Thursday, September 3, 2009

A Box Full of Nothing

by Arthur Sanchez

This story can be read in its entirety:


What do Richard Matheson, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Ambrose Bierce, Damon Knight and Arthur Sanchez share in common? Richard Matheson, Harlan Ellison, Ray Bradbury, Ambrose Bierce, Damon Knight all had their work, or versions of their work, on the Twilight Zone. Arthur Sanchez's work would fit right in.

A Box Full of Nothing by Arthur Sanchez is a good read and story.

Why, you might ask, should I read a story that is good and not great?

Because there are damn few good stories out there.

Good is not a put-down. It is rather high praise. Mr. Sanchez puts aspects in his story that are so often left out. You see it is an actual story, not just a snapshot of life. It is more than a pretty picture painted with words. People interact, but more important the characters grow and evolve. Easy to do in a book, but not so easy in a short story.

It doesn’t start out with a strong and obvious hook, but rather a garage sale. What makes this work is the fact that in the story the writer gives us a reason to care about this particular garage sale.

While the opening paragraph has only a slight hook, it is a comfortable one. That feeling entices the reader to continue. If the writing were a food, it would be a comfort food; one that is easy to digest and not a struggle to keep from being intimidated. One you come back to willingly, time and time again.

Details are added to the story that makes the characters come to life, but the details are not crammed down the readers’ throat. Witness the excellent paragraph which introduces the second character. It builds curiosity as the character depictions are well written, but not over-written.


The story shows polish in the lack of grammatical errors, punctuation errors and spelling mistakes. That might not sound like a big deal, but consider this…most short stories are proofed and edited by their authors. Even with common spell check it is easy for a mistake to occur if and when it accepts a word like “red” instead of “read.” In the three thousand eighty-eight words of this story we noted no failing. Often times writers treat short stories as almost disposable. Mr. Sanchez does not.



You have been warned.

(‬Please realize this is a synopsis…a clumsy retelling that in no way reflects the quality of the author’s writing.‭)

The main character,‭ ‬Brian,‭ ‬is having a yard sale containing items which once belonged to his uncle‭ – ‬Max,‭ ‬who is now dead.‭ ‬We learn that Max had been a theoretical physicist who chose his work over his family.

Brian is tired and has been watching a woman who has been‭ “‬shopping‭” ‬the garage sale for several hours and is trying to pull a fast one by stuffing a box with valuable items on the bottom,‭ ‬junk on top,‭ ‬then preparing to make a low offer on what is apparently junk.

Sounds like a standard story of the suburbs,‭ ‬eh‭? ‬Well now it’s going to turn that elusive corner that takes the reader down the street known as What If Drive.

When the woman approaches to buy the box, the characters solidify in our mind. The writer shows us a hidden story behind the story in that she had been a colleague of the deceased and perhaps more.

Then the wooden box is found. A box that is empty, but sports a hidden compartment. In the course of Brian attempting to open the hidden compartment the woman becomes agitated and offers a large sum of money, piquing Brian's curiosity even more.

When he finally pries open the hidden compartment it has nothing in it. Literally. It starts sucking the air into it and does its best at getting his hand. When disaster has been averted, it is explained that Max had created a box filled with nothing and nature always wants to fill a space...with whatever is available.

Brian is still incredulous and has a hard time believing. He is told...and here is a line that is like looking into an infinity of mirrors:

"Everyone has a box full of nothing. Your uncle just had more of it than most."

The story then slides back into the "normal" world of light chit-chat and new friendship.


This story appears at Anotherealm and is 3,088 words long. The black font against tan background, along with the uncluttered posting of the story make it reader friendly and easy to read in its entirety at one sitting. Text is posted with a ragged right edge, rather than justified. The only "flaw" noted was the publishing of ***something*** which is the author's instruction to put the word in italic. Didn't happen. One out of 3,088? Not bad.

Interview With the Author -

Review: Where did the idea of combining a garage sale with science fiction come from?

Sanchez: I think garage sales are perfect breeding ground for the fantastic cause you never know what you are going to find. You don't know an object's history or its significance (if it even has one) so you are free to make up your own. As a writer of Speculative Fiction, I wanted to explore the idea that there could be more than an undiscovered copy of the Mona Lisa lying amongst the junk. I did write another story called Knock on Wood where a man buys a table at a garage sale and ends up with a wood nymph he can't handle. So in this story I wanted the object to have a significance based more on science than fantasy.

Review: Where was your first story published and what was the name of it?

Sanchez: My first published story was more of a narrative poem called, The Things a Man Would Fear. It was published by 2 AM Magazine.

Review: You have evidently had a good run of creativity. How many stories have you had published?

Sanchez: I believe the count is around one hundred. I've had stories published in everything from on line E-Zines, micro-press anthologies, to Chicken Soup for the Soul.

Review: Then we must ask, how many books have you had published?

Sanchez: To date I have self published two short story collections. Both of which can be purchased from my web-site...

Arthur Sanchez

... was that a shameless plug? I'm still waiting for that chance to get one of my novels published.

Review: We have compared you to several writers, but what author(s) has influenced you the most?

Sanchez: William Shakespeare for the beauty of words. Ernest Hemingway for the simplicity of a sentence. J.R.R. Tolkien for epic scale and grandeur. Stephen King for the evil that men do. Terry Pratchett for not taking the world (or myself) too seriously.

Review: With the good comes the bad. What do you dread the most about writing?

Sanchez: The blank page. It’s a cliche but it’s true. The toughest thing is to start writing. For the longest time I thought you had to have the whole story in your head when you started. It wasn’t’ till I realized that a story grows and evolves as you write and that it doesn’t matter where you start so long as you got started that I overcame the fear of the blank page. Now I write whatever I have in my head and don’t worry about where it’s going. When I’ve exhausted that material I go back and see what I’ve got. Is it a beginning, a middle, or the end? I then build off of that, going forwards and backwards, as the story demands.

Review: What do you like the most about writing?

Sanchez: Telling a good story. If I can get the reader to smile, laugh, cry, or even be angry, I’ve told a good story.

Review: When did you start writing?

Sanchez: High School. Like many of us I wrote these god-awful poems filled with angst and dark thoughts.

Review: If there was a raft with three people on it, a fellow writer – a publisher – and an editor; if you could only save one, which would it be?

Sanchez: It has to be the writer. It all starts with the word. Though a good Editor and a good Publisher are both vital to the process, without the writer there’d be nothing to edit or publish.

Review: Reviews often vary from reviewer to reviewer, so lets cut to the most important reviewer. What is the worst and best thing a reader ever said to you?

Sanchez: The worse thing was: “It’s o.k., I didn’t really get it.” To me, I really missed the mark if the person didn’t even dislike the story. The best thing was: “When I need to relax I sit and think about your stories.” To have a story stay with a person, so that they enjoy remembering it, means I was able to make words on a page come to life. It’s a kind of magic and it’s not easy to do. At least, it’s not easy for me.

Review: What is the first book you can remember reading that you liked?

Sanchez: J.R.R. Tolkien’s “The Hobbit.” After that book, I went looking for books to read. Prior to that, books were just class assignments.

Review: Have you ever thought of (or have) quitting writing?

Sanchez: Yes. Several times. But I had an acting teacher who once said to me: “If you can be happy doing anything else in this life then go do it. This is too tough a profession if you don’t absolutely love it.” Writing is like that. Gotta love it. I eventually discovered (after all the times I hung it up) that I actually love it.

Review: What is the biggest mistake writers make?

Sanchez: Taking themselves, their craft, and their stories too seriously. Too many people tie themselves up in knots for all the wrong reasons. So I’d tell anyone who wants to write to lighten up. You don’t have anything to prove to anyone but yourself. Your stories are good so long as you like them. You ARE a writer the moment you start to write. Being a published author is not the same thing as being a writer. Decide which you want to be. You get better by doing and not by complaining. Even the world’s best story will get rejected because it “really DOESN’T meet their requirements.” Move on and submit again.

Review: If you could have dinner with any author, alive or dead, who would you pick?

Sanchez: Terry Pratchett. The man is brilliant but unfortunately he’s been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. His “Diskworld” novels are witty, satirical, and often have great insight. It’s very sad to know that his abilities are slowly slipping away. I’d love to sit and talk with him.

Review: Your views on the new “Vampire Craze?”

Sanchez: I’m not into it myself but anything that gets people reading is a good thing. So bring it on. I’m working on a Werewolf novel so I hope to get in on the next big craze. ;-)

Review: What is your favorite joke?

Sanchez: Well, a Scotsman once told me a joke involving the Scots, kilts, and some sheep but I don’t think that would be appropriate here. I think one of the first jokes to stay with me was one about three Orthodox Jews who, out of genuine curiosity, attend a Catholic Mass. The Priest, put off by people of a different faith being in his church, proceeds to make announcements designed to make the men leave. Two of the three do but the third stays. Finally, in a desperate attempt to make the man go away, the priest actually declares that all the Jews must leave the building. At which point the statue of Joseph gets up, turns to the statue of Mary, and says: “Grab the kid, Mary, we’re out of here.”

I’m Catholic, and the joke was told to me as a playful jab at Catholic intolerance. But to me it’s a great play on perceptions. The priest allows his bias to cloud his perception and in the end insults the very thing he thinks he’s defending. The joke not only shows up the folly of prejudice and intolerance but it reaffirms that we’re all connected. We are all one human family.

What bad habits do you indulge in while writing?

Sanchez: Hmmm, I’m fairly focused when I’m writing so I don’t do a whole lot more than actually write. My bad habits kick in when I’m NOT writing.

Review: If you could change one event that occurred in your writing history, what would it be?

Sanchez: I mentioned figuring out that the best thing to do is to just write and let the story grow from your words. I wish I’d figured that out ten or fifteen years earlier. I’d probably have 200 stories published AND a couple of novels.

Review: What was the most fun writing endeavor you have done?

Sanchez: I was recently published in an anthology called: “Sha’Daa Tales of the Apocalypse.” The story I wrote (about a young monk who has to save humanity from a Demon invasion) was tons of fun. And the “Sha’Daa” anthology came about in the most unusual way. Imagine a writer (Mike Hanson) coming up with an idea and recruiting a dozen other writers (none of whom he’s ever met) to embark on a journey designed to produce a collection of short stories based on a common thread that runs throughout each of the stories. It was a wild concept and the journey from idea to publication was just as wild.

Review: What would you like people to say at your funeral?

Sanchez: “I told him that redhead was trouble.”

With that we thank Arthur Sanchez, author of A Box Full of Nothing and thank YOU, the reader as well. Remember, if you have a recommendation for an on-line short story or print book...drop us a line.