I didn’t get into grad school in 2000 as I’d hoped. When I asked one of my former professors, who was on the admissions committee, why his program had rejected me, he said that while he lobbied for the me on the basis of the piece I sent, other members of the committee felt that my sample, though strong of voice, lacked dramatic incidents.* So for my 2001 application, I wrote “Units of Blood”, which speeds a bullet through a character’s brains out on the second page. Yeah, admissions committee, I thought, I gotcher drama right here.
One thick envelope later and the message was clear: people like my work better when I ruthlessly bump off my characters for their amusement. Live and learn.
Harlan Ellison fans will note that the format of “Units of Blood” is similar to that of his classic, “The Deathbird”. Thematically, the stories are quite different, as you’ll see; but sure, I’d long wanted to do an homage to Ellison, whose work taught me what was possible in fiction. In 2001, the time seemed ripe.
“Units of Blood” originally appeared in The Seattle Review (vol 25. no 2. 1993). I think they’d want that known.
*That story went on to be published in The King’s English in 2004. You can read it here.