First off, this post has nothing to do with the no doubt godawful John Cusack film coming out this week. No, this is about the latest issue of Space and Time magazine, number 109, which features my story "End of Our World as We Know It."
This is a special story for me, namely because it's written in the second person. I love second person narratives ... at least when they're done right. One of my favorite novels is written in the second person (A Prayer for the Dying by Stewart O'Nan). For some reason second person is frowned upon in many circles, and I've never understood why. It's just as good and effective as the first and third person, sometimes even more so. I think the main problem is people are told -- or maybe assume -- that when you are reading something in second person, it's supposed to be you doing whatever is written there.
This I cannot disagree with more.
Sure, some second person narratives are set up like that, but many others -- the very best -- are just another way of telling a story about a character.
John woke up that morning with the worst hangover he'd had since he graduated college. He sat up, yawned, looked around. Froze. He didn't recognize this room.
Or how about:
I woke up that morning with the worst hangover I'd had since I graduated college. I sat up, yawned, looked around. Froze. I didn't recognize this room. Or the woman lying next to me.
You wake up that morning with the worst hangover you've had since you graduated college. You sit up, yawn, look around. Freeze. You don't recognize this room. Or the woman lying next to you. Or the blood dried around her neck.
(Note that when writing in the second person, it almost seems mandatory to do it in the present tense. Can it be written in the past? Sure. But I think keeping it in the present tense maintains a nice smooth flow that makes the story more effective in the end.)
Of course, a story can be written in any point of view. Yet an author usually knows which POV is best ... and if it's wrong, they can usually tell after they've started writing (it just doesn't feel right) and play around accordingly. I know there have been times when I'll start a story in, say, third person, then realize it would be best in first person, or vice versa.
"End of Our World as We Know It"? I first wrote it in third person. Liked it but didn't love it. Changed the POV to first person. Felt the same way. Changed it then to second person, and bang, like that, it felt right.
Of course, not everyone would agree. Here's what one editor at a pro magazine had to say in his rejection:
This piece started out so good. So interesting! And then along came the second person perspective.
I like the story. I really do. But I despise--I mean really DESPISED--the use of second person perspective in this piece.
See, second person isn't for everyone. Again, I think it's just gets a bad rap, mostly because it's so obscure that when readers actually do see it, they don't know what to think.
So my thanks to Gerard Houarner and Hildy Silverman for liking this story enough to take a chance on it.
Okay, enough of that. On to the mini-contest ...
To view the complete table of contents of this issue, click here. To purchase a copy (or better yet, a subscription), click here. Or did you want the chance to win a free signed copy? Sure you did. All you need to do is name your favorite doomsday film or book in the comments section of this post (if you're viewing this on Facebook, please leave your comments on the main site). That's it. The deadline is Friday, midnight here on the east coast, when a winner will be randomly selected.
But wait -- there's more!
Because I'm so pleased to have published this story, for every five people who participate I'll throw it another copy of the magazine.