From the Author
If you're reading this, then it's too late to turn back. It's too late to set this book down and pretend it wasn't written and act as if you didn't read at least a piece of it. And it's too late to avoid thinking about some of life's harder questions, questions without definitive, cookie-cutter answers. Questions like What is the meaning of life? and What does it mean to be human? and How do I explain loneliness?
Sure, you can set this book down. I mean, it's just a book of made-up stories, right? And after all, how much can one learn from fiction anyway? But even if you set this book down and walk away, you won't be able to stop thinking about these questions. These questions existed within you well before this book was ever written.
The first four stories in this collection are attenuated stories from my novel, As a Decade Fades. These four stories are meant to function on their own, but they also come together in the novel as fragments of a larger narrative, giving them a new context altogether. Much of my fiction is influenced by real life, though it's safe to say that I am not any of the characters in these stories. At least I don't think I am. Or am I?
The truth is that I meandered between reality and fiction while writing these stories, so much so that I'm not entirely certain which parts are made up anymore. My novel was written during--and directly after--the four most difficult years of my life, and I've never worked harder on anything. For me, at this point, none of this is made up. For you, please assume everything that follows this foreword is entirely fabricated.
It is also safe to say that my stories have certain unavoidable debts. Unlike some writers who claim to be uniquely unique, I must acknowledge that while I desire to be unique, I am influenced by my influences. That is to say that I'm influenced by my culture, by Gen-Xers and Gen-Yers alike, by my close friends, by literary authors, and most significantly by music. My words often take on the characteristics of my favorite fiction writers, attempting to panegyrically grasp and outspread their beauty, borrowing stylistically from their perfectly imperfect narratives, their long run-onish sentences, their forward-facing compound conjunctions, their solipsistic and lonely characters, their lapidary prose, their enchanting violence, and ultimately their mixture of hope and despair. My words also tend to absorb the auditory and lyrical qualities of some of my favorite musicians, from modern singer-songwriters to the 90s hip-hop artists who fueled my teenage years. I hope that it is the confluence of these influences that actually makes my writing unique, that allows me to identify with two generations and convey their feelings and emotions through my characters and their stories.
Lastly, I'm incredibly thankful to have three of my friends--Colin Wright, Chase Night, and Mark D. Robertson--contribute to this collection, expanding the narrative beyond the scope of my own four stories. These three young writers are talented men whom I'm happy to call my friends.
The seven stories herein vary drastically, but they all share one thing in common: each story is about what it's like to be a human being during incredibly complex times.