Writing is a strange craft. You spend months or years with an idea rolling around in the dark recesses of your mind, weeks or months or years coaxing that idea out of the shadows, and months more chipping away at the rough edges before its time to shop a story around to find it a home. And then, out of nowhere, the pieces fall into place in the bizarre ways.
In September, I found out that two of my short stories were going to be published. One was a story that I’d been editing and submitting to various journals for almost three years. The other was an idea I had four or five years ago that crystallized in mid-summer and came pouring out onto the page over the course of a week. Despite their vastly different origins, they both revolve around a similar image: fire.
I love fire. My mom taught me how to build a fire when I was eight or nine years old on one of our camping trips to Zion National Park. To this day, I’m mesmerized by flickering of firelight and in awe of its power to create and destroy. Fire can forge, it can cleanse, it can make way for new life to take hold. Fire can also consume and kill. For me, fire is a metaphor for humanity. We, too, are capable of great beauty and equally terrible destruction.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that this idea should work its way into my short fiction. In “Firemaker,” fire is a symbol of humanity’s potential, as a time traveler discovers when he travels to a village on the verge of being wiped out at the dawn of the last Ice Age. “Pyrocene” embodies the other side of the coin as a character tries to save a house from burning down in a setting that could be the present day or the very near future.
I never thought of these stories as having anything to do with each other, but rereading them, the parallels are obvious. They are intertwined, each commenting on the other. I love being surprised by fiction — sometimes I even surprise myself with hidden themes I didn’t consciously incorporate. In a year when the world feels like it’s on fire (racial injustice, the presidential election, and the actual fires raging across much of the American West for a start), it’s fitting that these two stories will be published together in 2020.
“Pyrocene” will be published in Creative Colloquy’s seventh annual anthology, due out later this year. You can hear me read it at the Creative Colloquy Crawl on Saturday, October 3 at 2pm Pacific time (RSVP here to receive the Zoom link). “Firemaker” will be published in All World’s Wayfarer Issue VII, which will be available on Monday, December 21. You can preorder it for your Kindle at allworldswayfarer.com. The issue will also be free to read on their website until March 20, 2021.
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Jonny Eberle is a writer in Tacoma, WA. His writing has been featured or is forthcoming in Creative Colloquy, All Worlds Wayfarer and Grit City Magazine. Follow him on Twitter and subscribe to the mailing list today for exclusive content delivered to your inbox once a month.