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.