If I’d known I’d wake up early enough to blog about The Grass Is Always Greener this morning, I wouldn’t have posted about it earlier. As I said then, this story is out in STRANGE ECONOMICS: Economic Speculative Fiction, so here’s the story of how it came to be.
I wrote the original version of this story back in 2006, so I’m not entirely sure how I came up with the idea — protagonist Reed learning his future has been sold to someone else and struggling to reclaim it. Part of it was probably that I was a little blue about my own life: not a novelist, no story sales in a while, limited funds, no love life. It’s also possible I was influenced by the Angel episode The House Always Wins from a few years earlier, concerning a casino where gamblers unwittingly bet their future happiness/success/greatness (which inspired my story And Many a Knot Unraveled By the Road, published in Challenging Destiny the previous year).
In the earliest version, Reed’s a failed writer living in a trailer park. A dwarf mysteriously appears, knowing way too much about Reed’s life and many failures. The dwarf reveals that all those agreements we sign for software updates, credit cards, etc., contain some fine print, like allowing the company to sell your destiny to someone else. Reed had a great life ahead of him, but it’s no longer his. Now what will he do to get it back?
The initial version didn’t sell, so I began reworking it. Reed became an artist instead of a writer, which gave me a little more distance. And instead of an expository conversation in his trailer, I set it at the fast-food place where he works (it became McDonalds in the final draft) and threw in his girlfriend breaking up with him. That drove home his plight a lot more effectively. The dwarf became a normal human, but a really crass one. And I played up the subtext that this is about an entitled, privileged guy who feels entitled to take Reed’s future, and doesn’t give a fig what happens to Reed.
Trouble was, it still didn’t sell. So I brought it into the writing group. They liked it, but made some suggestions: in the current economy, was working fast food really a sign of failure? Good point, so I acknowledged it. I also tinkered with a couple of technical points to make it more plausible. Then I began submitting again, without much more success. Until I saw Strange Economics and thought hmmm, that seems like a logical market. Turns out I was right.
It’s a good story and a good anthology too (a review will follow some time in the next week).
#SFWApro. Cover by Jonathan Maurin.