’s going to have to go Macy’s if it wants me to notice. I’m all class. That being said, with my machine getting sick, I’ve been creating zip files of all my work and emailing them to trusted friends as well as making zip drive backups which I’m scattering to the four winds. Understand- I don’t think that a lost War and Peace is buried in my old writing, but I do have about as many words as War and Peace, and that’s just a lot of work to trust to the fickle whims of the digital format alone. In the process of copying files I had to make a place for the smallest of my folders- PUBLISHED STORIES! It is a woefully thin folder, but one that is filled with pride (yes, I’d rather there be about half as much pride and twice as many stories, but you take what you can get). As I looked through the stories that have seen the light of publishing day I noticed something: they all share a setting. A dozen or so stories I’ve sold have been set in my native county in Kentucky (Okay, all but one- that story was set on the moon). It is quite interesting to me that of all the stories I’ve finished and submitted- around fifty stories- nearly all that were sold were set in my home town.
About my home town. About a year ago I outlined why Butler County makes for good settings in my particular breed of dark sci-fi. It is perhaps just as interesting that I started this post exactly one year to the day that I posted about BC last time. I’ve probably mentioned that Butler County is mentioned in the film Village of the Damned, the John Carpenter film starring Christopher Reeves. At the opening of the film the doctor, played by Reeves, mentions that he has just returned from Butler County where he delivered a child. How do I know this is a reference to my Butler County? John Carpenter grew up one town over from me and every film he makes contains one or two geographical references to the area. Fittingly, our reference came from Village of the Damned.
So what to do with this information, this revelation? It certainly plays into the “write what you know” adage that I find to be such a hackneyed cliche. I don’t want to think that the stories I’ve sold are my best work. In truth some of these stories are, in retrospect, not all that good. Yet they sold, some to semi-pro, some to pro. I don’t think for a second that if I wrote another story set in Butler County that it would sell, yet I when I look at the half a hundred finished short stories I have written every one set in Butler County has sold.
Perhaps it’s an “unponderable,” as Tolkien liked to put it. I haven’t sold a story since last spring so I need to get cracking on something somebody wants. I might as well write what I know (will sell). It’s time to return to Butler County, a strange place that straddles north and south and rests in the shadow of Paradise.