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Last Week's Apocalypse

You know, ten years ago (wow, has it really been that long?) I had the pleasure (?) of spending six weeks at Clarion West in the room next to this freaky little dude by the name of Doug Lain.

Being two of the three smokers in the joint, we naturally ended up hovering around the same smoking-area ghettos over that six week time period. As I had brought a coffee maker with me, Doug spent quite a bit of time hanging out in my dorm room while we drank coffee, smoked way too many Camel Lights, and talked writing.

I met him the first day of the workshop without really meeting him. We'd been sent a few application stories to read and have ready for critiques for the first day of Clarion, and one of the stories was this angsty, psuedo-intellectual, hip story that really didn't do anything more than attempt to show the writer's counter-culture credentials and proclaim his hipness to the world at large.

In other words, it failed. Big time.

So in walks this guy with these funky little glasses, riffin' almost immediately to anyone who'll listen on the topic of Anarchy, and why it's such a good thing.

I believe I rolled my eyes at this point. You know the type: Full of themselves, terribly impressed at how clever they are . . . But there was no doubt that this was the author of that story.

To this day, I've read one Doug Lain story that didn't kick my ass. That one. The one from Clarion.

Because there's much more to Doug--and hence, Doug's fiction--than initially meets the eye. He's this interesting collision of forces; a full-fledged trainwreck of political savant and head of a traditional nuclear family. (He's married with a number of kids. So many, in fact, that I lost count.) He's the reality of putting bread on the table combined with the hatred of the money he has to earn to do it.

In other words, he's all of us. He's just better at it than we are.

Doug is the point where conscience meets concrete, and that runs through every piece of fiction he writes. It's deep, heady stuff, with nuances that you won't catch the first time through, or maybe even the second. But the stories are so good that you can't help but find them on your fourth or fifth read.

I remember being envious of his storytelling ability back at Clarion. Well, I've gone on to make a couple of professional sales and turned into a pretty decent writer myself since then.

But you know what? I'm still envious of the bastard. You won't find stories like his anywhere else, that I can promise you. You'll only wish you could.

Go pre-order his new short-story collection, Last Week's Apocalypse now. You will not be disappointed.

And Doug, you still owe me a cup of coffee or two.

Joseph Haines, signing off from The Edge of the Abyss.

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