Science-fiction, fantasy, and other stories

Ornaments: Butler & Mouse / Gray & Santa Claus

Foreword for “Coca-Cola Santa Claus

Spalding Gray (1941-2004, acc. Wikipedia) was an American actor, novelist, playwright, screenwriter, and performance artist. You might know him for his concert film, “Swimming to Cambodia” (1987), his supporting role in the movie, “The Killing Fields” (1984), or his stage monologue, “Monster in a Box” (1992). Gray was a thoughtful intellectual with a dry wit, and I was intrigued by him.

Sometime in the mid-‘90s, Spalding Gray brought Monster in a Box to an arts festival in Seattle, and quite by chance I caught his performance. The monologue detailed Gray’s years-long struggle to finish his first novel, “Impossible Vacation” (1992). The monologue went on to say how his unfinished novel was a “monster” that kept growing and growing in page count. Eventually, the novel grew so big Gray had to resort to dragging it around from one writing assignment to another in an old steamer trunk; the “box” in the title. Spalding would work on whatever writing assignment was current, and then in his spare time, try to wrestle the “monster in the box” into submission. 

I think that from time to time, every writer has a monster in a box; the place where all our unwritten and unfinished stories lurk until they are born in pen and ink. Sometimes the box is incorporeal like the writer’s block that plagued Octavia Butler. Or physical, like Spalding Gray’s steamer trunk full of drafts of a novel that refused to be finished. Or a scuffed up filing cabinet, like mine, full of unfinished but promising stories that I somehow never found time to revisit, revise, and properly complete. 

“Coca-Cola Santa Claus” (2022) is my update of one of my monsters in a box.

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  1. Chuck Ott

    Hey, Tim, nice to find you again! (Will Saddler passed your URL along.) I’m still writing fiction and I’m glad to see you are. Perhaps I should say I’m trying to write — it’s been a pretty dry year for me, but I’m still at the keyboard most days. I just wrote a play for Moebius that I’m trying to schmooze them into performing at Windycon, too. I have one suggestion for your website — you should have a heading for “My Fiction” so it’s easier to find the links to your stories. (I am embarrassed to say I haven’t updated my own site in a year.) Anyway, I’ll keep checking in here. — Chuck

  2. Susan

    Hi Tim, I was at the Open Mic Night at Third Place Books last night (July 17, 2023). Enjoyed your reading and hope you come back! I will look at some of your other stories today.

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