The Story Behind the Story: Atlas Shagged (#SFWApro)

The roots of my Atlas Shagged collection’s title story Atlas Shagged unsurprisingly lie with Ayn Rand. Or more specifically the 2012 Atlas Shrugged Part Two film.

Not anything specific to the film, but after TYG and I saw it (she liked it a little better than I did) I joked Atlas Shagged would be a much better film. And then my brain went hmmm ….

TYG had mentioned once that when the Internet was in its infancy, the peopel working for online porn sites were considered very cool because they had the best, most advanced toys — porn sites were taking online payments long before anyone else, for instance. So I conceived of a future where “Big Johnson” Galt is a former porn star who sets out to stop the motor that runs the world — sex.

The story came of Big Johnson Galt and porn producer Ayn Randy came together pretty quickly. Then I read it to my writers’ group, who loved it, but made several suggestions for improvement. I followed them and sent Atlas Shagged out into the world.

The world sent it back. Repeatedly. Some of the responses were our old friend, “not quite right for us.” One humor magazine loved it, but worried too many people wouldn’t be familiar enough with Rand to get the joke (that’s certainly possible). Several complained that what I’d written wasn’t really a story: there was no central character, no dialog and the whole thing was written at a distance, like I was recapping an even for a history book instead of telling a story.

That last one is a valid criticism — I was writing it more like a news article summarizing events than regular fiction. But I think that still counts as a story; I’ve read a few published SF stories that did the same. At flash fiction lengths, it didn’t seem an unworkable tactic. But editors didn’t agree.

Besides which the range of markets I could submit to was smaller than usual. A number of magazines say flat out they don’t want erotica or graphic sex, and while nobody’s actually having sex on the page in Atlas Shagged, I was pretty sure it qualified.

So finally I tried rewriting it into a more conventional structure, using a minor government employee as my central character. But after getting a few pages into my first draft, I gave up. I was pretty sure reworking Atlas Shagged would lose a lot of the humor and wouldn’t gain much of anything. And it’s not as if reworking it would guarantee a quick sale — my stories never sell quickly. So why was I bothering?

Instead, the idea of just publishing it myself took root, and finally that’s the route I went. Backed up by multiple other stories, of course (as listed here). As it didn’t cost me anything except time, what have I got to lose?

So there you have it. I’ll be back tomorrow with the story behind my chick lit parody Dark Satanic Mills.


Filed under Atlas Shagged, Short Stories, Story behind the story, Writing

3 responses to “The Story Behind the Story: Atlas Shagged (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: Atlas Shagged is a go! | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: The magical Mysticon tour | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: Surrounded by pets, but missing my angel | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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