The Story Behind the Story: Such Light

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After nearly a decade away from the Southwest, I’ve returned, so it seems fitting that I’ve been working on a story about someone moving back to this part of the world.

She’s a young artist who no longer feels quite so young, having recently suffered the sort of setbacks that lie in wait in middle age (a divorce, and the death of a loved one). Amid this transition, she’s decided to make good on an early ambition she had to move to a little ghost town perched improbably on the side of a mountain.

Those of you familiar with Arizona will recognize this town as Jerome, and the repurposed complex where the story is set as the Jerome Arts Center. Once the local high school, this center has long been a magical place for me–whether it’s a room full of aboriginal-style dot art or a giant puppet laboratory, you never know what you might find here. (There’s even a studio in the old auditorium, where the specters of long-lost students seem to look on.)

I took that magic one step further with a story that’s part haunted house, part house of mirrors, and part carnival sideshow, as well as sort of a “finding your new apartment” story. I love the way a new place in the world seems just a bit tilted when we first encounter it, before we’ve become accustomed to its charms, and perhaps fail to really see them.

This story reflects that, as well as some of the inherent weirdness of the Southwest, a place full of seekers, dreamers, and self-styled psychics, but also outlaws, Indians, and Mexican restaurants with no English on the menu–a place where the local norms are often not those of the nation at large.

Living in northern New Mexico, I’m reminded that Georgia O’Keeffe moved to this part of the world largely because she fell in love with the light. That’s part of why I fell in love with the Southwest too, all those years ago, when I was a young artist–and now I’ve returned, no longer quite so young, but hopefully just a bit wiser, and just a bit more aware of the unique power and potentials of this place.

What is light but starlight–that of our sun and those beyond–reminding us of our origins? What is light but a metaphor for consciousness, insight, understanding? It’s my hope that this tilted bit of speculative fiction helps to shed light in the dark places, and to share a bit of the grandeur of this landscape as well. =)

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–SD

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