Letter From The Editor - Issue 69 - June 2019

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The Story Behind the Stories
  IGMS Authors Share How Their Stories Came to Be
January 2015

The Story Behind "Meat and Greet" by Jamie Todd Rubin

Never give up on a story idea.

"Meat and Greet" first started as a story written more than twenty years ago in a meta-fiction class I took in my senior year at the University of California, Riverside. We read a lot of Borges in that class (as well as Coover and Barthelme and others), but Borges stuck with me, and I had this image of a resurrected Borges wandering the streets of New York and bumping into an editor there. I wrote a short version of the story for the class, and it was called, "Borges as the String that Led Man out of the Maze."

After graduating in 1994, I rewrote the story, made it longer, and submitted it to Tomorrow, then edited by Algis Budrys. I received one of my first personal rejection slips from A.J. Budrys on that story:

Budrys, of course, was right, but it took me nearly 20 years of working at my craft to figure out why he was right. Every now and then, the idea would come back to me. I wanted to write a story about Borges coming back to life and presenting new manuscripts to the world. But I didn't have the tools. So I kept on writing other things.

Then the zombie craze hit. I'm not of fan of zombie stories. Whatever appeals to them in others just doesn't appeal to me. But I read a few over the years. By far the best was my friend Scott Edelman's "What Comes After," which moved me to tears. The zombie craze gave me a possible framework for my Borges story, if I reconceived it.

I'd learned a few things about my craft in the two decades since Budrys' rejection slip. I made the story much shorter. I decided that the part I most enjoyed was the meta-fiction, and I focused on that. I decided that Borges would be the first character, but only one of several. The result was "Meat and Greet."

Careful readers will note that the story is also a tip-of-the-hat to my friend and writing mentor, Barry Malzberg. It is also one of the very few stories I've written with a sort of punch line at the end.

"Meat and Greet" is a short, meta-pastiche that took me twenty years to get right. I had a lot fun with the story, but the moral for me, as I said at the start, is:

Never give up on a story idea.

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