Posts Tagged ‘DayBreak Magazine’

“The Weight of Silence” is out! (UPDATED)

The spring 2010 issue of Alternative Coordinates magazine, containing my short story “The Weight of Silence,” has just gone online:

There’s a brief excerpt from the story here.  The full magazine is available for $2.00, either online or in a print edition.

I’ve put up story discussion and notes on my site’s Original Fiction page:

Last time, I held back a bit before posting the story notes, but this time there aren’t any major spoilers in them.

“The Weight of Silence” is a first for me — my first story to be published in online form.  The second (though the first one I sold), “No Dominion,” comes out next month in DayBreak Magazine.


UPDATE:  I’ve been sent the installment of the Alternative Coordinates newsletter (which can be subscribed to here) which announces the spring ’10 issue, and here’s what it says about TWoS:

Our latest issue features an original story from Christopher L. Bennett. Christopher is well known for his Star Trek media tie-in novels. The Weight of Silence is a beautifully written human survival in deep space story with just a little bit of romance. We know you’re going to love it.

I’m very flattered.

Two weeks

Just two weeks after my last story sale, I got a letter of acceptance for another of the batch of stories I recently put on the market.  Details to come later.

Two weeks between original fiction sales is a record for me.  I submitted stories for five years before I made my first sale, and it took nearly two more years to make the second.  After that, it was nine years before my third.  What happened?  Well, most of what I wrote back then wasn’t that great.  Or at least it wasn’t suited to the short form, cramming in too many concepts and too much worldbuilding.  Eventually I became convinced that I wasn’t cut out for short fiction, and then my Star Trek writing took over my attention and kept me busy.  So I let my efforts at original short fiction fall by the wayside, concentrating instead on original spec novel manuscripts alongside my tie-in work.

But all that tie-in writing, including novelettes in five anthologies, helped me realize that I did have the ability to come up with viable story ideas of any length and write them reasonably quickly.  This led me to buckle down and do serious work on developing my concept for the Hub universe and actually write the debut story, “The Hub of the Matter.”  Selling that on my first try gave me new confidence.  And that led me to buckle down again and come up with a story for the Shine anthology of optimistic SF, the result being my upcoming story “No Dominion,” which I once again sold on the first attempt.

So those two sales gave me the confidence to keep trying.  Plus my tie-in work was slowing down due to the editorial upheavals at Pocket, so I had nothing but time to focus on original writing.  I also came to realize that if I wanted to make enough of a name for myself to catch the attention of agents, it would help considerably if I could sell more short fiction to establish my name.

So now, with THotM, “No Dominion,”  and my two sales this month, I’ve gone from zero original fiction sales in nine years to four in just under one year, three of which sold on the first attempt.  And I’ve got three more stories currently on the market, and nascent ideas for a couple more.

I’d say I’ve come a long way in the past year or so.

What I’ve been writing: followup

I fixed that awkward scene in my fantasy story — found a way not only to make it less awkward but to add a whole new level of creepiness (which in context is a good thing).  I’m not quite ready to submit it yet, since the scene before that bit is maybe a little too talky and I’m going to see if I can improve its flow.

I got to wondering something about the universe of “The Hub of the Matter,” my recent Analog story.  Namely, why do they risk sending live Hub scouts to test new vectors, a job that’s tedious and potentially lethal, rather than using robot probes?  I’ve thought of a couple of amusing answers, and I’ll try to work at least one of them into the next Hub story I write.

I reread “No Dominion” and concluded that it wouldn’t be too hard to rework the Default-verse history to incorporate it — but I just decided this morning that I don’t want to.  As I said, it has ramifications that would have rather sweeping impact on the Default-verse and limit my storytelling in some ways.  Also, on reflection, I think it maybe exaggerates the degree to which certain new technologies would spread through society, which works in the context of a single story exploring the possible ramifications of those technologies, but isn’t necessarily likely or inevitable in a larger future-historical context.  Part of my reason for wondering if I should incorporate “No Dominion” into the Default-verse was that I asked myself, “Why wouldn’t these technologies be adopted there too?”  And I realize now that, while they probably would be to some degree, I doubt they’d be as ubiquitous.  I may incorporate the ideas into the Default-verse to a degree that’s appropriate, but the story itself would still stand apart.  I’m a little concerned that if the same ideas show up in the Default-verse, readers might get confused about whether or not “No Dominion” is part of it.  But then, that’s what my website annotations are for.

What got me started thinking about this was reading the TV Tropes page about “The Moorcock Effect,” defined as “the tendency of long-lived genre authors to, at what is usually a later point in their career, combine two or more distinct series they’ve created into a single continuity.”  Like what Asimov did later in life by combining his Foundation, Empire, and Robot universes into one (and even hinting at connections to The End of Eternity and possibly Nemesis).  Or what Larry Niven did much earlier in his career to create the Known Space universe.  Or the way Poul Anderson combined his Flandry and van Rijn tales into a single future history.  What I always wanted was to have a big, unified continuity from the get-go, to plan it out in advance and keep it all cohesive, rather than start out with separate pieces and later mash them up, possibly creating continuity problems in doing so.

But what I’ve lately ended up doing instead is creating a bunch of different universes that can’t possibly fit together because their histories and physical laws are too contradictory.  It was easy enough for Niven, Asimov, Anderson, etc. to combine their various series that took place at different points in the future and reused similar physics and technologies.  I don’t have that option with most of my universes.  And that’s cool.  I enjoy the prospect of exploring several wholly different approaches to FTL travel, to the prospects of posthuman evolution, and so on.  It’s more creatively liberating than sticking with a single set of assumptions.

Still, the temptation to construct a grand unified theory tying it all together is there, even though it’s pretty much impossible.  That’s why I was tempted to fold “No Dominion” into the Default-verse — because it’s the one other “written world” I currently have that’s similar enough in its physics and broad history that it could potentially be folded in if certain storytelling adjustments were made.  But there’s no point restricting the storytelling of the whole universe for the sake of consistency with a single story.

What I’ve been writing

What I’ve been writing… is checks.  Lots of checks for lots of bills.  And now my bank account is looking especially scrawny.  Please, somebody, buy my books!

But before that, yesterday, I managed to get some work done on three different projects.

  1. A tentative outline for a new short story, probably a novelette.  It features the same main character and setting as Spec Novel #1 and the prequel story I wrote a month or two ago.  It’s also a new stab at a concept I tried out long ago.  Once I wrote a story called “Footprints on the Sands of Time,” in which an astronaut discovered an ancient alien footprint on the Moon — but no other evidence of the aliens was ever found, since all but that footprint had been obliterated.  The story was about the characters’ frustration at the lack of answers.  At the end, I jumped back to the aliens and explained the origins of the footprint and such, then finished with the line, “Well, maybe that’s what happened.”  Cute idea, but too insubtantial.  I eventually cribbed and tweaked a few of its alien names for The Buried Age (Manrathoth -> Manraloth, Giriaen -> Giriaenn, Ngarol -> Ngalior), but that was it.  Anyway, now I’m trying a different tack.  It’s an artifact instead of a footprint, and I’m using it more as a vehicle for character exploration rather than having the whole story just be “Well, we don’t know the answers and that’s annoying.”
  2. A rewrite pass of my second fantasy story, the one I wrote a couple of weeks ago.  I find I’m pretty satisfied with it, and was rather moved by the ending.  There’s still one key event whose execution I find rather awkward, though, so I’m going to try to think of a better way of handling that.
  3. Rereading what I’ve done so far of Spec Novel #2, refreshing my memory before I pick up writing again, and doing some tweaks.  This is the book that’s an expansion of “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide.”  The main tweak I made yesterday: In the original story, I went with the standard gimmick of translator gizmos that render the aliens’ speech into English in a synthesized voice.  It recently occurred to me that with augmented reality starting to catch on, the characters would probably have optical implants that could project info into their field of view, so I’m reworking it so they get the translation as subtitles.  I think that’s a better approach since you don’t have the difficulty of hearing the translation over the original speech, and since you can pay attention to the alien speech and maybe pick up the vocabulary faster than if there were a synthesized voice drowning it out.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking about my upcoming story “No Dominion.”  I remarked before that I didn’t think it could work as part of my default universe (the universe of both spec novels and the related stories), but now I’m starting to wonder if maybe I can tweak the Default-verse’s history to allow it.  It probably won’t be feasible, but it’s worth a rethink.  At some point I’ll have to reread “No Dominion” (which I’ll have to do anyway in the editing phase before publication) and think about whether it’s doable.  Or desirable.  There are ideas in the story that might be worth including in the Default-verse, but on the other hand it has ramifications I might not want to have to deal with.

New story upcoming! “No Dominion”

December 15, 2009 2 comments

I’ve gotten the go-ahead to announce the original story sale I’ve hinted at before.  The story is called “No Dominion,” and it’s scheduled to go live Friday, June 11 on the online DayBreak Magazine.  DayBreak is a spinoff of the Shine anthology, a 2010 print anthology of optimistic near-future SF stories.  It’s the brainchild of editor Jetse de Vries, who felt that too much print SF these days is dystopian, and that it wasn’t enough to show us futures we should avoid; it’s just as important to tell stories that point the way to the kind of future we should seek to build.  As a lifelong Star Trek fan, and someone who’s always felt the same way about SF, I figured this was right up my alley.

But as it turned out, I had trouble thinking of an idea. The anthology’s guidelines specified near-future SF, set within the next 50 years.  I tend to assume that things are likely to get worse before they get better, that climate change, overpopulation, and the impending technological revolution will create a lot of turmoil that we’ll have to work hard to overcome before things can really start improving.  Also I’m just not a near-future kind of writer, preferring to set my fiction farther afield in space and time.

So I kept setting this aside for later consideration, and almost missed the deadline as a result.  When I realized I only had three weeks left, I knew that was it — either I came up with something in the next 24 hours or I gave up completely.  I expected the latter — but by the next morning, I had the idea for “No Dominion.”  I wrote it within days, but then had to rework it when I took a closer look at de Vries’ posts about the kinds of stories he was looking for.  Luckily, the deadline was pushed back a month, giving me the time I needed to refine the story.  And apparently it worked.  There wasn’t room for my story in the anthology proper, but de Vries decided to publish the overflow in an online form, creating DayBreak Magazine for that purpose, and I was delighted when he offered to buy my story for the webzine.  It was my second original sale in just over six months, and will be my first story to debut in online form.

So what’s it about?  I don’t want to say much.  On the one hand, the title is from Dylan Thomas’s poem “And Death Shall Have No Dominion.”  On the other hand, it’s a police procedural.  Make of that what you will.  It’s my first published original story to be set on Earth.  It’s pushing the envelope of the Shine/DayBreak chronological parameters, about 48 years in the future, I think.  Certain technologies in the story are too advanced at that point for it to fit in my default original fiction universe, which is why it (anonymously) got its own entry in my list of all my fictional universes.

And I’m just sorry it doesn’t come out until June.  I was hoping it’d be closer to the release of “The Hub of the Matter” in the March Analog , which should be out within the next couple of months.  Still, two stories coming out within four months or so is pretty good.  I just hope it’s a harbinger of further original sales to come.