One of the first magazines to publish my speculative fiction, The Colored Lens, has bought another of my stories! “The Cartographer Gene,” one of my most plot-intensive stories, is slated to appear in the Spring 2017 issue. The Colored Lens publishes a lot of talented authors with whom my publishing, reading, and/or social media paths have crossed, including Julie C. Day, Jamie Lackey, and Rebecca Schwarz and I’m grateful to Dawn, Daniel, Henry, and Charlie for selecting my story.
I wrote and workshopped this story for a class through UCLA extension. Alyx Dellamonica taught the class. It was a fun group.
Unlike so many of my stories, this one did not start from an exercise. I did use some of the exercises assigned during class as an opportunity to flesh out some of the scenes — including the climactic one. But the story started from an idea about a hereditary ability. It grew into an exploration of family dynamics where some members have a “gift” that others don’t, and how empty such a gift can be if it can’t be used to help others.
I recently rewrote certain parts of the story to change the antagonist from a Russian immigrant to a home grown bad guy. Though it was never my intent to suggest that all immigrants are bad guys, given the current political climate I wanted to avoid any possible reading that could support that interpretation.
Indeed, I have noticed that some of my stories have taken on more or different meanings given what’s currently going on in the world at present. Sometimes these meanings strike me as net positives, as with Piper: A Song for Flute and Chorus and Rumpelstiltskins. These stories had thematic elements that current events heightened and made more relevant than they perhaps were when I wrote them.
“Cartographer,” though, as originally instantiated, seemed to me to go the other direction and potentially to play into a narrative I didn’t want my work to support. The enemy isn’t immigration; it’s racism, sexism, antisemitism, homophobia, xenophobia. And people with guns who shouldn’t have them.
In any case, the antagonist is still just his own person and not meant to suggest that all red-staters are violent villains. Through the magic of white male privilege, I’m pretty confident that the risk of a rush to judgment on all white males is small.