Saturday, September 15, 2007

The early writings of...

I haven't gone through the bottom drawer of my file cabinet in some time. Most of what is in there are old writings: stories from college writing courses, notes for a novel, even poems from high school and college. (Those folders are disturbingly thick; I never considered myself a poet and I can't believe I ever wrote, and saved, that many.)

I read through a few of the older stories last night. They are both better and worse than I'd expected. One, from college, is a sci-fi futuristic fantasy of a woman botanist in a future civilization where men are mostly sterile. In order to minimize the stigma of being one of the infertile, and to allow all to share in the raising of children, a woman sleeps with a different man every night, and if she gets pregnant, the child is not linked to any one man, but is treated as the child of all of the city. (I don't think I had a very good handle on women's reproductive cycles, that some would figure out when they were fertile and who they'd slept with at the opportune time.) Babies were taken from their birth mothers and rotated among various foster homes, so that everyone plays the role of parent multiple times. Meanwhile, the heroine in the story is assigned to work with a brilliant young scientist from another city (another naive notion - how could cities exist in such isolation from one another?) who comes to help save the dying agriculture of her own. Through their talk, she learns of other societies with a more traditional family unit: one set of parents, long-term relationships, procreation as part of love, not duty.

It's pretty basic future fantasy stuff, and I am sure it echoes many other stories written during the time when fears of socialism were as prevalent as fears of the destruction of the planet. And it has a completely bogus ending (the woman, now pregnant and intrigued by the world the now-missing scientist described, poisons her unborn child and herself by ingesting the chemical mixture that the man left behind, determined to claim the child as "hers" and not society's. Abortion and suicide as social statement? I'm not even sure what I intended.) But there are a few decently written sentences in there, and some nice descriptions so it isn't a complete waste of paper.

This is how we learn: we write, and we write, and we write. And years later, we go back and read the crap we wrote in college and have a chuckle.


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