‘Wynne Egan’s Fake’: Or How I Got Something Out of James Joyce.
This is a little post about how my story ‘Every Useless Parameter‘ got written. It came out in the Winter 2016 edition of Kaleidotrope, which I consider to be a very fine venue and I couldn’t be more pleased.
Finnegans Wake is perhaps the classic example of a book more known about than read. Well known for being a complex string of puns and allusions, it’s been called everything from a unique masterpiece and cornerstone of 20th century literature to an elaborate joke to pointless self indulgent nonsense. Anyone who writes anything for publication is assuming that their thoughts and words are worth someone else’s time. Joyce’s assumption is that his thoughts and words are worth the time to not only read but to then study and decode.
Maybe they are.
One day I was looking at my shelves. I have a copy of Finnegans Wake, but I must admit only because it was cheap and I was curious. I have read bits of it, and if there is one thing it is good for, that is reading aloud. It’s a bit like Mick Jagger’s singing on Exile On Main St — I often can’t understand it, but it sure sounds good. I was thinking about writing and jokes and stuff, and playing with words; and my brain recalled that there was an Australian writer named Wynne Whiteford, which lead to ‘Wynne Egan’s Fake’ which seemed too neat to ignore.
I decided to try to use more than just the title from the Joyce novel as a jumping off point; I started flicking through it for images and phrases. But in the end the idea that struck me was this: What if you met a being who natively thought in a language like Joyce coined for his book? Such a creature would be expressing multiple ideas and meanings with every phrase through puns and neologisms and allusions. Then I needed a place in the story for my character Wynne Egan — how about the linguist charged with decoding the language?
And thus, after much assembling of bits and rewriting and cutting and a conversion into present tense (much overused these days, I think) and back into past tense, and changing of titles (‘Wynne Egan’s Fake’ is too cute, or perhaps too smartarse, really) I sent it to Kaleidotrope, and to my great pleasure they took it and (after some very wise edits) it came out earlier this year. Writing the alien’s dialogue was a lot of fun.
They paid me a bit more than I paid for my copy of Finnegans Wake, so I figure I’m ahead.