Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Outsider (short story - Atomic Wasteland Tales) - Jason G. Anderson

Jason G. Anderson lives in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia with his
wonderful wife, Marina, and their three cats. During the day, he assists
scientists researching Antarctica, analyzing satellite imagery and
helping the scientists to manage the large quantities of data they
acquire. At night, he prefers to write about imaginary worlds far
removed from our own. You can find out more about him at

The Outsider is a short story (6365 words, ~21 pages) set in a world
decades after a devastating global nuclear war. It deals with a small
town that has managed create a piece of paradise in the middle of the
wasteland. The community has a rule of not allowing any outsiders within
the town walls, but the main character of the story breaks that rule
when a dying man collapses at the town gates. This sets off a much
larger chain of events.

Why did you self publish?

I've been involved in the RPG community for over a decade, where self
publishing is quite common. So I've never thought of self publishing as
having any sort of stigma. I also like the idea of being in control of
anything I create. By self publishing, I have full control over the
cover, description, where I sell the book, how much I charge for it, who
I get to edit it, etc.

That's not to say that I'd never sign a traditional publishing deal. But
it would have to be the right offer (which doesn't just mean a large sum
of money ;) )

What is your writing process?

I like to come out with a brief outline of what I'm working on. I don't
try to get too detailed in this outline (my mind just doesn't work that
way), but I do try to figure out the major decision points within the
story ahead of time, so when it comes to writing I have a series of
goalposts to follow. Sometimes I'll write something that means I have to
go back and revise my outline, but that's fine - usually the change is
for the better, and I'd be crazy to ignore it.

When it comes to the actual writing, I write on my desktop computer at
home in the evenings.

How long does it take you to write your first draft?

I try to write one short story (6000+ words) a month. For novel length
pieces, it obviously takes a longer. I completed the first draft of my
first novel (60,000 words) in 40 days, but the bulk of that was written
for NaNoWriMo, so at a much faster pace than I normally write. A second
novel I started took a month to reach 30,000 words (it was put on hold
so I could focus on creating the second draft of the first novel).

What inspired you to write this particular story?

I wanted to write a series of short stories all set in the same setting,
and decided on the Atomic Wastelands as that setting. Once I had the
setting, the idea of a small paradise within the wasteland came to mind
immediately. People who lived in that paradise would be very suspicious
of anyone who didn't belong to the community. The germ of the story came
from that suspicion.


“Man, it’s hot,” said Hank. The phrase had long-since lost any meaning.
Like every other time Hank had said it, Jacob didn’t bother replying.
There wasn’t anything to say. After you’ve talked about how hot it is
for several months in a row, the conversation got repetitive.

Jacob suddenly saw something move out in the wilderness in front of them.

“What’s that?” Jacob pointed toward the movement. As Hank looked into
the distance, Jacob grabbed the binoculars from the small table in the

“Don’t see nothin’ but desert,” said Hank, looking in the wrong
direction. Jacob peered through the binoculars. If it was an attack,
they needed to know as soon as possible so they could sound the alarm.

“It’s a man,” said Jacob after a few moments of studying the shape. The
man looked to be in bad shape from what Jacob could see. His clothes
were rags, and the way he was staggering, he looked near death. For a
moment, Jacob thought it was Lewis, his missing brother. Then, the
illusion was gone.

As he looked closer, Jacob could make out some wounds on the man’s body.
“He’s injured.” There were gashes on his arms and legs and at least one
bleeding wound on his torso.

“Sucks to be him,” said Hank, losing interest.

“We’ve got to help him.”

“You know the rules. No outsiders in the settlement.”

“But, he’s injured. Besides, look at him. Look at his injuries. He must
be a survivor from a raider attack. He might be able to tell us how many
people they had, what sort of weapons they used, maybe even in what
direction they came from or left in. If they try to attack, we can be
ready for them.

“The rules say, ‘No outsiders.’” However, Hank sounded less convinced
than before. “Tracy will skin us if we let him in.”

“We can’t just leave someone out there to die,” insisted Jacob. “Come
on, help me bring him in. I’ll take full responsibility.”

Hank looked as if he wanted to argue more, but after looking at the
staggering man again for a few moments, he mumbled some sort of agreement.

Jacob went down to the front gate. On his signal, Hank began to turn the
wheel to lift the bar across it. Once it had been raised enough, Jacob
pushed the gate partially open and slipped through. Looking around for
signs of trouble, he approached the man. As Jacob got near, the man’s
strength gave out, and he collapsed into the dust.

“Don’t worry, I’ve got you, friend,” said Jacob. “You’re safe now.”


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