Below, dear reader, please find bonus content for Suzanne’s book: ELEMENTS: A Collection of Speculative Fiction.
This series of posts provides stories-behind-the-stories for each tale in ELEMENTS.
Sitting in the 8th slot in the Table of Contents is the first of the Couch Teleportation Universe stories: “Everyone Needs a Couch”
My first-ever published story is: Everyone Needs a Couch.
Amazingly, I sold the story to the first market I submitted it to.
I sold Couch on January 12th, 2002 to Oceans of the Mind, a Science Fiction magazine that no longer exists. It was published in 2003 for their September Mysteries issue.
So when people ask about my first sale, I respond, “It’s a Science Fiction comedy mystery.”
This is a picture of me writing/editing in the spring of 2002. It’s possible that I was actually working on Couch that day. I love how there’s a bottle of Heinz Ketchup on the table, since back then every meal involved HK.
I love writing comedy. Probably because sarcasm is one of my favourite forms of communication. And Tanker’s life is the ultimate hard-luck-writer’s tale. Which leads me to the following insight…
When you begin your writing career, you often hear this advice:
Don’t write about a writer who’s trying (and probably failing) to sell their work.
Don’t write comedy because it’s really hard to get right.
Don’t begin a story with dialogue.
I break all three of these rules in Everyone Needs a Couch.
If you’re starting out, it is really important to understand and follow the rules of the trade. But you should also be brave enough to occasionally break the rules.
Then read my writing tip post: Breaking the Rules.
Beginning with my broke-student years (mid-to-late 80s) and ending with my young-messy-kids-at-home years (mid-to-late 90s), I used to have a hand-me-down couch in my living room. The couch had originally belonged to my grandparents.
Yeah, that’s right. My grandparents.
I think they might’ve bought the couch in the 1950s (1960s at the latest), and furniture manufacturers sure don’t build couches to last that long now. It was old and somewhat ratty (we used to cover it with a quilt to hide its ugliness), but virtually indestructible. Here’s a shot of of the couch, including my aunt, uncle, and cousin in the early 70s.
What made the couch so unique was that it was an old-fashioned two-piece sectional, designed to fit into a corner so that each half of the couch had an armrest on one side and nothing on the other side so it could sit right up against an end-table.
My grandparents used to have their entertainment unit (which consisted of a radio and a turntable that played 78s, 45s, and 33s) in the corner, and each open-ended piece of the couch was placed up against the unit.
When the couch was in my possession, we used to push the two halves together. (Except for that one co-op term when my apartment was so small that I only had room for HALF the couch.) My kids–and the occasional unsuspecting guest–would sit too close to the middle and fall through the gap onto the floor! (as my younger son demonstrates with his head in 2002) The couch sat on hardwood floors and we had no way to fasten the two pieces together.
Suffice it to say, that old couch was the inspiration for Tank Lazier’s couch in Everyone Needs a Couch.
Because so many people wanted to hear the other side of Tanker’s sad story, the couch makes a second appearance along with protagonist Lorna Watkowski, Tanker’s ex-girlfriend, in Waste Management.