Sorry Please Thank You
“First Person Shooter”
“First Person Shooter” is from Charles Yu’s second story collection, Sorry Please Thank You (Pantheon). Yu is the author of the award winning novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe, and the short story collection, Third Class Superhero. His fiction has been published in a number of magazines and literary journals, including Oxford American, The Gettysburg Review, Harvard Review, Mississippi Review, and Alaska Quarterly Review, and cited for special mention in the Pushcart Prize Anthology XXVIII.
In 2007, he was selected by the National Book Foundation as one of its “5 Under 35,” a program that highlights the work of the next generation of fiction writers selected by previous winners of the National Book Award.
Yu said this about his story: Stories don’t ever flow out of me – things might flow out, but I wouldn’t call them stories. You know? Stories, when I am lucky enough to produce them, drip out of me, drip by excruciating drip, and it is not a pleasant process. But this story, for some reason, I just enjoyed writing it from the outset. The idea of a zombie in a Wal-Mart-like store was like an instant fun thought experiment, almost like I was a video game designer, or playing some kind of simulation game: I placed the zombie in the store, toggled the settings, and let her loose to see what would happen.
I quickly figured out it had to be night time (for an empty store – otherwise if the store was crowded it would be a very different story). I wanted her to be lonely, and a little sad, but also filled with hope. This zombie, she is looking for something, she really secretly thinks that, out of all the millions of products in the city-sized store, there might be one perfect combination of items that, when taken together, will solve her problems. Will change her life. She’s an optimist, this zombie, and kind of a romantic, and I hope our dear readers enjoy her brief journey through the retail world.
I wrote “First Person Shooter” for Wired.com – they have this fantastic blog on the site called GeekDad, and in 2010 GeekDad had Zombie Week. So this story actually was an assignment for Zombie Week. Before that, I had never written a piece of fiction that was specifically for a particular outlet, with constraints and a deadline. I think it was the very focused nature of the piece (it had to be about zombies, it was going to be read online) that freed me up, sort of unblocked me, because I have to say that this story absolutely just flowed out. And that is something that never, ever, never ever ever happens to me.