I travel more than most, less than some, and I have a special love for liminal places. Especially when I’m alone and not having to manage anyone else. Buses, trains, airplanes. I like being between.
In March 2009, I had the exceptional fortune to be on the now-legendary Trains of Heaven trip with SJ Tucker and her wild wicked tribe, who became my circus family. There are so many stories about that trip, but almost none of them relate to this story, so I’ll hold myself in check for now! The relevant part is that I’d ridden out from Boston to Cleveland with SJ and K(evin) Wiley, but their truck was overfull for the Cleveland-to-Chicago leg of the trip, so I took a bus and met them there. I had a few minutes in Chicago all by myself, though, and I called my friend John – I don’t like telephones in general, but John’s an odd exception, and I tend to think of him when I’m in liminal space. I got his voicemail, and left him a comfortably rambly message that ended with “That’s all, really. Just wanted to let you know that I’m thinking of you in the spaces between.”
My brain stuck a pin in that line like whoa.
K picked me up, and we spent the next week having epic adventures; I read my story “Fortune” aloud for the first time on the train, in the dining car in the middle of the night. I didn’t think about that line for a while afterward, but it was there, percolating.
And it coalesced in January 2010, out of nowhere, and became a story about spaces between, but also about progressive chronic illness (which is very much a part of my life; I live with a condition that has been known to be randomly fatal, among others). I wrote it when I was supposed to be writing something else entirely. I finished it the morning of my reading at Arisia, and read it there.
People got misty-eyed.
John was there. He remembered that line, too. The story isn’t about him, but the genesis is tangled up in thinking of him in transit, so he’s part of it anyway.
There’s a special symmetry to the eventual publication of this story. I’d sent it around to a few markets, it got rejected, I set it aside for a while; I had about a year and a half of not really submitting anything anywhere. After Readercon this year, my husband nudged me to send the story out again, as he’s always loved it. I sent it to editor Cat Valente at Apex.
If you looked at that link about the Trains of Heaven, you’re probably grinning now. If not, I’ll tell you: that trip was a joint venture between SJ and Cat. So. I like the symmetry of it, of the seed of the story being planted as I was about to embark upon an adventure with, among others, the editor who would eventually buy it.
“I Am Thinking of You in the Spaces Between” was published in Apex Magazine #29, October 2011. It is on Tangent Online’s 2011 recommended reading list, and it is a Million Writers Award Notable Story. It has been reprinted in The Book of Apex 3.
Richard E.D. Jones at Tangent Online says: “The apex is the top, the very best of something, this higher and no farther. With that in mind, it takes a lot of hubris to name your fiction journal Apex Magazine. Well, let me tell you this, with the current issue’s lead story, “I Am Thinking of You in the Spaces Between” by Shira Lipkin, the magazine certainly lives up to its name….Written in a spare, haunting first-person, the majority of the story concerns the recent history of Sarah Walker, interdimensional traveler, government courier and lover. This is a beautifully written story. Lipkin does a fantastic job of drawing us into the story, using an almost plain style to make the fantastic seem as if it’s only a job. It’s only because the story grounds us with its style that we can come to care for Sarah and feel for her predicament. Her inability to talk to her true love really rings true, as does her desire to unburden herself to one of the alternates. Very good story with strong characters, good prose and an engaging plot. Definitely worth checking out.” (Review contains lots of spoilers; read the story first!)
Sam Tomaino at SFRevu says: “This was a beautiful, bittersweet story and Shira Lipkin is a talented writer. “