Read My Story "In Extremis" In Space and Time Magazine!

(NOTE: Based on time elapsed since the posting of this entry, the BS-o-meter calculates this is 6.03% likely to be something that Ferrett now regrets.)

Space and Time Magazine!  With me in it!Fun fact: Neil Gaiman called the first draft of this story “boring.”
That changed my career.
This was back at the Clarion Science Fiction Writers’ Workshop, and Neil was our teacher for the week.  It was Week Four (of Six), and Week Four is when you’ve written enough stories that you start to take ridiculously big chances.  And I had this idea: what if a priest tried to perform an exorcism on a zombie, figuring that all zombies were possessed by evil spirits?
I was terrible at writing stories with just two people talking, so I made sure to make it a locked-room case.  I wasn’t really knowledgeable about religion, so I sought out Kat Howard to be as accurate as I could get.  And I wrote a tale about a priest and a dying old lady, him waiting for her to die so he could perform the exorcism at the moment of death, with plenty of flashbacks to the world where he’d lost faith.
And people hated this story.
My previous tales’d had flaws, but they at least zipped along, moving from scene to scene.  This thing just rehashed the same basic premises over and over again, this pretentious mess of bollocks seeping bad research, a 4,500 word story that went absolutely fucking nowhere.
And at one point, in my worldbuilding, it was revealed that the priest had been so despairing because he’d had to run down the freeway to a bloody car accident, desperate to shoot the dead in the head before they rose as fast zombies.  And Neil cried, in frustration, “Well, why the heck didn’t you write that?”
I’d wanted to.  But it didn’t seem like the kind of story I needed to tell.  And I realized: I’m a pulp guy.  I’m not the dude who writes slow scenes with two dying people locked in a room – I’m the dude who writes priests having firefights with zombies.  And I’m not the guy who gets all the details of Catholic exorcisms correct – I’m the doof who writes whatever’s most exciting, and damn the facts.
(Fun fact: A critique from Geoff Landis, NASA scientist, once said, “I’m not sure what universe this is set in, because the laws of physics you’re proposing here utterly do not match up to ours.”  That tale went on to be one of my most popular stories, proving that – for me – characterization wins over accuracy every time.)  (And yes, Geoff liked the story regardless of my skewed facts.)
So years later, that priest still stuck in my head, I wrote a piece of flashfic called “In Extremis” detailing this poor schmuck’s gunbattle by the side of the freeway.  I took out all the boring deathroom conversation, and reduced a 4,500-word bloatfest to a 1,200-word superscene.  It’s fast, it’s speedy, and one review said “This one was impressive for the author’s skillful and economic creation of a vividly imagined world in the narrow space of a short action story.”  Here’s your excerpt:

 Napkins. He was supposed to get napkins at Costco. Instead, he’s grabbing the firearm from the Last Rites kit in his back seat, running down the freeway, towards the sound of screams.
Why do they always gawk? Rush-hour commuters emerge from stopped cars, forcing him to dodge flung-open doors as soccer moms crane their necks to see what’s happening. They know what’s happening. They should be running. It’s as though they want to watch him shoot a man. Well, not a man, but the body of a man.
How is he going to get the napkins today?

The good news is, Space and Time purchased it, and you can buy that flashfic (along with many other fine stories) here, for only $5.
Sorry I bored, you Neil.  I trust I did better this time.

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