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rapture origin story, part 1

I’ve been asked to write about where the ideas for Rapture and Vamped came from, which is actually too long for a single blog post so I’ll do a couple over the next few days, starting with the idea for the short story that eventually evolved into Rapture, called “Fix.” I was living in Fairbanks, Alaska at the time, attending the University of Alaska-Fairbanks, working toward my Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. I was stranded on campus during the Christmas break, when anybody with any sense had left town, leaving me the only person living in an eight storey building, subsisting for a month on Snickers, tuna fish, and vodka.

I didn’t see or talk to anyone for about a month, and had a hard time telling day from night, especially since it was pitch dark by two, whether AM or PM. I’d begun reading junky literature at the time – Naked Lunch by William Burroughs, and The Basketball Diaries by Jim Carroll – and was trying to think of something to write for my thesis, a collection of short stories.

And that’s when I noticed a book lying on the floor of my dorm room, featuring the image of a naked, sylph-like woman with leonine blonde hair, surrounded by ribbons to hide her nipples and a large wing, censoring her anatomy somewhat further south. It was such a visual non-sequitur that I had to laugh:

“Why a wing?” I laughed. “Where’d that come from?”

And then I started thinking about wings just popping in out of the blue. I imagined a young woman, suddenly finding herself with a large pair of inconvenient wings on her back. I made her a junky because that’s what I’d been reading about, and decided to use the wings as a metaphor for addiction, with the main character being forced to give up heroin (she stood out to much while trying to score) only to become just as fatally addicted to flight. I called the story “Fix,” and it was published in the Fall-Winter 1986 edition of the Alaska Quarterly Review. After that, I began reading the story at public readings and whenever I did, it always got a great reaction, once even a standing ovation.

So, I knew I had something. The question for the next ten years was: what?

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