- Tell us a bit about “City League.”
“City League” is a story about memories, baseball, and being shy. The
setting is a near future in which memories can be isolated and
manipulated as commodities, sometimes for personal use, sometimes for
commercial use. The story vehicle is a father/son relationship that
revolves around baseball. In some ways it is a mystery, as the son
tries to find out why one of his baseball memories doesn’t match the
history books. But ultimately the story is an exploration of how the
son’s outlook on life is influenced not just indirectly, but with
complete, pre-meditated intent, by the father.
- What was the inspiration for this story, or what prompted you to write it?
The idea for this story came from some of my experiences as a father
to my three children. My own taste in music was greatly influenced by
my father, and we shared a bond because of that. When my kids were
young, I found myself intentionally trying to play the same music for
my kids in an attempt to get them to like it as well, hoping to create
the same bond. (This has achieved varying degrees of success and
non-success so far, of course). The same thing applied to science
fiction–I gave them the science fiction and fantasy books I read as a
kid, and we watched my favorite sci-fi movies and tv shows, and I
brought out all my posters and old toys, etc., all in an attempt to
pass along my own personal fascination with the genre. Sometimes I
felt extremely guilty, however, for trying to influence them so
At the same time I also saw some of my own personality weaknesses
(such as shyness) beginning to manifest themselves in my kids. On the
one hand I felt bad and somewhat responsible for that, but on the
other hand, I also felt a heightened connection to them because of
it–I could understand exactly what they were feeling, even if other
The question that came to my mind, then, was–if I could wave a magic
wand and simply get rid of that weakness for my child, would I do it,
even if it meant losing that bond we shared because of it? And I
wasn’t sure how I would answer that question. I’m all for sparing my
kids heartache, but on the other hand, adversity is how we learn best,
and what shapes us the most.
Those questions led to other questions–what if that magic wand
allowed me to carry those changes to an extreme? And at what point
would I cross the line from gentle influence to unethical,
manipulative plotting? “City League” was the story that came out of
those questions. Memories just happened to be the plot tool, and I
used baseball as the connecting thread simply because I love baseball
and have always wanted to use it as a framework for a story. But the
core inspiration was always that father/child relationship.
- Most authors say their stories are personal. If that’s true for
you, in what way was “City League” personal?
Some stories that I write I call “throw-away” stories. In other
words, a story might have some good ideas, but the personal
connection is minimal, and it is written with external, business needs
in mind–i.e., better to keep this under 7500 words, or this type of
fantasy will be tough to sell, so maybe change it to this, or I love
this character but he’s not essential, so best to cut him out, and so
“City League”, however, was a story I wrote for myself. The main
characters (both father and son) are me in many ways, and their
journey (in all of 6500 words) has been my journey to a large degree.
Encapsulating it in this story has allowed me to understand myself a
little bit better. I was fully prepared for it not to sell, or take a
few knocks as being overly sentimental. But this was one story where
I was okay with that. Luckily Mr. Van Gelder was kind enough to buy
- What kind of research, if any, did you do for this story?
Most of the research I did centered around the science of memories and
memory recall. When I initially envisioned the story I did not
realize how many different kinds of memories there are, not just in
abstract classification but in the different ways the brain processes
memory information. Different areas of the brain are used for
different kinds of memory (short term, long term, conscious,
unconscious, visual, sensory, motor skills, etc.) and for different
stages of recall (encoding, storage, retrieval, etc.) While I took
some liberties in extrapolating the future science of memory recall
for the story, I hope the fact that it is all rooted in a small degree
of true science lends it some sense of believability.
- What would you want someone to take away from reading “City League?”
We are all dealt a hand in the game of life. Some very few lucky
people are dealt a wining hand right off the top. Others are dealt
crap and fold without ever playing. Most of the rest of us are dealt
something in the middle. We often wish we had a different set of
cards, or somebody else’s cards. But all we can do is play the hand
we have, and in most cases we put in endless blood, sweat and tears to
still win the game with it. In “City League” the main character
struggles with the knowledge that the deck was stacked against him by
his own father. And yet, in the end, does it really matter?
Ultimately I’m not trying to send any profound message with “City
League” but rather trying to create a universal struggle that the
reader can relate to. We all have our demons. If it’s not shyness
it’s something else, and my hope is that the sense of survival the
main character achieves in the end can inspire others.
Of course, as much as “City League” is the son’s story, and is told
from the son’s POV, it is also very much the dad’s story. And though
what he did was reprehensible, I’d like to think that readers can
still sympathize with some of his motivations as a father–and also
perhaps sympathize with the fine line parents sometimes have to walk
with their children.
- What are you working on now?
Right now I’m working on remembering which kid has what dance recital
on what day, who finished their math homework and who just “pretended”
to, and why are they asking for allowance again when I coulda swore I
just paid them yesterday? Aside from that I’m revising my next short
story, a rather abstract/experimental piece for me, and pecking away
at the background for a potential novel set in the same venue as “The
Ghiling Blade” (from the Jan./Feb. 2011 F&SF).
On a side note, as I write this my 10 year old daughter is sitting
right next to me reading “The Fellowship of the Ring.” So screw it
all, I’m stacking the deck anyway! My dastardly plan is working, ha,
“City League” appears in the May/June 2012 issue.