The Autobiography of @ - Jeff Abugov
This is a charming and entertaining short story about the symbol @. Who knew that so much personality could be in one little symbol that we use on a daily basis thanks to the email and Twitter/Instagram.
I had no trouble flying through this story and chuckled multiple times, all the while understanding that there was a lot more going on that what was written on the pages.
Extremely well written, with a surprisingly in depth plot. Lots of little twists that I wasn't necessarily expecting, but made for quite the enjoyable short read.
I highly recommend it.
Some Bio Information
Jeff Abugov graduated from Concordia University Film School in Montreal where his two student films won national awards at the Canadian Student Film Festival. He began his professional career writing for the NBC hit Cheers, for which he eventually became story editor. He served as executive story editor on The Golden Girls, then went on to write and produce such hit shows as Roseanne, Grace Under Fire, and Two and a Half Men, as well as writing and directing the feature film The Mating Habits of the Earthbound Human, starring David Hyde Pierce and Carmen Electra. He has received a Golden Globe Award, a Peabody Award, and three People's Choice Awards, as well as being nominated for a Humanitas Prize, a Canadian Screen Award, and a second Golden Globe.
1. What inspired you to write this short story?
At first, I was just zoning out while staring at my keyboard. I started to wonder why certain symbols had such prominent positions, and others less so. Then I started to wonder why certain symbols, such as ¢, weren’t even there at all. I began to think back to my early days as a fledgling writer on a typewriter, and wondered why @ was even included. Sure, it would be impossible to imagine a keyboard in this Internet age without @, but in the hundred or so years prior he would have been utterly pointless. The phrase “great American rags-to-riches story” laughingly occurred to me, and from then on I just played around with it in my head. It wasn’t until months later when I realized that it was actually an allegory of our own messed up socio-economic system that I realized I had to write it.
2. Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?
It’s different from project to project, and different still whether a work-for-hire or on spec (“@” was on spec.) Typically, I write my first pass very fast, almost a stream of consciousness, and it usually sucks. Then I go over it in pain-staking detail, obsessively slowly, removing all the sucky parts entirely and polishing the rest into something fun and shiny. The advantage of spec work is that you know you can quit at any time if it’s not turning out the way you want, which makes the whole process more relaxed and more fun, which I think in turn makes the end product much better. The disadvantage, of course, is that you don’t get paid, and no one may ever know about it.
3. Do @ and * get to live happily ever after?
Lol, absolutely! They are perfect for each other in every possible way, and their love runs deep. That said, if I ever write a sequel, I’ll have to throw some marital problems their way. But, spoiler alert, their love will conquer all. I can’t imagine what a symbol divorce would be like. Then again… hmmm? On second thought, no promises. For their sake, I’d better not write a sequel.
4. How would you describe your writing style?
I’ll leave that one to the critics. It differs from project to project. In television, the gig is to write in the style of the show that hires you. In spec work, I prefer to just let the story flow so that the characters and events dictate the style, and I try not to analyze it. In fact, I’m almost afraid to analyze it because then I may start forcing it. As a result, most of my spec work seems to have different styles, although they all seem to have some element of humor – whether I want them to or not. That doesn’t really answer the question so, to repeat, I’ll let the critics figure out how to describe my style.
5. How long did it take you to write this short story?
Like I said, I played around with it in my head just for fun for several months before I even thought about writing it. The first pass took me less than a week, followed by four or five weeks of obsessively fixing it. But even after publishing it on Amazon, I made several more little changes and tweaks – one of the benefits (or curses) of electronic publication – and I still may make more someday. So, the question is… have I even finished it?
6. Describe the perfect writing environment.
For me, it’s my house, nobody else is home, there’s nothing good on TV, and there are no movies I want to Netflix. It’s either raining and dreary outside, or over a hundred degrees and smoggy so too uncomfortable to go out. All my friends are too busy with their own stuff to talk, text, Skype or Facebook with me. In other words, there is absolutely nothing else to do. I find boredom a very powerful motivator to get things accomplished. Of course, you rarely find that level of boredom-perfection so it usually takes some degree of discipline.
7. What’s your ultimate writing goal?
To one day write something that truly changes the world for the better. In the meantime, I’ll settle for entertaining and inspiring my readers, making them think beyond their own lives, making them laugh, and giving them a brief respite from their day-to-day worries. Come to think of it, those last two alone would be an accomplishment to be proud of – but I’m still not ruling out changing the world.