In the first scene of “Midway,” the narrator hears a piece of music from Earth, though he should be in a place where no human has ever passed before, millions of light years away. Why did you choose the Beatles as the song he hears on that distant world? When I read the scene, I got a very distinct impression of what song was playing even though it’s never mentioned in the text of the story. Were you hoping when you wrote the scene that the reader would provide their own soundtrack? Care to share what song you had in mind when you were writing the story?
I chose the Beatles as I wanted a something that the reader themselves would recognize. I thought about a number of different pieces, but the Beatles seemed the most universal. (If anyone has a better idea, I’d be interested to hear from them.) I deliberately didn’t name the song because, as you say, I was hoping the reader would provide their own soundtrack. I nearly always have music playing when I’m writing and I’m pretty sure I had the Beatles playing when I was writing the story.
One of the recurring themes this story explores is the decision that has to be made when one reaches the point of no return, to continue on or go back. Did you go into this story wanting to write about that, or did it grow out of something you learned about the story or the character along the way? Is there a particular reason you chose to write about this?
The story was very much inspired by me turning fifty and the realization that I was (at least in some ways) at the midpoint of my life. When I conceived the story, it had a far more downbeat ending, but stories are created in the writing, not in the planning. The ending came as a pleasant surprise to me, even more so given my personal circumstances at the time . . .
The main character of “Midway” travels across the galaxy using Earth’s culture as the coin to fund his voyage of exploration. An interstellar trading post that analyzes and quantifies the cultures of different worlds and translates that into currency is fascinating to contemplate. Where did that idea come from?
From the realization that culture is and always has been a commodity to be traded just like any other.
What are you working on now? Where can readers find more stories from you?
I’m just finishing a book of short stories that I was moved to write following the illness and death of my father. “Midway” was the first story completed, though it will probably be the last in the collection. You can find stories of mine all over the place, see my website for more details: tonyballantyne.com.
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