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About “Two Wishes”

This is a post of liner notes, sort of, about “Two Wishes,” a story I posted a couple of months ago. I normally enjoy such author’s notes myself, but I also understand that they sometimes erode what magic a story has, so I wanted to keep these in a separate post.

“Two Wishes” is basically a story where a man leaves two wishes on the table, after wishing for something that removes the circumstances under which he received the wishes in the first place. Along the way, I wanted to think my way through something in my own past.

That “something” is still in fictional form; there’s an “Anna” in real life but only some of the things “Two Wishes” mentions actually happened the way they’re described. It’s still fiction. If “Anna” were to read it, she’d probably recognize some of it from my perspective, but she’d also point out a lot of things saying “That’s not what happened.” And she’d be right. (And she’d be horrified at their representation in “Two Wishes,” too.)

The protagonist isn’t me. Nor is “Anna” actually “Anna.” My wife is fine (in more ways than one). And I’m not actually spending my days stewing over events from when I was a teenager, not in the sense that “Two Wishes” presents. (Or so I hope – the protagonist has some serious mental issues going on, and I hope I don’t have those issues.)

I also wanted to avoid the “Hero’s Journey.” The protagonist doesn’t rebound; he learns, I guess, but the Hero’s Journey is too simple for what I wanted. I wanted to have that leap made on the part of the reader, not the protagonist. I wanted the protagonist to simply be.

Inspirations

The inspirations for this story, and the resources from which it draws, are many.

  • Roger Waters’ “Three Wishes” was very influential. In the original draft, the genie quoted Waters nearly word for word: “Genie said I’m sorry / But that’s the way it goes / Where the hell’s the lamp, sucker / It’s time for me to go / Bye” after Waters’ protagonist used up his wishes before realizing what it was he really wanted.
  • Frank Herbert, with “Who is this who feels?” Poor Alia. Of all the tragedies represented in Dune, Alia’s slow descent was always the most terrifying to me.
  • Asimov’s “Bicentennial Man.”
  • Mary Shelley’s “Frankenstein.”
  • Demonology, of all things. Asmedi is a representation of “Ashmedai,” a prince of demons (also known as “Asmodeus.”) He was the lord of envy, supposedly. Britt, too, is a demon lord; his name is supposed to be Berith, and he represents homicide. The protagonist envied his own youth, and murdered his own present existence.

Some thoughts, as they occur:

  • I enjoyed writing “Britt’s Olde Shoppe of Ye Antiquities” far too much. Hopefully no shop uses a name as badly formed as that. “Ye Olde Shoppe of Antiquities” is humorous enough as it is. The proprietor was originally described as having a teardrop tattoo on his eye, in an attempt to foreshadow his true nature, but it stuck out like a sore thumb as I kept re-reading. I kept thinking “a good editor would tell me to remove that, but I love that it’s there!” … and then I realized that I am supposed to be my own editor, and removed it.
  • The bit about the antique incandescent bulbs felt a little the same as the tattoo reference – I love the old-school bulbs, so that’s why I put it in. But I found that it actually served a role; the bulb represents the protagonist’s affectation for the past, and it’s his investment in the lamp with the past that “frees” Asmedi.
  • As usual, I hate dialogue. Want to know why? If you’ve read “Two Wishes” and thought “Gosh, did George Lucas write this dialogue?,” well, you know why – and what’s sad is that that form of formal interaction is pretty natural for me when I’m stressed. Hopefully, no “Yippee!” moments, though.
  • Asmedi’s closing statements actually used a form similar to his original conversation with the protagonist. In the original drafts, he switched to an informal, almost jive form of conversation: “So long, sucker!” It made sense to me and still does – Asmedi was a deceiver – but I thought the change was too subtle to be useful. Any other reader (i.e., someone who wasn’t the author) would read it and think the author was just being lazy.
  • Asmedi is, as stated, a demon lord. And I used djinn because I don’t like the term “genie,” and because, by golly, in Arabic mythology the people of air were djinni and not genies. Yes, I’m being ridiculous.
  • I, the author, would have recognized Asmedi’s name as being one of the demon lords’ names, but not Berith’s name.
  • In the overall flow: Berith showed the protagonist a door, Ashmedai opened it, and the protagonist walked right on through.
  • I struggled with writing anything about the car accident here; I described it very simply, because going into any detail – even in a fictional account where the events were not the same as in real life – was too traumatic for me. I don’t know how to write it cathartically, so I danced around it. (More about this later.)
  • Why was the protagonist a widower? Simple: I didn’t want him to have an affair. I didn’t want his trip back to imply infidelity to his wife. That wasn’t who I wanted the protagonist to be.
  • I don’t know if the English that Asmedi used is accurate “Old English” or not. It feels somewhat right, but I don’t know if the rendering is entirely correct. I’m okay with that. For him it’s all an act anyway.
  • The break between Anna and the protagonist in his second life has a real-life analog, sadly. If anything, that event (the wreck) ranks as one of the worst moments in my life, in a life filled with, well, a life’s worth of tragedies; if I really did have a wish I could use for others, I’d erase that wreck. (Like I keep saying, the protagonist is like me but isn’t me.) But I wasn’t there; I found out about it a while after it had happened (and the funerals had already taken place by the time I found out about it.) I truly loved “Anna” – the real one – and I truly loved the people who were in that accident. I’ve never gotten over it, and probably never will.
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