We recently published Derek Heckman’s gorgeous “Revelations.”
Here, we ask him two questions about his story:
1) I noticed on Twitter, you were kind of spitballing this story as”a ‘Left Behind’-style story where the good Christians all get raptured and the End Times begin on earth and everyone just kind of makes it work.” Do you often think of your stories like this, or was this an exception?
Of the stories that I’ve written, the ones I’ve wound up liking the best, and the ones I’ve had the most fun writing, all kind of started as jokes. I don’t necessarily mean that as like ba-doom-tss, laugh out loud kind of jokes, but just that there was something sort of odd or offbeat about an idea, and it made me kind of smirk. It’s a little like when you’re hanging out with your friends and you all start riffing and doing a bit. Somebody says something and someone else expands on it or adds something new, and each new little joke just keeps the momentum going. That’s a lot of how I write. The story itself doesn’t usually turn out funny. I have a story in The Collapsar called “Accidents,” and while the finished thing is really pretty heavy, the germ of it was this kind of jokey thought of “a cheerleader has an existential crisis,” and I just sort of riffed it into a longer, more serious piece. The same thing happened with this one. I made a silly, early-morning tweet, but then saw all the ways it could keep going and, well, kept it going.
2) I love your take on Death — he seems like such a nice fellow! Actually, I just love your take on the apocalypse and that beautiful, beautiful imagery at the end. Do you think, with all this, that the people who got raptured might be envious of those left behind?
I’d say probably yes and no. The conceit of the story is that there is no cosmic trick or anything: The people who thought they would get capital-s Saved end up being right and they get to go to Heaven and be with their creator. On the one hand, I’m sure they were pretty happy about that, but on the other hand, can you imagine having to spend eternity with those people??? Even if you were one of them??? I think there’s a spinoff story to this one with Heaven as this kind of bitchy suburban lane where everyone’s trying to undermine and backstab each other all the time, because that’s what I think it would be like. The flip-side of that is that, back on Earth, the End Times are serious stuff. The rivers are full of blood and there’s all this disease and death. But I think if you got all the nay-sayers out of the way, there are people who could do some really amazing things, who really could figure out how to clean up all water and put an end to all the pestilence. I think more than anything that the people who would be left would also be the people who could see each other through all that. It’s all those people in Italy singing out of their windows during a lock down, you know? I think that that community aspect is something we have in us and is really something to strive for, apocalypse or no.