I’m so happy to have my story “The Rubber Penguin” featured this week at Necessary Fiction. I have to thank editor Steve Himmer for agreeing that this was a worthy and (sadly) a timely political story to run in his wonderful ‘zine. Originally the story was sent to him without fully fleshing out the purpose of the conversation between Da and Adam. I struggled with that “iceberg theory” (7/8 of the story is buried, only 1/8 is visible) of Hemingway’s when I wrote this, and I have to admit that the last paragraph really disoriented readers. I worked hard to find a sort of bridge to it, because without a certain amount of exposition it didn’t make sense. It just came at you at the end there, almost out of the blue. And so, after a few days of coming up with absolutely nothing I decided to say “fuck it” and just send it un-resolved like that, hoping Steve might let it slide. But he didn’t. He came back at me with exactly what I was afraid of: “you need to better flesh out the purpose of this conversation.”
This is what sharp editors do: they call you on your laziness. And so I took it up another day and wrote in a few bits of exposition in the middle of the piece…I’m happy with how it turned out despite my allergy to an overabundance of details in stories or novels. Steve was happy, as well.
I have to say how elated I am that these kinds of stories are being published and recognized by the independent literary magazines. Not too long ago ( mid 90s into early ’00s when I was submitting PAPER in ENVELOPES) I kept receiving rejections but with nice, little editorial notes that indicated the writing was good, but the subject matter was outdated. I’m not sure if “new blood” has come on board the editorial desks of these ‘zines, or the current socio-political landscape has changed enough that some of these subjects are of interest and are worth publishing and examining.
I hope you like this story; Adam’s line about seeing if Da can survive underwater for 10 minutes is chilling to me, even now as I read it for the umpteenth time. The impending doom of this implied first meeting (of perhaps several to come, each carrying a sterner warning, as it used to happen in my country) is so spooky to me, I find myself growing more and more paranoid. Some of you may have read a version of this piece here, about a year ago; the final version now published at Necessary Fiction is one that I’m happy and settled with. I do hope you read and like it.