Sometimes in late summer I won’t touch anything, not
the flower, not the blackberries
brimming in the thickets; I won’t drink
from the pond; I won’t name the birds or the trees;
I won’t whisper my own name.
– Mary Oliver, “October”
Two years ago yesterday I posted the final chapter of what I genuinely believe is the finest thing I’ve ever written. (I actually finished it on August 31st, but I consider both of these days to be equally significant since they sort of form two halves of a whole.)
I’ve mentioned this story before: I’ll Be Yours For a Song – which, by the most ridiculous fluke of life and my own bizarre head, just so happens to be a nearly 400k word piece of The Walking Dead AU fanfiction.
Yeah, I know.
See, it bugs me a lot, but I always feel like I should be embarrassed by that, because I’m a ~*professional writer*~ and because TWD isn’t exactly the most prestigious show with the most prestigious fandom (though honestly I think the zombies and the gore make people write it off when they really shouldn’t, much like Starz’s Spartacus; it’s a very good show, especially lately). It’s something I’m trying to shake, because a story is a story and every story should be judged on its own merits, and I truly am immensely proud of this story. But yes. Not there yet.
It started as this silly little one-shot based on Josh Ritter’s song “Kathleen”. It became a huge, deep, sprawling story about mental illness, child abuse, the agony of loving and hating family, the pain of recovery, sexual agency, and discovering that you’re never too old to have a childhood and never too jaded to fall in love for the first time. It’s a love story, but it’s a lot more than that, and I didn’t expect any of it.
It’s one of the very few things I’ve written where people have routinely told me that it changed their lives – including people who have never seen the show. It certainly changed mine. I wrote it over a period of six months; it poured out of me in a way nothing else I’ve ever created has, completely overwhelming my brain, taking its own shape and making its own sense of itself. I needed to tell this story. It’s a thing that happened to me as much as it is a thing I made. It remains the story with – in my opinion – the most perfect ending I’ve ever produced, and over the course of writing its final chapters, I was frequently in tears because I didn’t want it to end. But I knew it was ending exactly where and when and in the way it needed to, and that was good.
I love this story, very much. It makes me sad that it’ll never have an audience much outside its fandom, but I’ve mostly made my peace with that. It’s been suggested to me more than once that I file off the serial numbers and publish it professionally – which wouldn’t be hugely difficult since it’s not at all based in the canon universe – and it’s been difficult for me to explain that I can’t do that, that it means far too much to me that it’s these characters and this retelling of their story, and changing anything would feel like lying, to myself more than to anyone else. It would feel wrong to me.
(It’s unpublishable for a number of other additional reasons, but yeah.)
So yes. Two years ago. That genuinely kinda messes me up. This time of year is frankly a little rough, because everywhere I look is the ghost of an extraordinary story that saturated a single extraordinary summer and which I’m still processing.
I have no larger point here, no general takeaway. It’s simply a thing that happened to me, that I can’t forget and will never be able to explain to anyone. It’s a ridiculous thing, a somewhat embarrassing thing – and again, I don’t think it should be – but it’s a thing, and it hasn’t yet left me, and I felt like marking it.
(You know how much of a dork I am? I made trade paperback editions of it (and a couple of other works). Mostly for fun and to teach myself how to make a book and design a cover and whatnot, but I’m proud of them as well.)
Happy IBYFAS-iversary to me.