Breakfast at Tiffany’s

This past Sunday would have been Audrey Hepburn’s 85th birthday. The day before, I had serendipitously   rewatched Breakfast at Tiffany’s, in which she famously starred with George Peppard.  I didn’t do this because Audrey Hepburn is gorgeous (though she is). I didn’t watch it because she has a lovely voice (which she does). I didn’t even watch it because Givenchy and Hepburn are a match made in sartorial heaven (which they are).  I watched it for the premise.

BreakfastBreakfast at Tiffany’s, like the Truman Capote novella on which it is based, portrays characters who would not be good role models for your children. Hepburn’s Holly Golightly uses her charms to get money from rich men as a means of support, and Peppard’s Fred is a kept man in the service of an older married woman. Despite this, I think there is something moving in the way Fred grows past his situation in an effort to rescue Holly from her chosen lifestyle, and the way Holly clings to hers because she’s afraid of real love. It’s a story I’d love to tell.

At the same time, I don’t want to be writing clichés, nor do I have any hope of matching Truman Capote, so I asked myself what would happen if this tale were gender swapped. What if Fred were the running woman, and what if she wants to rescue a kept man who isn’t sure he wants to be rescued? That question led me to gigolo Harry and young poet Persephone.

Persephone is young, but she has lived far more than a girl her age should be forced to do. Her mother’s business partner, Alex, had insisted she call him Uncle Alex, but subsequently tried things that an uncle shouldn’t do. When it became apparent that no help was coming from her mother, Persephone renamed herself Pip, lied about her age, and joined the crew of an interstellar freighter.

My story begins with Pip taking a job as resident poet for wealthy landowner Isobel and her seventeen cloned daughters on a distant planet. There she meets Harry, who was hired to provide entertainment and genetic material for the young women in the family.  It’s the closest thing I can conceive to Holly Golightly’s café society lifestyle, justified by my claim that truncated telomeres will keep cloning from being useful for multiple generations in a row.

Because of her background, Pip wants to rescue Harry from what she interprets as an abusive situation. Isobel, on the other hand, has invested a lot in keeping Harry and his genome intact, and doesn’t want to lose that. I find myself doubting that either one will ask what Harry wants.

For my own part, I think I have a pretty good handle on Harry’s emotional state and motives, but Pip’s are tougher for me. Harry doesn’t have any experience with “normal” romance, and is going to make dumb mistakes. Would she run away from him as well, or would she react in anger? What kind of words or actions would be most likely to set her off emotionally? That answer will drive the events of my plot.

Either way, I don’t think it’s going to end in a Hollywood happy ending, the way the movie did.

Eclecticism Explained

I first described myself as an interstitial writer in a cover letter accompanying one of my early short stories (alas, it didn’t sell). At the time, I thought it was an appropriate description of my writing method. Right now, at least, I have pressing conflicts that keep me from being a full-time writer:interstitial defect

  • I have a Wife and Children;
  • I have Work and Ministry obligations;
  • I have to leave some room for me.

In the interstices of these obligations and desires, I have been learning to write science fiction. It’s proven to be harder work than I thought, and I often find myself asking if I have the pedigree to do this. After all, I’m not a professor of biochemistry or physics. I have no experience with NASA or as a voice for the Open Source movement. And I’m certainly not a brilliant in my thoughts about people and technology.  So where does that leave me?

All I have left is to be who I am:  a man passionate about God and His Universe, about technology and people, about words and the emotions we express with them. I stopped reading Scientific American when their editorials made it clear I wasn’t welcome, and I hesitate to talk about my skepticism with Christians who might think I’m a bad influence on their children. I’m stuck in the middle.

And that, surprisingly enough, is what it means to be interstitial.

Recently, while reading the submission guidelines for Strange Horizons, I found that they want to encourage submissions by “traditionally under-represented groups,” and realized I may just have a chance. Yes, I realize that white, protestant, middle-aged men from the suburbs are far from rare, even left-handed ones, but this is SF, and who’s more under-represented in SF than people of faith? Now all I have to do is finish a story good enough to deserve publication.

One step at a time.