When I first began writing about Clay Dillon more than eight years ago, I began with a novel that has yet to see the light of day, one that had Clay depicted as a lost, horny 14 year old stealing pornography and smoking anything he could get his hands on to deaden the pain of his existence. It’s good that novel never saw the light, because I was still grappling with talking to myself about many of the same obstacles that Clay was unable to perceive in the manuscript.
While that collision in the text was something I was aware would drive drama, my own inability to articulate exactly what it was that he was struggling against to myself kept me from using it well because I could not see when Clay’s war fog caused him to make decisions that were actually brutal mistakes, and that led to a book that cheered on a lot of things it should have presented in a more cautionary light.
Some of the stories I wrote in prewriting for that book are still out there in the depths of the internet. I’m neither proud of them nor ashamed of them. They are products of a time when I was forced, once again, to detransition. It has been a pattern in my life, and one that I am now disrupting with medication for the first time. I’ve talked in other essays about how Clay’s experience parallels my own life. In some cases, episodes or conversations happen verbatim as I remember them.
When this series began, I was much more consciously playful with that effect. Back then, before I was able to access the healthcare that provides me with pain relievers for fibromyalgia that have the nice side effect of blunting my memory, I had a photographic one. When I was a child, my parents used to like to have me trot out large blocks of things I’d read to demonstrate how heavy my retention was. In speed reading classes in middle school, I was off the textbook’s scale already while retaining over 90 percent. The guide said to keep pushing yourself to go faster until you only retain about 60 percent if you are trying to do “scanning.”
Get the picture? OK. Now, destroy it. With a hammer. That’s what I had to do. When you’re repeatedly traumatized and you develop flashbacks, it’s bad enough. Try having a memory that makes every recall event a fully immersive experience, whether it’s controlled or not. I’m going to be frank with you, when they offered me medication that took my long term memory down to key events in large detail and facts and figures otherwise, I jumped at it.
It has changed the way I write, though. More importantly, it has let me know that I am not the one to continue writing about Clay Dillon. Instead, my fellow Puzzlebox Collective members will be picking things up. As some of you might have guessed, Defiant and Imaginary Friends were a single co-writing project with Athena Lynn Michaels-Dillon and Monday Dillon, and I hope to get their bylines added to the covers in future editions. As it is, we will be updating the Autonomous Press records for the books to reflect them in catalogs to the extent that we can without releasing new editions. Mirror Project was written with and mostly by Clay Dillon, who took over the text when my editing skills failed and re-released it a year after my initial attempt. He will be continuing that universe, and Athena and Monday will be taking turns with future volumes in this series.
You might have noticed that last name… I think that if I’m going to combine my experiences with those of another person, I should at least let that person take over when it becomes a series. For those of yo unaware of it yet, Monday is Clay’s name after transition. She continues to write science fiction under her deadname because have you seen the gender sales gap in science fiction? You can talk to her @DeadnamePenname on Twitter. Athena runs the Cyborg Workshop page on Facebook and has taken over at the Autonomous Press page if you want to talk to her.
There are, no doubt, some people who will view this as a name change. Rest assured, when you begin to see the differences in our styles, you will realize that this is a retirement.
Mt. Sterling, OH