Wednesday, 13 November 2019

A Guest Post About Nothing: Tony Rabig

On 29th November, we’re having a belated birthday party for Nothing, an anthology of short stories I edited for Hic Dragones (writing as Hannah Kate). In the run-up to our not-quite-a-launch party, I’ve invited some of the authors whose work is included in the book to tell me a bit about their story.

Today’s guest is Tony Rabig, author of ‘The Hole is Waiting’, one of the stories in Nothing.

It’s been a while since ‘The Hole is Waiting’ inched its way out of the keyboard. Did I write it with the Nothing anthology in mind? I don’t think so; as I recall, it was already in progress, either partially written or in the notion-bouncing-around-the-brain stage, when I ran across a mention, I think in James Everington’s blog (and if you haven’t read his stuff, you’re missing one of the good ones), that Nothing was in the works and open for submissions. Dark, they wanted. Bleak, they wanted. Sounded like my kind of book. So I submitted the story and another, also dark and bleak and simmering on the back burner around the same time as ‘Hole’, called ‘The Death Machine’, waited a while, got the emails back, was not at all surprised to see that ‘The Death Machine’ was rejected, and was gobsmacked to see that ‘The Hole is Waiting’ was accepted. I read the email twice before it really registered that, hey, wait a minute, this is an acceptance, not a rejection.

And for me, this was where things got a little interesting.

Why was I a) not surprised by the rejection and b) gobsmacked by the acceptance? Because I’d expected two rejections – that’s just the way things worked. On the infrequent occasions when I’d written something that I thought good enough to submit to a magazine or book publisher, it would invariably be rejected. Invariably. Failure wasn’t an option, it was a given.

Now, that wasn’t something that worried me much. I didn’t punch my wife or kick the cats or put away a fifth of bourbon every other hour. It was simply a fact of life and one that really wasn’t all that hard to live with; after all, I had a ‘real’ job that paid the bills. Writing was something done on the side, and when self-publishing for Kindle took off, I put some of the stories out there and some of them sold a few copies to, and were favorably reviewed by, people who were not friends or relatives (only strangers’ money counts in this game) and that was nice.

So there were some stories out there, as singles and in a collection, and a novel, and there were more stories and another novel in the works when I submitted those two stories to Nothing.

The acceptance came in, and I dried up. The other short stories I was working on suddenly seemed idiotic beyond belief, or too similar to stories already done, or both. The novel hit the one-third-mark wall and fell apart. Everything begun since that point (a few stories, a different novel) fizzled almost before I’d started.

So what was going on? Beats me. But only in the last month or two has anything I wrote begun to seem worth trying to complete. What I said in the author’s note for ‘Hole’, ‘… does not get enough writing done, but he’s working on it’ is still the case. I’m hoping that the year-long dry spell that followed acceptance is finally over and that a couple of the aborted projects filed away on the computer will see completion in the not-too-distant future, or that newer projects will work out. Of course that’s assuming they don’t start looking too stupid to me about halfway through.

As to any ideas, influences, or inspirations behind ‘The Hole is Waiting’ – well, I’m not sure I have a lot to say about that. I’ve just hit 70, and there’s a constant awareness of time passing, chances missed, and roads not taken; some of that is there in that story and in a number of others I’ve written. Considerations like that are never very far away at my age; they go with the territory. But then, I’ve always loved a good downer, so ‘The Hole is Waiting’ is the kind of story I’d have expected myself to write.

And I’ll probably write more downers if and when I get back up to speed. That year-long dry spell might actually provide some material. Why dry up like that? Some comic-book psychological quirk telling me that I can take myself out of the picture now? Is that just an individual thing, or does it work on a species level too? (We landed on the moon 50 years ago, so why aren’t there already manned colonies on Mars? And why are we seeing articles these days suggesting it would be better if the human race went extinct?) Maybe there’s a story there. Something dark. Something bleak. A good downer. Something I might actually finish in time to submit to Nothing 2. It could happen…

I’ll have to start playing around with that, or with some of the other stalled projects tucked away on the computer, and get myself back on track. After all, time is short and getting shorter, and the hole is always waiting.

Tony Rabig is a transplanted Chicagoan now living in southeast Kansas; he is a former bookstore clerk, former librarian, and an almost-but-not-quite retired computer programmer. When not programming, he annoys his family and tries to catch up on his reading; as noted above, he doesn’t get enough writing done, but he’s working on it. Other titles available: The Other Iron River, and Other Stories, Doorways: A Novel, ‘The Death Machine’ (a short story).

The Belated Birthday Party for Nothing is on Friday 29th November, 7pm, at the International Anthony Burgess Foundation, Cambridge Street, Manchester. It’s a free event, with readers from the authors and launch party discount on the books. For more information, or to book a ticket, please click here.

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