This book is very much like Variations on Brave New World: a world where people are trained to be consumers, where the author gives nods to a various somber evaluations on humanity, and where a cure for mental disease has turned into a cure for individuality. It started out strong and good, a fine example of stellar Fifties scifi, but seemed to lose its footing by the end, so by the time it reached its conclusion, it seemed very scattered. There was just no resonance, and I was thinking “What was that?” It felt like important information, or some overarching theme, was missing. And that is a lesson in itself.
Also, I did it: I applied to Clarion East, where Samuel Delany, Joe Haldeman, Nancy Kress, and Gordon Van Gelder (who just rejected “Stormwind” with an encouraging note) are instructing. I sent two sample stories, “Losing Face” and a Crows of Bedu excerpt. I wanted to send “Praxitales,” but I couldn’t find a copy of it. I found “Praxitales” after sending my application and thought to myself “Oh! I’ll send this in, exchange it for the excerpt!” Then, I read it and thought “But I would need to make some changes...”
No. This story was published in 1996. I am not changing those stories. That would be falling into the conceit of “The Star Wars Trap,” that I can make it better now that I know more, can do more. No. And when I get my writer’s website, I am going to post these beloved old stories for others to read, warts and all, because that’s what made them cool, and to show other writers that stories don’t need to be perfect, that my writing is not perfect, I am not on a pedestal and I don’t know more than anyone else. So, I am standing by the stories I sent to Clarion. I stand by my words.
Theme not only makes a story cool; it provides the tendons that make the story snap into place, that let it stand tall.