Hugo-nominated webzine Abyss & Apex published my short story Insider Art on April 1st. I was on holiday at the time so I’m only now getting round to blogging about this highly personal work.
Insider Artisn’t personal in the sense that the lead character is based on me or anyone I know; she isn’t. But I do know what it is like for someone to visit a loved one who has been in a persistently vegetative state for several years. But mostly it’s the story’s embedded themes that constitute the personal element, since they often appear in my work. So: Insider Art explores the challenges posed by creativity; ponders how people trapped by their circumstances strive to free themselves; and considers how technology might enable new but circumscribed forms of humanity to come into being. In that sense, it is probably one of my signature works. You can find other, often very different takes on these themes in stories like Slices of Life, Survival Strategies, Time to Play, A Walk in the Woods (and its sequel A Walk in the Rain), and others.
If you watched the final episode of the recent revival of The X-Files, you will have encountered the walking-versus-tennis communication protocol already. I felt that Chris Carter rather under-exploited the motif. I hope that Insider Art makes better use of it, particularly since reading about it in a science journal a few years ago inspired me to write the story in the first place.
I’m hugely grateful to my friends in the OSB writers’ group and the Milford Conference 2013 attendees for helping me to knock this story into shape, also to Wendy S. Delmater for agreeing to publish it in her excellent ‘zine. I hope you enjoy reading it.