MY SHORT STORIES
By Forrest Wayne Schultz
Most of my writing consists of academic papers, articles, book reviews, and news releases. Although I have always had a good imagination I never considered myself to be a story writer until 1986, and how that came about is an interesting story in itself.
In 1986 I was the Vice-President of Alternate Dimensions: Southside Science Fiction and Fantasy Society, which was based in Riverdale, Georgia (where I was living then) and which met at the Riverdale Public Library. The club was founded by Frank Agueli, who was one of the assistant librarians there. Frank had persuaded the Clayton County Library System to sponsor a science fiction and fantasy short story contest, the winner of which would receive the Silver Nova Award. The library system agreed to do this provided that Alternate Dimensions would promote the contest among the local fans.
The club was run by an executive committee whose officers were elected by the members. After Frank founded the club he turned it over to the executive committee whose meetings he attended as Founder and as liaison with the library. When Frank announced the contest to our executive committee meeting he said that not only should we promote the contest but that each officer should set an example by submitting a short story to the contest. I balked at this saying, "Frank, I know how to write articles and research papers, but not short stories." He replied, "That doesn't matter. Write one anyway and submit it." I agreed reluctantly to do so, out of my respect for him.
I had already imagined a number of short stories in my mind but had never written any of them down. So, I took one of them about a man suddenly finding himself in an alternate time line and wrote it up as "The Autobiography of a Lateral Time Traveler" and submitted it to the contest. I was shocked when I learned that it had won the Silver Nova Award. That encouraged me to write down the other stories I had imagined, and by the end of September of 1989 I had written a total of nine. Then, sometime in 1991 I completed a story ("Soap") which was very long -- so I guess it could be called either a long short story or a novelette.
Then I stopped writing short stories for some time although I continued to write a great deal of other stuff. Why this is I do not remember although it may be because I got so busy doing all the other writing, which at first was mainly continuing my research papers and embarking on a binge of writing space activist articles for newsletters of local chapters of the National Space Society, mainly on the subjects of Space and The Environment, and the concept of privately run space activities. Later when I got active in Coweta County organizations I began writing news releases for them.
The spate of my recently written short stories, interesting enough, was also begun by a contest, but this one I did NOT win. But it did get me back into writing short stories. My alma mater, Drexel, began an online literary journal to which any Drexel student or Drexel grad could contribute. Even though I think I wrote a great story and even though the story was even about Drexel and was actually entitled "Drexel", it was not accepted. Oh well, you can't win 'em all! This story was written in December 2003. The climax of the story takes place in the Great Court in the Main building at Drexel, which is the only story in which I provide a considerable amount of description about a room or building, the reason being that it was necessary for the story.
I immediately followed this on Feb. 29, 2004 with a story where I accomplished two different things I had wanted to do for some time. First, I had an angel as a character who was a harmonious blend of solemnity and playfulness, because I believe that angels are neither "stuffy" (as often portrayed in traditional writings) nor are they buffoons (as certain modern writers like Andrew Greeley portray them). Secondly, I had a group of mages who were called to account for their character flaws. And, it was the angel who did so. That was fun! I also had a chance to have a Cyanocube in the story -- cyan (bluish-green) is my favorite color. Cyanocubes power magical devices, which I decided when I wrote "The Cyanocube of Kalothor".
Then I wrote all but one of the rest of the recently written stories about magic jewelry: -- two about a bluish-green colored ring ("The Cyanoring" and "Cyanoring 2"), one with a Purple Ring ("The Strange Old Man and The Purple Ring"), and one with the traditional golden ring BUT where the ring bearer does know the identity of "The Great Prize" the ring is there to protect! (which is quite unconventional), and one about a magic disk (worn on a chain around the neck) called The Cyanodisk. The odd story out (The Baffled Heir) is indeed odd -- it is about a man who is made the sole heir of a testator he does not know and whose will does not indicate why he is chosen as the heir.
A very long time ago in a fantasy story (whose name and author I do not remember) I learned the very important principle that, contra the usual portrayals, sophisticated magical devices do NOT involve the production of bangs or poofs or sparks or smoke or spooky music or shimmering air or any other kind of "woo woo" stuff. So this is how my magic operates in these stories. And, in addition to that, in the two Cyanoring stories the Ring is characterized by the same blend of solemnity and playfulness which I believe is characteristic of angels.
Another characteristic feature of my short stories is that the "Quest" is easy, rather than difficult, for the hero to accomplish. There is also a very definite reason for this. I learned a long time ago from Spanish philosopher Jose' Ortega y Gassett that heroism simply means doing what you are "called" to do, whether it is easy or difficult!! Now I realize that this is a very unconventional definition of heroism. But if Ortega is correct, and I believe he is, then sometimes the heroic quest should be easy rather than difficult. So, believing this to be true, I PURPOSELY gave my heroes an "easy quest" to accomplish in order to make this point.
Now I need to say something about "Soap", because this is very different from all the others, not only because of its length but because I wrote it to satirize an enormous number of different ideas and practices, which is the reason it is so long. At first I thought I would proceed as Swift did in his classic tale about Gulliver, i.e. just narrating the weird stuff that was seen, but I soon found that an actual story about how the Geans became bizarre (and what would happen to them in the future) was needed as a framework for the satire to be really potent and meaningful. And this is NOT one of my Easy Quest stories nor is there any individual hero -- the heroes are the Nordlanders as a group and the Nordlander Loyalists as a group, and what these groups do is not easy, so this is another reason this story is atypical of my short stories. It clearly is fantasy and it clearly is a satire but to label it any further would be difficult -- it has elements of myth and epic and allegory, I suppose, but in other ways it does not fit into those categories. There is a hint of this ambiguity provided in the "author" of the story, Prof. Tupon -- the Greek noun tupon does not have an exact meaning: the word "type" is not the only possible meaning of the term.
Finally, I want to say something about my writing style. Each of my stories is narrated by the main character who is either a scientist (or engineer) or a science (or engineering) student or a scholar (or a student who already writes like a scholar). The reason for this is very simple -- this is my natural way of writing which I developed for writing my papers and articles and book-reviews. Now all writers would agree that when you have a scientist as a character in a story you make him talk like a scientist. Right? OK, then if the entire story is narrated by a scientist then the whole story will be written the way a scientist would write it. This is the way you should read my stories. Don't expect them to be exactly the way a writing teacher or a writing handbook says a story is supposed to be written. One of the main ways in which my stories deviate from the conventional wisdom is that I do not have any descriptions in my stories unless it is needed for the story. So do not expect to find me telling you about the clothes the characters are wearing or the architectural styles and furnishings of buildings or descriptions of landscapes, unless these are needed for the story.