The thing about "Becca" in particular is that, if I had been solicited, I'd probably have said no thank you - I said yes in this case because all the work had already gone into it, and really it's no skin off my nose. But I have very complicated feels about this story that are not closely related to the story itself, but to the circumstances surrounding its publication. And this is the other missing piece of why I didn't write anything last year.
Ouchy stuff to write about.
I originally wrote "Becca" to submit to the Deep Cuts anthology of women writing horror. It got rejected, and Michael, who I'd just started talking to in depth (our first real convo about life, as opposed to writing/editing/copyediting, was 9/26/12), exhorted me to send it to Lynne for Apex. I demurred - I was already having a bit of trouble re: writing due the issues with Judah. He nagged until I said FINE, and I sent it to her on 10/18/12 with the subject line "Submission that your husband totally told me to send: "Becca at the End of the World"". It didn't come up again til 1/3/13, when Michael poked me to poke her about it, and I did. She hadn't read it yet. She read it and accepted it that day. Scheduled it for October, as I had a poem coming out there in May and they didn't like to schedule authors closer than six months apart.
The reason I'm including dates is that this timeline is important.
Because Michael and I started talking around the fact that we had feelings for each other in late January. I have a scrap of paper pinned to my bulletin board from February 1: "negative spaces of the questions we will not ask."
February 7 was the first time I specifically said "this can never be because you're my editors."
That was a long conversation. It was a long conversation that day, and it continued through April. With variations on the topic, but essentially, every time the conversation came close to our Feels, I said no. I adored him. I wanted him. But they were my editors, editors who'd published my work and were publishing upcoming work. There was a huge disparity in our professional levels there. Just like a boss dating their employee, y'know? He wheedled, he cajoled, he told me at every turn that there was no disparity, no power imbalance between us, that no one would think anything of it, that no one would look at my publications at Apex sideways, that no one would assume that I got there because I was dating them. Which I strongly disagreed with every time. "It doesn't matter," he'd say, "No one will care."
And I'd say every time, "I care. It matters to me."
With the benefit of hindsight, I'm able to see this as me stating a boundary and that boundary being disregarded. I'm able to see this as my emotional well-being being disregarded. At the time? I was besotted, and things were intermittently rough with Judah's bigger and more blatant boundary violations.
So on April 12, after going for drinks with someone else and being unable to stop thinking about Michael, after months of wheedling, I gave in. I laid my heart bare. I chose him.
I chose him over submitting to Apex ever again - my condition, not his.
And later, I chose him over writing at all.
Because I couldn't reconcile it. I couldn't be okay with that power imbalance existing. I couldn't pretend it didn't hurt. I couldn't feel right about writing. I felt that everything that got published from then on would be tainted.
Yes, this post hurts a lot to type. I will persevere.
"The Busker, Broke and Busted" came out in early May, when things with Judah were getting worse; Judah cheated on me in mid-May, we had that horrible week, I went to Wiscon and had sex with Michael and Lynne for the first time, I returned from Wiscon and Judah raped me and beat me up, and it's obvious why I wasn't writing during that period of time. And then it was being on chat all day.
The "I can't be with you and have a writing career" realization evolved over months. Slowly, with much discomfort. This is a big part of why I had that massive crash in September. One of the causes of that depression, behind the scenes, was that the publication of "Becca" was coming up. And who was to know that its sale came before things started with Michael and Lynne? No one. And to point it out would be to make a big deal over something Michael claimed no one would notice or care about. I was already feeling fragile over my writing due to the way Michael and Lynne signal-boosted my BPAL sale to raise money for my lawyer's retainer - it would not have hit the SF community like it did if not for them pushing it, which I had not wanted them to do, which I told Michael at the time that I was vastly uncomfortable with. (The words "humiliation" and "shame" were frequently used. Readercon was a nightmare because of it.) I felt, after that, that I could never be known in this community for my own writing, on my own merits. I would just be "the girl who got raped." And, by September, "the girl who's fucking the editors of Apex."
I did not want that story published. I spiralled about this really hard. Michael was only barely able to talk me down from trying to wipe my entire writing career from the face of the earth: I was thisclose to e-mailing every magazine that had work of mine online and asking to have it removed. That spiral is why the Shayara website is no longer up. Things have rarely been as bad for me as they were in September, and it was an almost-daily back and forth of me desperately not wanting that story published and them reminding me that that would leave a hole in the issue, that that was the story they were giving the Mary Sue that month, that I'd be screwing them over if I pulled it.
And I acquiesced, as I did every time. I accepted that my emotional well-being was unimportant to them. I didn't label it as that then; I was in a miserable, low place, and my pattern recognition skills were offline due to an overabundance of crises. But that's what it was. Over and over, it was me saying "if this happens, it will hurt me" and them saying "well, it shouldn't hurt you because we say so" instead of saying "then we won't do it." From having a relationship with a disparity that I was massively uncomfortable with through publishing a story that I didn't want published. (And more, to be detailed later.)
You may have noticed that I barely promoted the story; one tweet, one brief post here, one link on Facebook. Bare minimum. Did not want it to exist.
It took me til now to really realize why. To realize that it was a blinding neon sign that my emotional well-being was irrelevant.
So yeah. I kinda wanted the story to vanish. Its existence shames me - not because of the circumstances of its sale, which happened before anything that crossed the boundaries of professionalism and friendship. But because I gave up so much. Because I hurt so much about this damn story being published after I shut and locked the doors to my writing career. Because my feelings didn't matter.
So if it had been solicited in the usual way, I would have said no. Just because I want nothing to do with all of the shit associated with it.
But the recording was already done and up there.
I have a teddy bear that Judah bought me. (This is relevant. Stay with me here.) He is from IKEA and his name is Edgär. His arms are on backwards and his fur strokes the wrong way, and Judah and I each used to sleep cuddling him when the other was gone. For months after the assault, he lived in my closet; Michael bought me a stuffed bunny to replace him. But after a few months, Edgär came back out to live on my bed again. This raised Michael's eyebrows... but I explained, "He is a Good Bear. I can't blame him for the circumstances of his birth."
I don't really have the perspective yet to determine if "Becca at the End of the World" is a Good Bear. It hasn't been long enough yet. But this forced me to take a look at it. Obviously people liked it - the editor of The Drabblecast, the reader of the podcast, the artist who did a piece for the "cover". So I can allow for the possibility that "Becca" is a Good Bear. And so I said yes, you can have it.
I wrote a poem this morning about broken/lost languages. I finished a short story recently about needless sacrifices. I wrote and submitted a thing a bit over a week ago about, among other things, loss and mapping new territory. And I'm working on the new novel. Despite some ongoing things that they're doing to me that are unrelated to this topic. I am coming back to writing.
I've had tears in my eyes through much of the writing of this post. And I think maybe "I am a Good Bear" may be one of my new mantras, alongside "I am not a gun".
And I don't think I have anything else to say on this right now. But if you like having stories read to you, go listen to that one. If you don't, that's okay too. I am going to go take a shower.