From the desk of Richard E. Gropp
In 2006 I wrote a novel I thought I’d be able to sell. It had car chases and gun battles, personal conflict and unrequited love, hardboiled characters moving through a sparkling future. I thought it was good, and I thought it was something all of the big companies would want to publish. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get anyone to buy it. Hell, I couldn’t even get anyone to read it! When I finally ran out of agents and publishers to query, I quietly buried it in a hole out back (metaphorically speaking) and went into mourning. I became despondent. I wore dark clothing and wrote depressing one-sentence stories. (My favorite is still “Bobby failed at everything.” – it has the full arc of a life right there, in four depressing words!)
Eventually, however, my self-pity turned back into determination, and I did what any down-and-out author would do. I decided to destroy the world. (In fact, I think this is how most supervillans get their start – failed novels and industrial accidents.) I created a city where all of the things I once held important – money, society, reputation, success – no longer mattered, and I set characters to explore this bleak landscape, to figure out what to cling to, the important things that still remain after everything else has fallen away.
And that’s how Bad Glass was born.
Therapy through fiction, I guess.
When I put that old novel into the ground, I decided to stop writing the stories that I “thought would sell,” and instead write the things that I actually wanted to read. Strange stories, with elements of science-fiction, fantasy, horror and mystery; strong characters, knocked free of their psychological armor; ever-growing tension; stomach-gnawing disquiet; truckloads of emotion. I went back to the stories that I loved most in the world and thought about how they made me feel. Samuel R. Delany’s Dhalgren, Mark Z. Danielewski’s House of Leaves, Caitlín R. Kiernan’s The Dry Salvages – when I first read these stories, they made me feel like a tiny mote floating through a vast, beautiful, and completely incomprehensible universe, and that was something I wanted to capture in my own fiction, that feeling of awe and overwhelming wonder. I figured if I concentrated on these things, the things that I loved, and didn’t hold anything back, I’d be able to come up with an interesting story, or at least something that would appeal to me as a reader.
I could worry about selling it to others later, once the deed was done. (And without a clear genre, I figured that that might be a hard sell.)
This decision, this “screw it, I’ll do what I want” moment, was a major turning point for me. It gave me the freedom to be as strange and disturbing as my muse demanded. And that’s a good thing, I think. It feels like I’m writing from a much more personal, unguarded place now . . . and that’s an exciting (and scary) place to be.
More candid. More alive.
And I hope that comes through in Bad Glass.
Richard E. Gropp