By its very nature (and presumably because of our name), SFFWorld.com tends to attract authors from all over, well, the world. This year was no exception. When we opened up the submission process, we were delighted to see stories from rural China, Indonesia, and the Middle East. We also got a story from a Brit living in an often overlooked (over here in the States, at least), but historically pivotal, country: Poland.
Allow me to present…
Christopher’s story went beyond this world. While steeped in the seemingly cliché trappings of eastern European government repression, The Cell Wall is about perseverance and how a map can lead us home where ever we might end up in this great big universe. It’s funny and surprisingly touching.
What inspired you to write a story about a map?
Travel has long been an obsession with me. I have visited 49 countries so far in my life, though now that I am married and have two young children, my opportunities for exploration have become rather limited. Where I am physically unable to go, I now travel to with my imagination; maps are an indispensable part of the adventure. Poring over satellite imagery, tracing the routes of the major rivers, seeing how cities are put together – all of this is possible with a well-made map. Considering how much my sense of self is fuelled by maps, it was inevitable that one would someday form the heart of one of my stories.
Do you have a special place where you go to recharge your creative muse?
No, not really. I don’t have the luxury of a special place. I live a busy life; I teach English, which is not a particularly lucrative career; I have a family to feed, my wife isn’t working, so I take whatever hours I can at my school. When I need to recharge, I pick up a book and escape into its pages, even if only for five minutes between lessons. When I need to, I can whisk myself off to the world Andres Neuman created in Traveller of the Century, or I can set off for foreign shores with the travel writing of Paul Theroux, Bruce Chatwin, or Geoffrey Moorhouse. These are my special places; I surround myself with books; their spines are always visible and are there to console me with the promise of future pleasures.
Can you tell us about a time when you wished you had a map?
Certainly. The first time I set off on my independent travels was back in 2003, when I bought an InterRail pass and headed off for a month-long tour of Europe. I got off to a bad start, however, thinking that my cheap Parisian hostel would be an easy one to find. Of course, it was anything but. It was hidden off a main road in the Montmartre district, and wasn’t marked on any of the big tourist maps. I spent a good four hours looking for my hotel, growing increasingly desperate. I bought an expensive beer in a local bar so I could quiz the waitress, but she was a fellow Brit just landed and knew nothing; I tried to pay a taxi driver to take me, but he waved me away with a laugh as if I was joking. I found the address, eventually, and saw why it was so funny – it was about 200 metres from the taxi rank. The name of the street is burned into my memory – Square Caulaincourt. Having a good map then would have made such a difference.
Christopher Walker is a writer and English teacher based in the south of Poland. His work appears in the anthologies ‘Circuits & Slippers’ and ‘In Medias Res’, as well as the literary magazines WOLVES and Spinebind. His website is http://www.closelyobserved.com.
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