(Go here to read the story first, if you prefer not being spoiled!)
If “…vad som räddas kan” is the short story that has taken me the longest to research and finish, “Soluppgång över Änggårdsbergen” (“Sunrise over Änggårdsbergen”, yet another Swedish work I’m afraid…) is rather the opposite. From when the first images of a lone wander in orange street lights first came to me (probably during a train journey) to a finished first draft was no more than month. It is also unique in that it is the first work that I have written exclusively on a computer — normally I prefer making a my first draft by hand, preferably in a nice notebook using a pen with a good ink flow (I prefer V-pens for this reason).
Before going into more details on this particular story, I would like delve into why I prefer the work-flow I normally use. There are many reasons for this. First of all the flexibility it gives me is hitherto unmatched by any computer program that I’ve come across: First of all, a notebook and pen is much more convenient to carry around than even the tiniest netbook (they are generally not that nice to write on anyway, with their undersized screen and keyboard), but more than that I can make margin notes everywhere, draw implication arrows and small sketches, use a variety of colours and hand writings etc. Another very important aspect, however, is the editing. I can’t do that on paper, I’m stuck with what is written. Being a perfectionist, this saves me a lot of useless tinkering with parts that are already written and lets me get on with the story (after some mandatory margin notes on what I want to change in the next phase). This last reason alone is enough to prefer the slightly anachronistic method and I prefer using a pen and a printed draft when doing revisions as well: it is more flexible and it saves time, though perhaps it isn’t as good for the environment (I do recycle the printed drafts though…).
Why was “Solnedgång” any different? I’m not sure, but perhaps it was a for immediacy in the creation. Or I just happened to be out of ink, I don’t quite remember, but either way it probably contributed to the more focused creative effort, in that I had to seek out the computer when I felt the urge to create. Perhaps the creative energies I felt when not near a workstation were somehow dammed up, to be released in a torrent when the opportunity arose. Either way it goes to show that even normally single minded individuals need change every now and then.
“Solnedgång” is, surprisingly, neither SF, nor horror, nor fantasy, but is set in a (more or less) contemporary Gothenburg. It was inspired by many things. First and foremost, the protagonist is the image of a girl I saw on a tram on my way to work one day, without that random encounter the story probably wouldn’t have been written. Secondly, it turned into an attempt to capture many of the things that strike a romantic cord in me: dawns of course, but more significantly, the sodium orange of street lights has always enchanted me, as have the harbour and quays of Gothenburg. Combine those two in that painfully fragile turning point of the year, when the nights are getting darker and the chill of autumn is on the wind, and I’m nearly lost in nostalgic stupor. My infatuation with the cranes started on just such a night, when my father and I had taken his boat boat down to Gothenburg for an overhaul; a dark and cold evening where the huge metallic skeletons glistened, wet from the rain, in the orange glow of the street lights. I remember that I wanted to live in one of those cranes, if only for a night. I am unapologetically a sucker for those settings.
Many of my wanderings along the docks go into the images in the beginning of the story, leading up to the climax of which I can’t really say much; it’s just the way the story picked for itself, and though I felt slightly bad about subjecting my character to it, I had decided that I wanted a story without a moral (not immoral, but amoral, mind you — too often characters are judged by their authors), so I choose neither to cushion it nor comment on it. It was the way it was. At the time of writing, I came to realize that there is superficially similar scene with a similar character in a popular book by a contemporary Swedish author. I hadn’t read his books then, but I cannot entirely rule out that I stole it from him. Though “Solnedgång” is not a work of science fiction, my conscious reference — for the scene in particular and the work as a whole both — at the time of writing was the Bridge trilogy by William Gibson (let me heartily recommend his writing!).
Of course, this being me, I managed to put a lot of small pointers and references into the text, mostly just for myself, but sometimes to and for specific others. These are places, names, details, scenes… I do not wish to spoil them for you, but if you are one of the recipients, I hope you will find them. Anyway, this discussion is turning lengthy, and I sincerely wish to leave ample room for personal interpretation on the part of the reader, not deliver a ready-made solution, so I think I will end here, after one further general comment: I wished with this particular work to create a cross-section or a slice of a life, with all threads weaving into and out from the moment pictured left untouched. It is an attempt to capture the feeling of nostalgia and yearning for something different than the present, but also contrasting this with moments of rare spontaneity and of ceasing the day; to what extent I have succeeded is not for me to decide.