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
February 2019

Reading Dead Lips by Dustin Steinacker

When I hear about people who've suffered staggering personal loss, I can't help but wonder about their day-to-day lives. I mean the mundane moments, the ones we don't normally see. Tragedies can occur in an instant but reverberate for a lifetime, and their consequences are private but profound: the altered relationships, the disillusionment and shattered convictions, the way they pollute our mental associations so even familiar stimuli take on fresh pain. They're insidious that way.

Grief can be tough to portray in fiction because it's not a spectacle. From the outside it might look like a person making breakfast, or commuting to work, or hearing a familiar song in public. So in most popular fiction, loss serves as a motivating force. The protagonist is aware of a wrong and wouldn't mind seeing it resolved, but doesn't answer the hero's call until their loved ones (generally civilian spouses and children who'd be inconvenient accessories to a gunfight) become casualties of that wrong. We follow the now-invested hero and get a secondhand taste of something that eludes most of us in our own lives: catharsis.

I struggled with Nouelle's journey at first because I just didn't see that kind of ending in her cards. Her life was never idyllic, even before the soldiers came to Óste. She nurses her share of vices and self-destructive tendencies, few of which I saw her overcoming during the events of this story. And the "wrong" she's fighting is too entrenched, too supported by cultural and economic and social factors to be anything but impervious. She's got only the roughest sketch of a plan, and little idea of how to achieve it, only a driving need to reclaim some agency for herself by going back home under her terms.

And the more I thought about it, the more it felt like exactly what I wanted to write.

I wanted to follow Nouelle--sympathetic but not always likeable, a bit of an inebriate, insecure and prone to pushing others away--as she threw herself headlong into the least advisable necromantic road trip in history. As I rewrote, I leaned into some of the things I thought were problems and felt the pieces starting to slide into place. I needed ten thousand words to finally get this story right (now watch as the literary nerd within me starts to dust off the word "novelette" with a smug look), and I thank Scott Roberts and Intergalactic Medicine Show for giving me the space to tell it.

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