I don’t think there’s such a thing as an “outsider.” You’re just “inside” somewhere else. It’s a matter of perspective and expectation.
From my window in my office, where I sit typing this, I can see people walking by on the sidewalk. To me, they’re outside. But if I hole up in here to read or write like a mad man, blasting ambient music that sounds like a black hole in a pinball machine to better my focus, surely those same pedestrians must see me as the outsider, not they.
I love probing concepts like this, but droning on about it in essay format is damn near un-readable – even to me. Thank goodness for fiction, a format that allows for exploration of big ideas without the stuffiness. And thank goodness for the Exiles anthology, edited by Paul D. Brazill and sporting a roster of superb writers.
My own contribution, “Missing an Ear,” pokes at those same twists of perception and expectation. In the story, a secret admirer on a public bus attempts to get the attention of her beau-to-be in a violent way.
She’s an outsider to everyone, including herself. Her anxiety keeps her locked inside her head to the point of total isolation. She’s entrenched so deeply that a violent act is the only way to break out and make contact with another human being.
Or so it seems. Since this is a Brazill anthology, you know there’s a twist at the end.
There’s also a practical takeaway. Inspired by something I saw Allan Moore say in a documentary clip, it goes like this:
When the worlds you create in your head manifest themselves as actions or materials in the three-dimensional world, there is no difference between your thoughts and the reality in front of your eyeballs.
Moore would call this “magical thinking” or some such. I call it the theme to my anthology contribution. Even when it seems you’re locked inside your head, insulated from the outer world, you’re not really outside. You haven’t left anything. You’re inside the material and immaterial universe specific to you. You are the god, so to speak, of that unique existence. Your thoughts and your actions combine to mold it.
The character in “Missing an Ear” realizes this just as the brief story climaxes. She changes her perception, her thoughts, and so she changes her reality. That’s what I think Moore was trying to say.
That this is depicted in a piece of fiction reinforces the point. This story started as an idea, then manifested into an entry in Exiles. It went from an unmeasurable nothing into a measurable something. Just like the character, my thoughts tweaked reality for myself and readers every so slightly.
Or so it seems!
Now wake the hell back up. I told you a fiction story would be a better read. Pick up Exiles and check out “Missing an Ear” along with a pile of others.
Bio: Benjamin Sobieck is the author of The Weapons for Writers: A Practical Reference for Writing Firearms and Knives in Fiction (late 2014, Writer’s Digest), the Maynard Soloman satirical detective series and many short stories sprinkled throughout the land of crime fiction. His website is CrimeFictionBook.com.