Sometimes the curtains are just blue

I’ve reached a certain milestone in my writerly career; my writing has been misinterpreted.

A recent review in Strange Horizons found in a story of mine a much deeper meaning than I originally intended.

My story, originally published in Fireside Fiction and recently reprinted in The Apex Book of World SF 4, is about a woman who eats herself bit by bit. I meant it to be about addiction and self delusion (the repetition of “She could quit any time she wanted” in the story.)

It’s a story about the lies we tell ourselves about our bad habits and destructive behavior. That is all.

But someone found something completely different in it.

Here’s the review of The Apex Book of World SF 4 in Strange Horizons.

The contemporary commentary remains sharp throughout. Johann Thorsson’s “First, Bite a Finger,” for example, is a grisly Icelandic story about the horror of bad employment—a pressing social evil. Farmers in India and workers in Chinese factories are both prone to committing suicide. Migrant workers in Qatar struggle to survive in slave-like conditions as they lay the foundation of the empire’s post-oil economy: tourist attractions, office buildings, and Olympic stadiums. During a conference as far back as the 1970s, Bucky Fuller said, “We should do away with the absolutely specious notion that everybody has to earn a living. It is a fact today that one in ten thousand of us can make a technological breakthrough capable of supporting all the rest.” Thorsson’s story captures the absurd necessity and brutality of such forced and voluntary drudgery, which takes humanity only backward.

Now. We each bring our own thoughts and experiences to the stories we read, and I don’t really find fault with the review.

I just find it interesting to be at the receiving end of something Stephen King described in his excellent book, On Writing, when he mentions that Literature professors sometimes read deeply into the meaning of blue curtains in a book, suggesting that the author meant to convey the main characters distance from his mother (I forget exactly what it was) when all the author meant to say was that the curtains were blue.

So. I’m flattered, but that’s not what I meant.


Fireside are having a subscription drive. It’s one of the best short fiction magazines out there. Get yourself one.