Nearest Far-Away Place in Planet Scumm #7

I’m super stoked to have a short story—”The Nearest Far-Away Place”—in the new issue of Planet Scumm. This is my third time publishing in the magazine, which has been a really nice experience each time. Tyler and the other folks at Planet Scumm continue to impress as each issue pushes their creative boundaries a little further. I’m honored to be invited along.

The cover illustration, which I am in love with, was created by Erika Schnatz, a production artist at Image Comics. The spot illustrations in this issue were all completed in a single, unbroken line by Planet Scumm’s creative director, Alyssa Alarcón Santo. The book is worth picking up for the illustrations alone. Seriously.

I hadn’t realized that I had a pull quote on the back cover until I was looking at the digital file. By the time I have a story either in print or digital, I kinda can only squint at it and just hope it all turned out all right. My wife read this story in an advance copy of the magazine and liked it. So there you go. It’s also a little more emotional than my usual goofball stuff. Other stories include:

  • Zone 59 by Rebecca Gransden
  • Dance Dance Apocalypse by Donald Jacob Uitvlugt
  • Reptile by Hailey Piper
  • The Perpetual Empire by Aaron Emmel
  • The Nearest Far-Away Place by Frank Smith
  • At the Border Post by Noah Lemelson
  • Original artwork by Erika Schnatz and Alyssa Alarcón Santo

Pre-orders are available now. Books will ship September 10.

New Story in Analog!

I have a short story called “Cactus Season” featured in the May/June 2019 issue of Analog Science Fiction and Fact. It’s one of those stories that feels near and dear to me. I’ve been working on a larger project and this story was a flashback that didn’t fit, but I liked it, so I developed into a longer thing.

The story is about a young girl and her father who make a living harvesting orbital debris. Though it’s set in a resource-deprived, far-future, I like to think it’s optimistic.

I’ve been grinding away at writing SF for a few years now. I enjoy doing it and can sometimes publish these stories. Writing SF is hard. There are rules to it. And expectations. I’ve spent a while trying to build a foundation of understanding to be able to write a decent SF story. Since I’ve published a few stories—in good places, even!—and all of these stories feature my particular quirks, I think I’m figuring out the rules a bit.

First you have to read other stories and then you have to find the stories and writers that you think are good. Maybe you rip them off for a little bit. Learn what people who know the genre know—as best you can. You don’t want to be boring, and you don’t want to present a well-worn idea as new. Neither Columbus nor the Vikings discovered America. There were a lot of people living there first.

At its most basic, a SF story must have a science-based premise, with a problem and a solution. This problem informs the plot. The setting can be of your choosing. Although if you think you can just revise a piece of short fiction to take place on another planet and throw in some zap guns and call it SF—you’re wrong. Trust me. People on the internet will call you out.

It can be a small problem—I keep asking the coffeemaker on this starship to give me a cappuccino but instead it keeps spitting out kittens! What am I going to do with all of these kittens?! And then the problem increases the stakes. Oh god, the kittens have melded with the ship’s AI and now they’re about to cause a galactic civil war. This problem needs a solution. Captain, it’s time to call in a quantum barista!

Su-u-ure that’s science, right? And hey who’s that right at the end? The human who will provide the emotional core to the story.

Anyway, I’ve been working on getting the nuts and bolts together so I can let my imagination run a bit more wild. Which is difficult to do if you’re a person who is sensitive to rejection. Gotta keep at it, though. Why do it unless you want to do it.

And wow. Having a story in a publication like Analog is such a dream. Wow.

Building a Box to Store My Weird Junk

Writing a blog in 2019 is tough. I mean, that’s what this is—not an article or a post or “content.” Writing, photography, art, music, ideas… We’re better than calling what we create “content,” like it’s just a bunch of SEO keywords shoved down the maw of an advertising company masquerading as a search engine anyway.

Ah, steered myself into what could be a hard ramble in the first graf. Excellent. This is going according to plan.

Anyway, I’ve kept a blog or website on and off since 2000. Blogger, TypePad, WordPress, possibly some garbage Web 2.0 thing, Tumblr, a bunch of WordPress and Tumblr blogs, a crappy site I coded myself, TinyLetter, a Medium account to publish some articles—and now I’m back at WordPress. (Is this just a roundabout way to say I’m old?)

It’s really good to be on WordPress again. The previous iteration of this site was on Tumblr. Never the right fit. Tumblr was fun until it wasn’t. Also, it never felt natural to write longer pieces on Tumblr. I had a TinyLetter when everyone was doing that, and it was nice. At some point in there, blogs died and RSS readers became something you had to pay for—if you wanted a good one.

Yeah yeah Twitter and Facebook and attention spans and millennials and the earth is flat, too. Sure those things killed blogs. They also didn’t. Like Luke to Leia, “No one’s ever really gone.”

I built this website because I am delusional enough to believe that I need to have one. I also bought the domain name a few years ago, and lost it once—which sucked. So I’m on WordPress because I like the service and I trust it about as much as I’ll trust any online company.

Thing is: WordPress is essentially a blog and now I have one again, and I should do something with that, which is a problem to solve in the doing. I need to do.

Like learning carpentry. You build a box, and you build another box, and soon you’re making bookshelves, cabinets, condos, dioramas for your Star Wars figures. Whatever.

WordPress is a box. Blogging is a box. Novels are a box. Articles are a box. Social media is a box. Life is a box! I’m here to build a box where I can put some stuff and keep it there for a while. Indefinitely, maybe.

So long way around again and—