I’ve always loved endnotes for short fiction. I would guess that most writers do. We have a fascination with the process of creation that goes above and beyond that of most readers, the same way guitarists ask Keith Richards, “How’d you come up with that riff?” and photographers obsessively analyze the lighting in an Ansel Adams shot.
I think I first encountered story notes in the classic books of Harlan Ellison — although Ellison nearly always employed them as prefaces — and the bug bit hard and permanently.
It’s instructive, or sometimes just benignly voyeuristic, to see where the raw idea for a work came from, and how it mutated along the way. To observe the concerns and obsessions that went into something, or how the author was working through a particular personal issue. To glimpse the challenges and the moments of grace. It’s all fair game.
My fourth short fiction collection, Picking The Bones, started shipping this week. But while in my previous three collections I’d tucked the endnotes into the book itself, like normal, this time I decided to do it differently, by offering them separately, as a downloadable, 29-page PDF booklet. Two reasons:
- Not everybody has the same interest in looking behind the curtain, so why waste trees on a section that doesn’t get read by everyone.
- For those who are interested, why not make something that’s more visual than just plain text, and shows as well as tells where the pieces came from.
And maybe a third reason: to hybridize the physical and digital realms of content. Plus it finally gave me an excuse to use the South Park mock-up of myself as an author photo.
Will it mean anything if you haven’t read the stories? Maybe. I’d like to think it can. Here are some of the things that figure in:
- How particular stories were inspired by cultural touchstones and current or historical events, including the Columbine shootings and the World War II firebombing of Dresden
- The personal fascinations that found their way in
- How I sometimes go out empty-handed and bring an idea back alive
- The liberating effect of working within thematic guidelines
- Various influences, good and bad, of movies on publishing
- How to squeeze a story out of a movie you really really hated
- Playing with other writers’ toys
- How archaic words and obscure concepts can generate story ideas
So if this exercise sounds like it could be of interest, then this download is for you. You know the drill: Right-click and save it to your desktop, or open in a browser window and save from there.
And whether it’s dessert after the main meal, or ala carte, I hope there’s a little nourishment in it for you.
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