ALONE (short story)

I’m pleased to release a new short story for your reading pleasure on these brief Fall afternoons. What is this story, ALONE, all about?

Two marooned astronauts cope with isolation, existentialism and artificial intelligence in this romantic tragedy.

I’ve been writing on ALONE for nearly a year, picking it up and working feverishly on it, then putting it away for weeks at a time. Finally I decided to let it out into the wild. This germ of this story sprouted from wanting to write something that made the reader (you) feel uncomfortable. I test my protagonist with impossible situations, of being alone and confined while travelling through the infinity of space. What does life mean at that point? What would keep someone alive or cause them to give up hope?

This is a sentiment I’ve often felt — though not while travelling through space where a technical malfunction could mean certain death — but on tour. In a tiny bunk on a tour bus, squished up in a van with 6 other people or on an intercontinental flight for hours on end: each day, every day, for months at a time. On the road, my purpose is constantly tested, patience taken to new heights. On a terrestrial tour, if something goes wrong, it is easily remedied. You pull over and the problem easily solved. But what would you do in space, alone, with limited resources and millions of miles from anything resembling home?

I also tip my hat to CBC’s Canada Writes and their “Sci-Fi Twitter Challenge” — though I’m not exactly sure what that means. I guess this is my long-form contribution to the community. There is sadly no podcast at the moment (as my lengthiest finished story, the MP3 file would be too enormous). For eyeballs only. Happy reading.

Coming Soon: Morrissey Fan Fiction

Inspired partly by the faux-nnouncement that Morrissey would be retiring from show biz in two years (a statement he later said was “wishful thinking” on the media’s part), I decided to write a piece of fan fiction. I’ve never written anything (with any kind of seriousness) like this before. And I’m sure veteran writers of fan fiction would likely scoff at my only scraping the surface of how deep a “fan” can go. What I’m writing is more “The Wrong Boy” than some sort of made up day-in-the-life of Mozzer. That’s not my style.

While it’s not yet finished, I’ve been obsessed with writing this story. It is dark yet romantic, and at times threatens to cross the line separating YA and A fiction. But that’s how I roll: I like to dive into something without knowing too much about it. Artistically, it’s often the only way to keep your mind free, and your muses unburdened by influence or unwritten rules. What is popular, what “sells,” these preoccupations pepper the mind in evil, counter-productive ways.

So I write without prejudice, and expect to be critiqued with full prejudice, because that’s how I’ve come to understand the Western World. We are natural-born haters, because it would be impossible to like and to agree with everything. Opinion drives us, it defines us, and the internet has given each of our opinions an equal voice.

Anyway, this is not about that. This is about the next short story that I’m pushing through. This is the “hype” post, with the story itself coming soon. This piece is a little therapeutic to me since it’s slightly personal, but a story I’ve been trying to tell since my teenaged years. I was just always too close to tell it. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

Recently, Murray and I produced a documentary about The Dears (we’ll talk more about that later). We had to dig through boxes and bins of archival material: analog photos and photocopied press kits, 3.5″ diskettes and cut-and-paste artwork. In this digging, I was forced to look through my “personal archives” as well. Maybe you don’t keep these things, but I have bundles of letters from my family, friends, ex-boyfriends and crushes. I have writing journals and diaries from my high school and university days — memories, stories, feelings I know I’ve long forgotten but that are well documented.

A person changes so much as they grow — every experience, the big and the small, moulds us whether we like it or not. Our opinions harden and soften, we are shape-shifters, never the same, never looking back…

So in many ways, this story I’m writing is a reflection of that. It is completely fiction, and has been totally fun to write. And I got my pal Joe Ollmann to “bang out” some cover art for me. I’m excited to let you read it! It’ll be on my Scribd shelf soon!

FLASH FICTION (1)

As I was writing this piece of fiction, I was in tears. It was meant to me the culmination of a short story, the tender moment that ends it all. But in the meanwhile, that short story (d)evolved into something longer, into a greater beast. The beast has left my big sappy ending floating, like a piece of paragraphical driftwood, among more meaningful ideas. Solid stuff that is lodged firmly in the sand. 

Though I love the interaction in Flash Fiction (1), it has no place in my fiction-science world. I wondered if — stripped of the deeper character portraits and adventures that were originally behind them — this epic send-off could hold its weight?

I propose to you, then, a piece of “flash fiction” or whatever you’d like to call it (Wikipedia also suggests: sudden fiction, microfiction, micro-story, short short, postcard fiction, short short story). I assure you that I adhere to zero rules of writing (except for common grammar, I hope). Word length? Bah! Story arc? Heave ho! 

So without further ado, I present, Flash Fiction (1) by Natalia Yanchak.

(Hardly) Tragic Life Stories

This morning my brain woke up at 7:15AM, exactly 45 minutes before my body was ready. That was just enough time to lay there and start over-thinking things: Was the car going to get a ticket? Did I remember to lock the door? Am I catching cold? What’s wrong with me? Why does winter suck so hard? Etc, etc. In that time, my mind wandered, and got all self-critical of my 20’s. You know, the university years. The stuff of which nightmares are made. The conscious moments between longer periods of being drunk prior to graduation.

More specifically, I was feeling embarrassed to have spent several years as a creative writing major: all the poor things I not only wrote but shared with my classmates. I was writing from nowhere, from a life part-lived. Essentially I was making the shit up as I went along…which should be the goal of creative writing, otherwise they would call it plagaristic writing. I think art schools and especially the creative writing major should be abolished. What a way to commodify art…guised as education. Art should be workshopped, never graded.

The point: sometime in the late 90’s I took a class called Creative Writing: Memoir Fiction. Or something like that. I was so into it: what could be more awesome/easy than writing about my life? At the time, I thought I was amazing. I was invincible. I was 22. I was totally lost in life but having a great time. So I wrote a story about it. I seriously thought: “I – hands down – have the most interesting life out of everyone in this class and my story is going to BLOW THEM AWAY.” I was conceited. Did I mention that?

My only caveat was one particular classmate who was actually a good writer. She had had her work published and shit. We had mutual friends and at the time I thought it was likely that her life might be more interesting than mine. She was also a few years older. And this morning, in my momentary post-dawn panic, I realised it was the possibility of her opinion that embarrassed me. Like my “tell-it-like-it-is life story” about going to bars and having dinners at fancy restaurants was remotely intellectual and engaging. It totally was not. That story was a bona fide piece of garbage.

The largest tragedy here was that I ever thought the drivel I put out there was appropriate to share and discuss with others. Yikes, anyone?

A final thought: how depressing and morally crushing would it be, being a creative writing teacher? Not trying to be offensive to creative writing teachers out there, but the amount of pure rubbish you would have to process: read cricitally, comment on and grade. All the while, your internal dialogue being: “This is the future of English literature. Fucking hell. Can I murder myself now?” Thus, possibly, the genesis of a new genre.