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Story Notes – “Sour Milk Girls”

I have a story out in Clarkesworld. Let me say that again – I have a story out in Clarkesworld! If you haven’t read it, it’s a story about orphan teen girls and sharing memories and a feisty hacker named Ghost and you can read it for free online here. What a way to kick off 2018!

Before I get to the normal story notes, I have to say – this sale was a big surprise. I have quite literally said out loud before that while I love Clarkesworld, I was pretty sure I’d never sell there because my work is very different than what I thought they’d be looking for. Let this be a lesson to me in 2018 – don’t self-reject, don’t second guess editors, and always listen to the wise words of Ian Muneshwar (who encouraged me to submit the story in the first place).

And now onto the notes! There shouldn’t be major spoilers in them, but just to be safe, read Sour Milk Girls first!

The Origin Story: This story started as a writing exercise that I do a lot when I’m stuck while trying to write a new piece – go back and write the origin story. In this case, I was working on the beginning of a novella that features an older version of the main Sour Milk Girls protagonist Ghost, and I couldn’t figure her out. Her voice didn’t seem right, her motivations were flimsy, and she was more style than substance on the page. I decided to go back, figure out a key moment from her life that had helped set her world view, and start writing. Well, the novella may not be finished (yet) but the exercise took on a life of its own and turned into a full-fledged story. I’m thrilled that it did, not just so I could understand Ghost better, but because it gave me a better sense of the rules of this memory as a commodity world, which I plan to revisit in other stories and novellas.

Fun Facts: One of the defining features of the world of this story is memory – the idea that memories can be bought, sold, traded, shared, etc. It’s one of those ideas that I can’t quite get out of my head – I keep coming back to it with different plots and characters. I think that’s in part because I personally have a horrible memory. That’s due in part to something I have called aphantasia – the lack of a mind’s eye. There’s an interesting article about it here at the New Scientist, but I first came across it in this Facebook post.

Basically, aphantasia means that you can’t visualize things or hold mental images in your head. Some people can’t even dream in images – I can, but when I’m awake, I can’t picture anything. That cuts off one of the main ways people remember the past – envisioning it. My memory is made of words – if I say something enough, I remember it. It’s one of the reasons I became a writer and why I love telling stories. But still, for someone like me, a technology that would let me hold onto and re-access my memories would be priceless, so I did the next best thing to inventing it – I wrote a story about it.

On The Cutting Room Floor: This story was what I call a “kudzu story” – it started small and then began growing and growing and growing. Instead of doing a lot of cutting, I expanded the piece as I tried to give more of a sense of what these girls’ lives were like and how they dealt with being at The Agency. Still, just like with real kudzu, I ended up needing to do a little trimming. The guy who works at the memory sharing booth, who is a very minor character in the final version of this story, had a few more lines and a longer scene in one of the earlier drafts, but it didn’t add much to the story and I wanted to keep the piece squarely focused on the girls and their relationships.

And that’s it! Hope you enjoyed the story and please let me know what you think either way!

Published inStory Notes

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