short stories

Well, that was fast:

Now that’s a good-lookin’ book. That is a book you can make out with. I’m especially fond of the rocket-ship in the M-Brane logo. And like people say, there’s something special about holding a physical book that’s got your writing inside. But wait.. what about the back?

The poor image quality is my fault. If you can’t read it, it says “A snippet from Ed’s story is being used to sell this book, bitches.” Now that’s a good feeling.

M-Brane SF Quarterly #2 released yesterday. Collecting three issues of M-Brane, the book features fifteen sci-fi stories, including my very own “When We Were Mutants.”

I’ve read a third of the stories in it–they’re a strong, diverse bunch. At $9.95 on Amazon, would you call that a fine bargain? Or the greatest bargain in the history of things that cost less than their true value?

Pretty cool, right? And that big “NEW AETHER AGE FICTION!” on the cover? Why, that’s me!

That feels pretty good, being advertised that way. It says Hey, there are fans of the Aether Age, and here’s something new for them. I’ve been wanting to invent an SF/F subgenre for a while now. I didn’t invent the Aether Age, but I did help make it real. And now it exists outside the first anthology, too.

Fantastique Unfettered #2 releases in April.

For reasons beyond my ken, The Battle for Moscow, Idaho & Other Stories is selling like gangbustered hotcakes over on Amazon UK. For Kindle, it’s the #8th-ranked Anthology; in Science Fiction, it’s #14 among all anthologies, just below a volume of Philip K. Dick’s stories and just above a Star Trek novel.

It didn’t take many sales to push it that high, but you know what, that’s fucking badass: a Philip Dick and Star Trek sandwich with me as the meat. Didn’t see that one coming. Here’s to the splendidly refined taste of the United Kingdom!

Last night I sold “On the Reproductive Habits of Elves” to Sorcerous Signals, a fantasy magazine. The story will appear in May.

Sorcerous Signals is a smaller magazine, but I like their contributor-payment model. There’s a token upfront payment. Nothing special. But at the end of each story, there’s a PayPal donate button, and if enough donations are received to recoup the expenses of the magazine (just about every magazine but a few of the pros is run out of the editors’ pockets), 75% of the extra contributions are divvied up among the writers (and, I think, the artist).

Is it likely I’ll end up seeing more money from this? Probably not. The ratio of readers : readers who donate can’t be very high anywhere, and I expect the vast bulk of donations would run in the $1-5 range. But I think it’s a really, really smart thing to try. If a story ends up getting a lot of attention, there’s at least the opportunity for the magazine and the writer to be compensated. This is the sort of thing more markets should be trying. Ads and subscription fees have their place, but if you want to attract writers, you have to find a way to pay them. As a writer, I sent this story to Sorcerous Signals because they’re trying to make that happen. I’ll probably walk away from this with no more than enough to buy a meal. But the fact they’re taking a shot, that’s what won me over.

There’s almost no resistance to this particular concept, either–like a story? Well, you don’t have to try to hunt down the author’s email and contact them about sending them a check, which would feel kind of weird if you stop to think about it. Just click on this button and type in a dollar amount. Thank you very much, kind sir or lady-sir.

“On the Reproductive Habits of Elves,” by the way, was spurred by an idea I had while watching The Lord of the Rings: why can elves live so long but have so few children? What biological arrangement would lead to that outcome? A while later, I thought of a way to explore that conundrum dramatically, sat down at the keyboard, and voila. Find out the answer in a couple months.

Oh yeah. It’s time. Got a decent little twist for it, too. And I’m thinking long: like, novella-long. 15-30,000 words long. Stuff you’re a fool to write because there’s nowhere to sell it.

But that’s not really the case anymore, is it? Wish me luck.

Now available for the “Oh my God how can I not buy this at this very instant” price of $0.99, The Battle for Moscow, Idaho & Other Stories.

It’s six stories about 24,000 words long (roughly 90 pages). Four of them were previously published. Four are 4000-6000 words, one’s a flash piece of 600 words, and the other’s a Twitter-length story of 140 characters.

I changed the look of When We Were Mutants a bit, too. I don’t expect to start selling crazy copies just because I’ve got a second collection up, but I’ll be interested to see if it makes any difference at all; there’s some evidence out there that it takes a critical mass of available work build a readership.

Probably, the way to do that isn’t with collections of short stories, which don’t even sell when Michael Chabon writes them. Hmm, but what’s this fantasy novel manuscript doing sitting on my desktop? Maybe with a little revision…

The trap of doing a lot of writing is that, to make time for it, it’s a logical conclusion to start reading less. This isn’t the most brilliant strategy. It’s like trying to fuel your car by building a bunch of new cars.

So I’ve been trying to read more short stories lately. Aided by my birthday Kindle, in the last couple weeks I’ve read M-Brane SF #24. I’ve gotten my first exposure to Charles Stross in “Overtime.” I read The Aether Age. Mostly through Twitter links, I’ve picked up a few scattered stories from sites like Lightspeed. Oh, and after getting a subscription for Christmas, I received my first issue of Asimov’s; so far I’ve read John Kessel’s “Clean,” which I liked, and Neal Barrett, Jr.’s “Where,” which I didn’t–too underexplained, too little happening. (Though Barrett’s distinctive enough that I know I’ve encountered his work elsewhere and thought it was great.)

I’m aided in my quest to resume reading by Rise Reviews, a new site dedicated to coverage of stories from magazines and anthologies that don’t qualify as an SFWA professionally-paying market (i.e., they pay less than 5 cents/word). A strong review led me to Nadia Bulkin’s “Lucky You” in Ideomancer.

I’m glad I checked it out–it’s a cool, eminently readable piece about an immortal living through the modern age, the apocalypse, the quiet afterward, and the slow accumulation of change. I’m somewhat ambivalent about its fantastic underpinnings, but it worked. I liked it. I liked it well enough to click over to Bulkin’s bibliography, which I hope to follow up on as soon as I finish up my weekly deadlines (and get settled into a new freelance gig I just picked up–who knew, there are more opportunities in big cities).

A lot of short stories, I’m not too hot on them, or I admire the author’s craftsmanship but am not inspired to search out their other work. Rise Reviews pointed me in the right direction. For me, at least, they’ve already justified their existence: there’s good fiction out there beyond the pro zines. Sometimes, you just need a little help to find it.

Yesterday I got some terribly exciting news: AE: The Canadian Science Fiction Review accepted one of my stories.

Right, the same new magazine that pays professional rates. Getting published in prozines is, for people in my position, the ongoing quest: they pay a lot. Because they pay a lot, they get a lot of great stories. Because they get a lot of great stories, they get a lot of readers. And, once they’ve been around for a year, placing a story with them makes you eligible for the Science Fiction Writers of America. As an Associate member, yeah. But who doesn’t want to associate? Nobody, that’s who.

Oh, and it makes for a pretty great credit, too.

AE just started up a couple months ago, but they’ve already run some pretty great stories. I’m flattered to join them. They’re the level of market I’ve focused the last year trying to crack.

By strange coincidence, not two hours after I got the great news, I got the bad news too: Reflection’s Edge has shut down for the indeterminate future. Maybe forever. Apparently they posted notice last Halloween. I’ve been so busy dragging this house into the 21st century I only learned this now.

RE was the first place to publish me. In all, they published three of my stories. Editor Sharon Dodge always took an active editorial presence and I learned a lot working with her. For writers, they had an incredibly fast turnaround time (usually 0-3 days!) and, if you could snag the $50 bonus for their favorite story of the issue, paid respectably. For readers, they published just about everything under the sun–bigger genres like SF, fantasy, and horror right alongside erotica, westerns, whatever. There weren’t a lot of magazines like it.

For me, there are none. Because they published me first. They proved to me people would pay for my fiction. It’s hard to say where I’d be without them or where I’ll be five or ten years from now, but the reason I just made a pro sale is I kept writing and I kept submitting. I’m pretty certain I’d have kept writing whether or not I made that first sale to RE. But in terms of the confidence and experience it takes to keep sending your work out when all anyone ever says is “No,” that sale made a huge difference to me.

I had hoped, one day when I was famous, to send Sharon another story.

I forget if I just write “[number]” or “#[number]” in these posts. Probably a sign I should blog more.

Fact remains, a few hours ago, one year ago, I sold another story to M-Brane SF (pardon HTML errors, I’m drunk on margarita shooters, an idea compliments of Farscape). It’s my first sale in a few months and is thus pretty cool. And, if you’re into the whole “dividing time into years thing,” it was my last sale of 2010, which was a moderately productive year.

I’ve got some resolutions in mind, but lack the sobreital capacity to declare them. More, perhaps, tomorrow; or, more likely, January 2, the day I plan to be able to continue functioning.

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