Art, Dreams, and Mazes by J M McDermott (GUEST POST)

Art, Dreams, and Mazes
by J M McDermott

Nobody cares about how a book is written, except when it is so good that every iota of information is like an egg that gives birth to a thousand dissertations. (Imagine the cavalcade of critical pens if James Joyce had live-blogged the scribing of Ulysses?) I prefer writing itself to writing about writing. I think, for everyone's sake, I will skip the subject of how I wrote a complex, mosaic text, and leave that to people who want to check out Interfictions Zero, where I wrote this about such things:

Beyond the mechanical act of word on page, careful consideration of words, etc. (The art of writing is the art of editing one's writing.) what's left to discuss?

Art feeds your dreams. Dreams feed your art.

I was pushing my head against the walls of the maze, writing Julie Station's sad story, and thinking about what it was I was writing, what it would become and the appropriate form for the maze-like halls. Tangled love affairs, certainly, but what else could capture this boundless unknowable space? To solve a maze is to destroy it. The puzzle must remain locked up in plain sight. Instead of lines fiddling and squiggling through the maps, the plot would follow the flight of birds over the walls. Alexander solved the Gordian knot with a single swipe of sword, How else to capture the unsolvable knot?

Writing this, wrestling with this, I went to my ten-year high school reunion and couldn't believe it happened. Ten years passed like falling asleep and waking up and now I was approaching middle age. I'm nearly there, at 34. I'm on the edge of youth. I have to start having annual physicals. Pains I feel in the morning take a long time to walk away in the morning. I expect this will only get worse as I get older. Oh, but there were so many familiar faces at this reunion at a bar in downtown Fort Worth. They had mostly married, made new versions of themselves and exchanged business cards. Too goddamn many lawyers, is what it was, at that private high school. Oil men and lawyers. What the hell kind of school produces so many oil men and lawyers? There was a few doctors that I remembered when they were young, and wanted to be doctors, and now they were, and weren't they so satisfied with themselves? Had the minotaur gored them, yet? Had the darkness fallen over them, and the pains and the fear? Probably. We all put our best shirt on, our best shoes. We smile and exchange business cards. It is a night that serves to remind you why you did not, in fact, keep up with these people, even if most of them are very nice people, with nice houses and nice spouses, and undoubtedly lovely children. But, I told these doctors and oil men and lawyers that I wrote books. They looked at me like I had told them I was an alien. They challenged my assertion. Yes, one could actually have walked across the street to buy the book off the shelf at the big Barnes & Noble that used to be there. At the time, they had plenty in stock. All the old high school feeling came back to me, then, in a flood.

At the reunion I had a conversation with one very nice person, and I think we spoke more to each other that night than we ever did in all of our high school experience, and it was pleasant to finally meet someone, talk with them, after knowing them so very long. It was a conversation that ended and never came back.

That night, I had a dream. This otherwise lost woman was in the dream, stolen by my subconscious to become a person in the Maze. First, though, the goblins of the Maze  - the Djinni - had to come for us both. A puff of light came, like dandelion fluff or cottonwood, and it was dust and ethereal, but it had a whispering voice. My name is Jenny. Put me in your lung. Breathe deep. I obeyed, and the dark woman was born from my lung like Eve from Adam's rib. Maybe like Lillith was born of the side of the chest, and Eve came later to balance the ribs of men. This living darkness made meat out of my meaty flesh disappeared into the apartment, became a monster there, and when the dream's expression of the bright woman from the reunion that was very pleasant to chat with briefly, with whom I have not exchanged a real life word since in any form, well... Art feeds your dreams, and dreams feed your art. Life feeds both the raw material of both.

MAZE is here. It is a rather complex novel, but better for its complexity. Form follows function. Mazes that are solvable are not mazes at all.


Maze by J.M. McDermott
Published January 13th 2014 by Apex Book Company

From every corner of time and space, sometimes people go missing without a trace. They never come back.

Get lost in the long stone halls of the maze with the ones that find each other, form tribes, scrape out a like from rocks and sand. Their stories interweave. Maia Station is a scientist ripped from stasis, but she has no tools to test the way things are. Instead, she raises her daughter as best she can and survives. Wang Xin once had his head dipped in water, and a djinni in the water entered his eye. He sees the future, exactly as it was supposed to be if he hadn’t seen the light, but it does him no good in the life he has. In a world much like our own, Joseph comes home from a ten year high school reunion and encounters a light in the darkness. The light speaks.

My name is Jenny. Put me in your lung. Breathe deep.


About J.M. McDermott
His first novel was plucked from a slush pile and went on to be #6 on's Year's Best SF/F of 2008, shortlisted for a Crawford Prize, and on Locus Magazine's Recommended Reading List for Debuts. His short fiction has appeared in Weird Tales Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Apex Magazine, and Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet, among other places. He has a BA in Creative Writing from the University of Houston, and an MFA in Popular Fiction from the Stonecoast program of the University of Southern Maine.

By night, he wanders a maze of bookshelves and empty coffee cups, and by day he wanders the streets of San Antonio, where he lives and works.

He tries to write in between.