The first story in the Humbaba cycle, DRIFTING ROOM, follows a guy named Sam Hain to a parallel universe. His accidental presence there results in heightened powers for him, and alters the biosphere in strange, unpredictable ways. This is because I generally find one-to-one correspondences in stories limiting, but I also want to feel verisimilitude, and reflect as accurately as possible that otherworldly sense of realizing dream which accompanies the creative experience. So there are all sorts of rooms within rooms that I go through in my work in order for a story to feel right. And from the start, lines blur.
The other day on lunch break from milling slabs and sanding tops at the Woodworks--called the Burl Barn in my contemporary fantasy fiction--my coworker and I went across the street to the cafe again. In my literary version of the cafe, very loosely applied and having really nothing specific ever in common at all, I've got a Rip Van Winkle of a hippy somehow waking up, still only 25, but 75 years in the future, and when he wanders up from the forest into the little redwood town of Madrani, he goes to the Madrani Cafe and sees that it, like the rest of the town, has been incorporated into a giant theme park called Redwoodland, where the customers and employees are actually all animatronic, and only start moving when sensors are tripped. But nobody around me knew any of that, I bet. All I did was order pizza.
Then I looked over. And there he was, a guy I knew when we were kids. In fact, a weird sleepover in the woods to which he was invited inspired a story I wrote called THE PIT.
Leaning over, all dirty from work in my barbaric hick-wear, I said hey what's up, great to see ya, and by the way, you remember that one night back when? Well, I wrote this story.
He was all cool, very warm and polite, and said he was looking forward to checking it out.
So I ate my grub there. Buncha high school kids sittin' around. This one girl looked at me with incredulity. I dunno, just a guess, but I got the feeling she recognized me from my picture in The Independent as the movie reviewer, or maybe even knew of my books and all, and had a damn hard time reconciling that with the dirty hick on break that she saw.
Well, I mean, if it had happened in one of my stories, I could easily have taken a few steps over to the switch on the wall, shut everyone down, and then upgraded her system with full understanding of my personal goddam circumstances. Plus, I wouldn't have walked back to work. I'd have taken my hover scooter.
But I did walk back to work. And the whole way I kept wishing I hadn't said anything about my story to that guy I used to know when we were kids. Would he be hurt by what he saw? I intended no offense. Even historians write fiction. For the writer of creative fiction, the story is the boss. All one-to-one correspondences eschewed. The character loosely inspired by him does get bullied. But it's not as simple as that. The big part of the story is how not bullied he really is. And in fact holds the weird book with the gnarly power.
Lines blur, though.
Where the dream starts and where it ends, hard to say. We all keep a foot in two worlds. We all have our double.