NOTE: since the Everyday Mormon Writer website continues to have issues, here is a downloadable PDF version — Release | Everyday Mormon Writer.
These are the liner notes for “Release“, which is a finalist in Everyday Mormon Writer’s Four Centuries of Mormon Stories Contest (in the 22nd century category). As regular readers of this blog know, since the beginning of the year, I have kept a list of story ideas and have tried to generate 8-10 or more ideas a month. Back in May, I wrote:
A society where the populace has been under constant surveillance so extensively (including a way to monitor brain activity) for so long that the populace has begun to develop a hidden consciousness, a folded consciousness, a dual consciousness. Perhaps it hides in the cerebellum system. Perhaps it’s in the lymph nodes. Perhaps it can communicate by touching (or maybe by sex — saliva, other fluids — enzymes). It would need to be disguised as other normal brain functions…. First they could see everything we did. Then they could hear everything we said. Then they could read everything we thought.
Science fiction is difficult for me, which is why I mainly have written fantasy and contemporary mainstream. But this idea of “folded consciousness” continued to haunt me. In early August, as I thought about what to write for the Four Centuries of Mormon Stories Contest, this idea came to mind and felt right. I really wanted to stretch myself and enter something in the 22nd century contest. Here’s my original brainstorming for the story :
God grants dual consciousness because surveillance pervasive, etc. A Holy Ghost mutation Something to do with touch or pheremones (sic). Some mutation that is driven by the spirit (rather than the body). Told from the POV of? Surveillance bureaucrat? Scientist studying how they are doing it? Bishop or Relief Society President. Or passing the sacrament (like a virus). —- A Bishop must take certain risks in ministering to his forbidden flock. He must leave traces where they could be scanned before being retrived (sic). He must be open to every pheremonic signature but be able to discern among them. Above all, he must trust his hind brain/lymph nodes to receive the promptings from the Holy Ghost that will steer him where he should be at any given time and day. Above all he must never be weary, even though his skin continually tingles and crackles with …., and he must never act in any way that will open the members of his [ward] to suspicion.”
As you can see it was very rough. In the first draft, I backed off on using the Bishop’s handbook discourse, but I still wrote the story from once remove, where the reader knew that he was a Bishop even though he didn’t know. Also: his name was Fisher Hart. There were some passages that worked, but the beginning was terrible. In the first revision I changed it so that it was only Davvid’s point of view (and changed his name). The third draft refined it. I felt pretty good about the story so I submitted it. And I’m very glad I became finalist — not just because it feels good to be recognized, but also (and even more so) because it meant that Nicole and James Goldberg gave me feedback on the piece. There were a few sections that were overwritten and confusing. I was trying to pack in too much imagery and allusion, and I wasn’t providing enough information about how Davvid was reacting to everything. Because of their editorial comments, I was able to fix all that. Which is awesome. It’s why I like being published: being pushed to make the story better.
As the Goldbergs pointed out in their notes, this story takes awhile to get to the Mormon part. I hope readers stick with it because I think the payoff is there. Although, as they also pointed out, the story benefits from the framing of its publication: you read it with the expectation that the Mormon elements are going to arrive. And they do.
Also: Mosiah 24 was one of the things on my mind as I wrote the story.