That a story about a single Self occupying two lives was written by two authors is very interesting. What was the first seed of the idea? Did you come up with it together? Practically speaking, what form did your collaboration take for this piece? Did each of you write separate sections and bring them together, or was the entire process directly collaborative?
The seed of the idea came, appropriately enough, when we were contemplating the process of collaboration. It occurred to us that, when writing a tale together, we were in effect inhabiting one mind . . . We can’t recall who exactly it was who had the original idea inspired by that insight, but we batted it around as we do, then got stuck in. Eric began the tale, did a couple of thousand words, then passed it on to Keith to finish. There was little plotting done between us—we simply let our respective subconscious minds take the idea where it would go. Then we ruthlessly rewrote each other’s bits, let it lie a while, then re-read it many times and honed and cut.
“Me Two” deals with isolation—albeit a different kind than we’re experiencing these days. The pain that causes Danny/Cristina is palpable through cycles of disappointment, but the story crescendos with a moment of self-love. There’s something therapeutic about reading a character who, in their moment of profound loss and loneliness, appreciates the beauty of what they had. Did everything—the pandemic, the political/economic upheaval, and all the rest—influence this piece?
We started the story late last year, well before the pandemic—so unfortunately we can’t claim amazing foresight or visionary powers. We simply wanted to write a tale of the ultimate paradox—the existential phenomenon of two people being so close that they are one, and the complex array of emotions that would result from that, set against the tragedy of separation. Over the years, we’ve often discussed the isolation we all feel: Even in a crowded room (remember those?) each individual is an island, discrete and distanced from everyone else. This tale did what many stories do: took one idea or observation and pushed it to an extreme. The irony that a story about isolated individuals is really about an “individual” less isolated than anyone did not escape us!
It’s often said that making the events of a story take place in a character’s dream or hallucination is a major faux-pas. You seem to have taken a clear stance in the final section of “Me Two”: that the experience’s “objective” truth (in terms of the story) is irrelevant because of the emotional impact it had on the character(s). Was this a conscious choice or something that occurred naturally as you wrote? (Either way, I think it’s a delightful subversion of a “rule.”)
The original ending was much more science fictional and rationalized—and it didn’t work. It was Keith’s idea to have the scientifically unresolved finale—and the bittersweet realization of the character that what he/they had experienced was unique and to be treasured. It could be read as a metaphor for the human condition. We’re all alone, after all, even when we’re not.
Where else can we read your work, as a duo or as individuals?
Our earlier collaborations—a novella and six short stories—are gathered in the collection Parallax View. Since then, we’ve produced around half a dozen further co-written tales, which have appeared in anthologies and magazines like Solaris Rising, Paradox, and Lightspeed (our “Beyond the Heliopause” was published in Lightspeed in January 2016). We should soon have enough tales for another collection. Most recently, PS Publishing have put out our novella series The Kon-Tiki Quartet. You can find out more about or work at ericbrown.co.uk and keithbrooke.co.uk.
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