Reef knot

One of people who bought my SF collection Moondust Memories told me privately that he found my story notes of particular interest, so I’ve decided to post some thoughts about my most recently published story, Time to Play, which you can read in issue 9 of Kzine. (Please consider buying a copy of this excellent magazine.)

Warning: spoilers ahead!

Most of my stories are either idea-driven or arise from a specific situation. Typically, I then cast around for suitable characters who might invest in that idea or
situation. Sometimes they just turn up, demanding to be admitted into the story. That was the case with Time to Play. As usual, I let the characters follow their noses in the first draft, leaving me to sort out the resultant carnage in an iterative, post hoc way. It’s not a recommendable writing process, but that’s how I work.

Time to Play arose from a long-ago visit to the (fondly remembered by me) Virgin Megastore in London’s Oxford street. I was sitting in the
store’s basement level coffee bar, watching and listening to various people noodling around on the guitars, keyboards and drums on sale there, when I wondered what would happen if everyone started playing the same song at the same time. So that was the seed idea, emerging from the extrapolation of a specific situation I knew well.

The characters who demanded to inhabit this story were not easy for me to write. I researched Patrick Doyle’s physical condition as best I could, while trying to make his battle to find an outlet for his creative impulses seem credible. On the other hand, my antagonist, Reef, never revealed much to me. Who is he? Why does he do what he does? Does he realise (or even care) how others view his methods? Are there others like him? I can honestly state that I don’t have answers to those questions, at least not yet. One editor who declined the story stated that it was actually Reef’s story not Patrick’s; that Reef was in fact the protagonist and should have provided the viewpoint. I do have some sympathy with her view, while fundamentally disagreeing with it. For me, Time to Play is Patrick’s story: a tale of belated creative achievement, brought about via a prickly mixture of inspiration, collaboration and coercion.

Perhaps someday I’ll write Reef’s story too.