A new novella for the grown-ups

With Raccoon Rescue now happily out in the world, I’m pleased to announce that my new novella, “Sodom and Gomorrah on a Saturday Night,” has been published in the first-ever Running Wild Novella Anthology!

I haven’t written too much about this story for two reasons. First, because it represents the first piece of fiction for adults that I’ve written since going on hiatus nearly 10 years ago, and I was afraid to jinx it. Things happen in publishing, after all….

A dystopia that may hit a bit close to home…

The other reason, though, is a little more personal, even a little darker. Somewhere along the way I’d decided to write it as a dystopia rather than as a straight crime fiction story. Ultimately, “Sodom & Gomorrah on a Saturday Night” is a story about capitalism run amok, taken to its furthest extreme: fully privatized government, all manner of activity — including human trafficking — is legalized as long as it can turn a profit, and people who used to serve the US Constitution are now forced to serve corporate interests.

(Note: few who are familiar with privatized correctional facilities will dispute that they are, in themselves, dystopian for the inmates sentenced to serve there. This is part of a theme in another novella in the anthology, Miranda Manzano’s excellent “Well Fed.”)

In the liminal space I was in last summer — just after being laid off from my job, being turned down from a second job I spent many weeks and nearly two dozen interviews preparing to be offered, and finally starting my own business — my novella became what Jonathan Fields refers to as a “certainty anchor”:

“…a practice or process that adds something known and reliable to your life when you may otherwise feel you’re spinning off in a million directions…. They provide just enough of a foundation to allow you to free up that part of your brain that needs permission to run encumbered in the quest to create the greatest possible something from nothing.”

Writing turned out to be, in fact, a welcome respite not just from a grueling and demoralizing job hunt, but also from an increasingly toxic political environment. I completed the first draft before Election Day 2016. In the months that followed, as I completed revisions, the appointments of cabinet members who indeed have a vested interest in privatizing various aspects of government gave the novella a new cast.

… with a slight fantasy twist

When I submitted the novella, the editor asked me to resubmit with a different intro. I decided to take a pretty big chance and add in an unusual element: a ban on empathy. Not the cognition; the emotional skill — the ability to read others’ emotions. While in our real world this is generally considered a “fringe” skill of the highly sensitive, in my fictional world it’s a given — and part of keeping people down, after all, is ensuring they can’t feel one another’s pain. Which may, after all, not be that far off reality.

I’d like to invite you to judge for yourself. You can buy a copy of the Running Wild Novella Anthology on Amazon or Powell’s. I’d love to know what you think!

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