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Monday, January 10, 2011

My Other Favorite Story of All Time, Now Published and Available in Bewildering Stories

Listening to my mother complain about her job as a teacher during one of our weekly phone calls, inspiration hit me. Everything she'd ever told me about uncooperative students and everything I'd experienced as an elementary school student combined into one sentence. The story, now known as "Unpredictable Factors in Human Obedience" (working title and for some time afterward, the uninspired "Modern Science"), took several days to write as I took public transportation to and from work. I ended up throwing out that first inspirational sentence, and took an editing hiatus before figuring out what to do with the end, but overall, it's still true to that first bolt from above.

"Unpredictable Factors" shows the unexpected consequences of some extreme actions the main character, a teacher, takes in order to maintain control of her classroom. I had no teaching experience when I wrote the story, but I'm very proud of it still, after having paid my teaching dues. It accurately reflects the frustrations that arise in such a noble profession. It's incredibly rewarding to witness students learning under your tutelage. The problem is getting them to learn when there are so many other things they would rather be doing.

At the same time, I'm proud of the narrator. She's not expecially sympathetic, but she still draws you through to the end of the story. She's the first time I really tried to get inside the head of someone different from myself. I think she works because she functions on impulses I recognize in myself but never make use of. She's quite a gal! I just love what the editor of Bewildering Stories says about her:

"Unpredictable Factors..." introduces Emily Mattheson, a young primary-grade schoolteacher. Readers might expect Emily to be as innocuous as plain vanilla, but they’ll know from the very first paragraphs that Emily’s career will be an inadvertent horror story. She’s not only lazy and careless, she’s a kind of suburban monster, a character who might be a match for the Meursault of Albert Camus’ L’Étranger.
But unlike Meursault, Emily never realizes what she represents or what she’s done. Readers might wish she did, but she’s all the more frightening for being a Black Hole of moral insensitivity.

I sent "Unpredictable Factors" off to some very reputable publishers, but couldn't find a home for it until I changed the title and looked beyond the strictly literary. The story is meant to bewilder the reader, and so I'm thrilled it's found a place in Bewildering Stories.

The story has a subtle twist I hope you won't miss out on!

Read the whole story here! And check out the succinct editorial description here!