(Never had I expected that I would be doing three commentaries in under six months, and the likelihood that another one is to happen before the end of the year is very high.)
In honor of the release of “46” – the short story spin-off to A Moment’s Worth and my first self-released short story in three years – today I will be going in-depth on the conception and development of the story. I shall explain what it was like to revisit characters from my debut novel, why I wrote the story as it is, and why it means a lot for it to be out in the world during this particular time. As you can imagine, there will be spoilers, so if you haven’t read it already, go read it first before reading this commentary.
“46” was born out of a promise I made to myself a few years ago, around the time A Moment’s Worth came out. Because BART (the Bay Area Rapid Transit) had a prominent presence in three out of the 25 chapters, I decided then that as soon as the next BART station opened, I would revisit a few of the characters and set a story there.
I knew that the characters I would be revisiting would be Yvonne and Justin. Out of all the characters in the first novel, these two were the ones that were most personally resonating with me. They were the ones I’d be the most curious about seeing aged five years (they’re 23 in this story), a little wiser, and just as much informed about everything that’s happening in our world as any other human of my generation. It was all that, as well as maintaining their character traits, that made writing “46” both a little challenging but also equally as engaging.
A main issue I had a run-in with is what the story would be about. I knew I wanted Yvonne and Justin as the protagonists and I wanted the story set at the Warm Springs BART station. That much I knew. Otherwise, I didn’t know what the plot would be about. All I knew is that I didn’t want them to just be optimistic observers and ponder on life and all its wonders, for that is something they otherwise would have done as 18-year-olds.
Fortunately there was a press conference held for the new BART station the day before it officially opened to the public. Donned in layers and with an umbrella at hand, I bared through the cold, windy, rainy weather that day, and attended the press conference, with the intent to learn as much about the station as I can. There was quite a bit to take away from; such as the fact that there were actual warm springs on that land a long time ago, how it has the largest art installation in the entire BART system, and how it’s part of what will eventually become a more thriving community for the south Fremont area. Despite it all, nothing was sticking out.
It wasn’t until I flipped through the program for the press conference and learned that this is the 46th BART station that I finally figured out what the story should be.
The political climate is a ball and chain that has been strapped to us in the time since Trump won the presidential election and actually took on the job. He is so despised that on social media, sometimes he’s not even referred to by name and rather by which president he is (45). That’s where the significance of the number 46 came about (hence the title).
It was certainly a more serious path I took with this piece of fiction, as Islamophobia hits a part of the country that has a prominent Muslim community, how taking part of the resistance can come in the form of just being a good Samaritan, and just what kind of effects one may experience from taking part in it at all. I wanted to utilize those issues – where, yes, they have the potential to happen even in the San Francisco Bay Area – and show how it can have a bigger impact in the scheme of things. That is why despite experiencing racism from a guy who thought less of the good deeds of Yvonne and Justin, seeing their efforts meant the world to a BART station employee.
At the end of the day, hope prevails when actions are made working towards it, and my wish for readers of “46” would be to see and understand that.