When I got home from work tonight, Husband asked where I’d put the printed copy of my manuscript, which was nice. It’s been many months since either of us expressed an interest in it.
See, I had a dream 12 years ago. Not a daydream – a proper dream. It was like a scene from a movie: two women, a concubine and a nun, in the dark of a chapel, conspiring together to fake a pregnancy. It’s possibly the only dream I’ve ever had where I wasn’t actually in the dream. When I woke up, the scene remained in my brain so vividly that I started to write down everything I’d seen and heard. Eventually that built into another scene, and another one, until I realised that I knew exactly what happened to these people. I knew how they got into this position, and how they would proceed forward. I understood that it was a story about judgement, and sacrifice, and power, and the commodification of human lives. I suppose it’s a cliche to say that some books write themselves, but this one just seemed to do that.
Not that it was quick to write though. I gnawed away at it over several years. I’d write a few scenes, and then let it rest for months while I did my real job, and then go back to it and write a bit more. As the paraphrase goes: art is never truly finished, it’s usually an accident that puts a stop to it – an accident like giving it to the public. Yes, I am conceited enough that I just called my scribblings “art”.
I did actually try to give it to the public a couple of years ago. I put it up on Amazon as a self-published work. However, Amazon insisted that it had adult material and was therefore erotica. The reasons why it’s not erotica are complex and difficult to explain without anyone ever having read it, but it’s a bit like Amazon trying to put The Handmaid’s Tale (which it resembles) or Lolita into the erotica category just because they have sex scenes. Not all sex scenes are meant to give the reader their jollies, and putting the disturbing stuff in with the wango-bango stuff sends a very different message about the author’s intentions. After a few deeply frustrating days of trying to plead my case to Amazon, and getting nothing but the exact same cut-and-paste replies from various unpronounceable customer service names, I figured I was actually just talking to a robot (or staffers so terrified that they’d become robots) so I took it down off their site and never tried to publish it again.
Coincidentally, Amazon got in trouble a few months later for having lots of rapey stuff in their erotica section. Quelle surprise. It responded by stripping a lot of erotica content from its ebook catalog, including lots of stuff that was odd but probably quite harmless. Robots thinking like PR people, or “Eeek! A Penis!” if you prefer.
In any case, I was disheartened and harbouring the fragile ego of all conceited people, so I hid the manuscript away again and told myself that it was great rather than… you know… asking anyone else. Delusion is always easier than reality.
However, it was a pleasant surprise when Husband expressed an interest in reading it again. In the past he’s readily admitted that he finds the content unsettling and a bit icky (which it’s meant to be). It did worry me that the ick factor would make it unmarketable as a story… but then A Clockwork Orange sold millions of copies whilst being very icky and quite openly rapey, so I guess that’s something. Not everyone wants a romance novel.
I am in love with it though. A few years ago, when I stumbled across this video on You Tube, I spent days just rolling around in it simply because it was like watching one of those scenes in my head come to life. The defiance. The fatalism. The apathy of bystanders. The sheer mania of trying to escape the inescapable. Perhaps it is hard to explain to anyone who has never screamed for help and received only silence… but there are enough of us. And we know that once you truly understand powerlessness you don’t die – death would be easier. You just have to figure out a new way to exist in the world.
… I guess that means there must be a sequel coming. Back to sleep with me…