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Words About Words
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I have this story, "From Around Here," in the Logorrhea anthology, edited by the masterly John Klima. It's a collection of stories inspired by winning Spelling Bee words. Jeff Vandermeer has a story in the book called "Appoggiatura" that includes all the other winning words in the book. My word was "Autochthonous". Here's Jeff's take on that word (in text form, though you can also listen to it as a podcast!):


At the university today, I cracked an egg yolk into my coworker Farid's coffee while he was off photocopying something. The yolk looked like the sun disappearing into a deep well. The smell made me think of the chickens on my parents' farm and then it wasn't long before I was thinking about my father and his temper. It made me almost regret doing it. But when Farid came back he didn't even notice the taste. He was too busy researching the architecture of some American city for one of the professors. My yolk and his research were a good fit as far as I was concerned, especially since that was supposed to be my project. But he was always pushing and he was an artist, whereas I was just getting a history and religion degree. I wouldn't have anything to show for that until much later.

After he left and the building was empty, I set a fire in the wastebasket on the fourth floor, being careful to use a bit of string as a fuse so it wouldn't start to blaze until after I'd gotten on the bus down the street.

On the way home to my apartment, through the usual roadblocks and searches, I embedded a personal command into the minds of the other people on the bus using the image of the saintly Hermes Trismegistus. He said to them, "Tomorrow, you will do something extraordinary for the Green."

When I got to the complex, I stopped at each landing and used a piece of chalk to draw a random symbol. If there was a newspaper in front of someone's door, I would write on it or rip it or whatever came to mind.

I walked into my box of an apartment, grey walls grey rooms, and took off my clothes. I painted myself green and leapt at the walls until the green mixed with the red of my blood and the grey was gone. Then I turned on the family TV that my mother had made me take when I came to the city and at the same moment I drove a paperweight through the screen. My fingers and arm vibrated from the shock.

But nothing else happened. There was no revelation. No sign.

I crumpled to the floor and began to cry.

When will the Green move through me? What will it take?

Here are a few scattered thoughts of my own about my story "From Around Here", which John asked me to write up:

I don't believe in fate, but I do believe in synchronicity -- the appearance of seemingly related events that don't have a causal relationship. One day many months ago I was in Starbucks over on Piedmont Ave. (I know, I know, I'm ashamed, but I was craving a caramel apple cider). I noticed these weird little java jackets on the counter, each of which bore a single strange word, with pronunciation marks and a definition. The one I picked up said "Autochthonous." Later I realized that the coasters were part of a promotion for that spelling bee movie "Akeelah and the Bee," but at the time I just thought, "Hey, Starbucks, way to increase my word power." Later that same day, John Klima sent me an invitation to submit a story to Logorrhea, and when I saw "Autochthonous" on the list of available words, I submitted to the whims of synchronicity and chose that one. (It means "indigenous" or "native" or "occurring where it is found.") I'd been thinking a lot anyway about the role of place and setting in my work, and about my own shifting notions of home, and hit on the idea to write about a genius loci who'd lost his loci -- my protagonist is a little god native to a particular island in the Pacific that sank a long time ago. Deprived of his own home, he travels the world, trying to save the homes of others. Naturally, he occasionally encounters local resistance. The story is about yearning, and rootlessness, and nostalgia, and weird serial killers. So basically a typical Tim Pratt story.

Want to read other writers writing about their words, and their stories, and the words in their stories? Want to hear podcasts of other fragments of VanderMeer? Go to John Klima's master post on the subject, chock full of juicy links.

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