In our new author series, we’ll be offering a clairvoyant peek behind the veil of who and what makes up TRANSCENDENT. Here’s a glimpse at Arlen Feldman and his story “Little Choices.”
ABOUT THE STORY
What inspired your story?
I had some sort of flu and was bedridden for several days. While lying there, I worked out the story almost verbatim in my head—but was unable to type it up until I felt better. This worked well enough that I’ve considered scheduling an infection on a regular basis.
Did you have to do any research? If so, what kind? What did you learn?
I unintentionally did a lot of pre-research for this story. My father had ALS, and so I had a front-row seat on some of the related horrors. Towards the end he could only communicate by hitting a button with his toe (although he never lost his sense of humor). I’ve also been managing the care for a cousin who has had a number of strokes and is now in permanent care.
Although rather less substantial, I had Acromegaly, so was technically still growing in my 30s! I spent a fair amount of time in hospitals getting irradiated and having my brain poked. The cool thing about that (other than it being useful source for writing fodder) is that I am now officially a giant dwarf!
Can you tell me a little bit about your protagonist?
The protagonist has a condition that prevents him from being able to move physically, although he is intelligent and aware. As with many such people, he is at the mercy of the medical system, which, even on the best of days, tends to dehumanize such people, and he struggles to maintain his identity. He may or may not be going slowly mad.
Tell me about the setting you chose and how it influences your work.
Long-term care facilities, even the good ones, are automatically nightmare-inducing. The noises and the smells are bad, but it is the people who have just given up and are basically warehoused that makes it unbearable
Which phrase are you most proud of in this story?
Being awake during the day was horrible. Being awake at night was infinitely worse.
A bit melodramatic, but I think it really captures the reality of being stuck inside your own head.
If your story was front-page news, what would the headline be?
Breaking: Healthcare in America sucks!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
What was the best money you ever spent as a writer?
I attended a local convention with a lot of authors. One of the sessions was on procrastination, and one of the panelists (the author James Van Pelt) said that he had a serious problem getting around to writing, and so had just committed to writing 200 words a day. I figured that even I could write 200 words a day and set that as an initial goal.
Without that bit of advice, I don’t know that I would have seriously got back into writing fiction.
If you had to put your name on someone else’s book/story, which would it be and why?
Neal Stephenson’s Baroque Cycle–I love the attention to detail, the seemingly random side-plots that are still fascinating to read, the characterizations–and the humor.
When did you decide to take writing seriously?
Although I’ve written a lot of technical material, including a couple of tome-length computer books, I hadn’t seriously written fiction for decades. However, I’d just semi-retired from my company, and had a bit more free time on my hands. It was painful at first, but after a few months, I started to pick up the rhythm, and now I try to write daily.
If you could choose a single superpower, what would it be and why?
I wish I just knew where things were—things I’d lost, stuff I’d like, or information I wanted to know. I’m forever hunting for things, often unsuccessfully—I suspect that a lot of my things just move around on their own.
Hmm – now that I think about it, could be an interesting story idea…
In addition to writing fiction, Arlen Feldman is a software engineer, entrepreneur and computer book author. He is also a costumer (albeit of questionable taste) and maker, and frequently talks at conventions on various topics.
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