“The Schrödinger War….” This was a hard story to write, probably one of the hardest I’ve ever written for a variety of reasons. It took me a year to get this one right. Not all at once; I would periodically pick the story up and put it down again after failing. I struggled with the speculative element a little, but mostly I struggled with Sam’s internal conflict. I failed a lot with this one.
“The Schrödinger War” came out of a call for an anthology about extreme planets (due later this year from Chaosium) back in February of 2012. The topic intrigued me, so I started brainstorming ideas for a badass placed to set a story. Mind you, I had no story to go with that location; at this point it was all about the setting. I worked through the usual places most people would think of, discarding them as quickly as they came. I then came upon the idea of a proto-planet—a planet in the early stages of its formation—and this captured my attention, even more so after I decided that planet would be primitive Earth (called Hadean Earth).
The plot elements fell together quickly: a seemingly futile war, a man who’s lost himself as he fights over and over, the speculative element of incars and the physics of wave functions. What was missing, however, was Sam’s true reason for being here and any sort of cohesive character arc for him. It was missing that human element that it needed, so the story went on the shelf when I couldn’t find it. I’d pull it down and re-read it every few weeks, hoping to find the missing piece before the anthology call closed. I tinkered with it, gradually adding bits of Sam’s past: his wife and the shifting landscapes of H-station. The anthology deadline passed. I continued to work on the story. “The Schrödinger War” finally came together when I figured out how it needed to end for Sam, and I re-wrote his last meeting with Kim and the final scene of the story in a single sitting. I spent a hard week cutting it into final shape. I got enthusiastic responses from my critiquing group, and sent it to John Joseph Adams at Lightspeed Magazine who accepted it in about six hours—the fastest I have ever gotten an acceptance.
If you haven’t already, I hope you’ll take the time to read “The Schrödinger War” in this month’s issue of Lightspeed Magazine. I’m particularly proud of it. Enjoy.