My collection, The Abandonment of Grace and Everything After, features my most notable non-flash dark fiction. It spans a decade of my work, so there are plenty of notable tales in it. In the collection, I explain the history behind, and motivation for, my stories, so to give you a glimpse, I wanted to blog about some of the most notable of those notable stories.
Let’s start with “Ian”.
First published in Ticonderoga Online in 2005, “Ian” is one of my personal faves. This story is so (in)famous, it is listed (first no less!) on the list of ‘fictional Ians’ on the Wikipedia entry for Ian (and no, I didn’t put it there!). It’s about as close as I’ve come to influencing pop culture.
Did you know the name ‘Ian’ means “God is gracious”? It is the Scottish Gaelic derivative of ‘John’. In the 1960s, it was in the top 10 of all male first names in the United Kingdom, and as I write this, there are estimated to be at least 300,000 Ians in that country alone. 300,000 of them! The name has been consistently popular in the USA, as well, ranking about 70th most common each year amongst male names. No doubt it has been similarly popular in Australia.
The opening line of the story says it all:
Every man I’ve ever met has been named Ian.
Okay, perhaps a slight exaggeration on my behalf, but there has been a particularly worrying confluence of Ians in my life, and it’s made me bloody wary of making new male friends! First up, after I met my wife, Angela, I discovered her first husband was named Ian. Compounding this, her best friend at the time was named Angela and her husband was named Ian. Apparently, the four of them—two Angelas and two Ians—had made a dynamic and confusing foursome until my Angela’s relationship went south.
As a nod to Angela’s upbringing, I located our Ian-haunted female protagonist in the wilds of North West Tasmania.
Back to the Ians … I’ve mentioned just two Ians so far. That’s not so bad, right?
Long story short, let’s just say a cavalcade of Ians has paraded through my life since. Notably, a good mate of Angela’s when she went back into study was Ian. Also, several years back, my mother met a new fella, and you guessed it, his name was Ian. Oddly, it was after “Ian” was written and published, which leads me to believe that I’ve only strengthened the Ian curse by writing this story. As fate would happen, that particular Ian is now my stepfather, and he’s a great bloke, but I think somewhere, if there truly is a God out there, he is hidden away in some secret corner of the universe having a hearty belly laugh at my situation. “God is gracious” indeed!
Ian is my curse, but I don’t have any such worries with young Jacks (unless I count my eldest stepdaughter, Jacqui, who we often refer to as Jacqs—phonetically, ‘Jacks’). As you’ll read from my other afterwords, there is a heavy streak of Bills (or Williams or Wills) in my family, with my grandfather, uncle, and second youngest brother being the most notable examples. There’s also a healthy stock of Johns (usually as middle names), culminating with my youngest brother, John. But no Jacks. No Ians, either, thank goodness!
I stated earlier that Ian is a derivative of John. You know what else is a derivative of John? … Shane.
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