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Posts Tagged ‘My original fiction’

I, not quite the jury

December 5, 2018 1 comment

I mentioned a couple of months ago that I got a summons for jury duty while I was busy writing Star Trek: The Captain’s Oath, so I managed to get it postponed for a couple of months — meaning until last Monday.

I went in hoping it would go like my first jury service nearly a decade ago, which I actually kind of enjoyed. That time, I was only called in for Monday to Wednesday the first week and just Wednesday the second week, and the one time I got called up for a trial, it was right before lunch and the parties settled during the break, so I never actually got inside a courtroom. (This is apparently very common — often, just the threat of a jury trial is enough to get someone to settle or plead out, so just being on call in the jury pool is all we need to do.) The rest of the time, I just sat around in the jurors’ lounge waiting to be called if needed. I was literally paid just to show up. And I was working on a rewrite of Only Superhuman at the time, so getting to spend a few hours a day in a quiet study lounge with a workspace for my laptop was perfect for my needs. That time, I found the experience so positive that I occasionally wondered if I could volunteer for another tour rather than having to wait to be summoned.

But this time was different. Given all the stress and anxiety I’ve been dealing with this past year thanks to my financial woes, I didn’t know how well I’d cope emotionally if I got assigned to be a juror on any kind of a serious or challenging case. Also, in recent years I’ve grown increasingly concerned about the racial injustice, police violence, and political corruption in America’s institutions, so I have less faith in the justice system than I used to. So this time around, I was very nervous about the whole thing. I spent the whole time on edge, afraid of having my name called.

It didn’t help that the daily stipend for being a juror is still exactly the same amount that it was nearly 10 years ago. I’d expected it to have increased by now. And I made the mistake of driving there on my first day, and I didn’t realize that my preferred downtown garage had raised its rates, so that parking alone ate up nearly 1/3 of my first day’s stipend. (The validated parking lots near the courthouse would’ve cost just as much, as it turned out.) I took the bus down after that, which meant walking several blocks in frigid weather.

Anyway, my first week did turn out to be uncannily similar to my first week 9 1/2 years ago. I showed up Monday morning and got the whole orientation speech, but I wasn’t called for a jury until Wednesday just before lunch (I got a hot dog from the courthouse convenience store, and it was pretty bad), and when I got back, we were kept waiting for more than an additional hour; then it finally turned out that the defendant had taken a plea, and since we’d been kept so late, we were released for the rest of the week. I was quite relieved that things had played out so much like they did the first time. (Oh, and we got free donuts Wednesday morning.)

The main difference is that I didn’t have a work in progress to rewrite this time. I’m between projects and was trying to come up with a plot idea for my next story, something I was able to do on Tuesday and Wednesday while riding the bus and walking the courthouse halls for exercise. (If you sign out for your 15-minute break and write “Walking” on the form, they cut you some slack if it takes longer than that to complete a mile, which is 7 laps around the corridors on the jurors’ floor.) Otherwise, I used the time to read the latest Analog issue, the one containing my story “Hubstitute Creatures.” I got it a couple of weeks ago, but I saved it for jury duty. There are some impressive stories in this one; I particularly liked “Pandora’s Pantry” by Stephen L. Burns, a robot-chef story that went in an unexpected and very satisfying direction, and “Learning the Ropes” by Tom Jolly, a story of interplanetary intrigue and tether propulsion in a setting that could almost be part of the historical backstory of Only Superhuman. I finished the magazine in my first week, and on Wednesday after I was released, I went over to the downtown library and picked up some books so I’d have something to read over the weekend and on week 2. One was a collection of Will Elder-illustrated comics stories from EC Comics’s 1950s SF, horror, and humor anthologies; most of them weren’t great, but there were a couple of Ray Bradbury adaptations and a couple of impressive tales that were almost Twilight Zone-worthy. And some of the parody stories were nostalgic for me, since I remembered reading them in my father’s pile of old humor comics back in the day.

So anyway, I was hopeful that week 2 would recapitulate my first time as closely as week 1 did. And I did get Monday and Tuesday off, which was good, because over the weekend, I came down with a bug of some kind — the inevitable result of having spent three days surrounded by dozens of people in public places in winter. If the pattern had continued to match the first time, I’d be called in on Wednesday and that would be it. But of course, there was still the chance that I’d be called to another jury and all bets would be off.

So imagine my surprise and relief when I checked the website Tuesday afternoon and it said that, for jurors of my group number who’d started on November 26, “your service is now complete.” I wasn’t needed back again at all! I guess it must be a slow week for crime and lawsuits. Maybe it’s the weather. But I’m glad I didn’t have to lug myself to the bus stop while I was sick. And now I’ve done jury service twice in my life and have yet to see the inside of a courtroom.

Of course, I wouldn’t have minded making more than three days’ worth of money from this (especially since parking and bus fare ate up so much of it already), but another day or two wouldn’t have made much difference. Fortunately, my manuscript for The Captain’s Oath has now been approved, so I should be getting my final advance from that pretty soon. And now I have about a week and a half until the copyedits for that are due in, which I hope will be enough time to write that new short story I plotted last week. It’s for an open-call anthology whose submission deadline is the end of the month, so I’m cutting it pretty close. But at least I’m free to focus on it now.

So that’s my jury-duty story. Maybe you were hoping for something more exciting, but I’m quite glad it turned out to be so uneventful.

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My “Around Cincinnati” interview is online!

November 19, 2018 2 comments

My interview with Barbara Gray for WVXU radio’s Around Cincinnati program has now gone live:

New Sci Fi Short Stories From Local Author Christopher Bennett

It’s a bit edited down from what I remember, but most of it is there — my brief dramatic reading from Among the Wild Cybers, some talk about my origins and approach as a writer, and a bit more information about Star Trek: The Original Series: The Captain’s Oath.

Man, my voice is starting to sound older. I don’t remember sounding so rough and quavery.

“Hubstitute Creatures” notes now up

Analog SF&F Nov/Dec 2018I finally got my author copies of the November/December Analog, so I was able to verify page numbers and post my annotations for “Hubstitute Creatures” at last, as well as belatedly putting up the non-spoiler discussion on the main Hub page. I held off on that because it mentioned a last-minute correction that I’d been assured had been made, but I wanted to make extra-sure it actually had been before I posted. Anyway, that’s all up now, plus I belatedly added the “…And He Built a Crooked Hub” annotations link to the top menu, which I’d neglected to do before (though the link was available from the main Hub page). So now you can find out how I chose Nashira Wing’s Cantonese name, Wing Wai-hing (惠慶), revealed in “Hubstitute Creatures” for the first time.

This issue also includes a review of my Among the Wild Cybers collection in its book review section, The Reference Library, and I’ve added a quote from that to the main page and the AtWC page.

Radio interview upcoming!

I just got back from Cincinnati Public Radio, in the same studio that used to belong to WGUC-FM during the time my father worked there as an announcer and programmer, to record a brief interview for its sister station WVXU’s Around Cincinnati program. I spoke with one of the show’s presenters, Barbara Gray, about Among the Wild Cybers and Star Trek: The Original Series: The Captain’s Oath, and about my writing in general; plus I got to dust off my radio voice to do a brief reading from the anthology’s title story, “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele.” The interview will air during the Sunday, November 18 edition of the program, which runs from 7-8 PM Eastern. Afterward, there will be an online edition that I’ll post a link to here.

In other news, I had a physical the day before, and it looks like I’m still basically healthy; indeed, my cholesterol levels, which have been slightly high in the past, have improved significantly since my last physical. Which surprises me, given that I’ve been exercising less and consuming more sugar this past month or so in the rush to get The Captain’s Oath finished. I wish I knew what caused the improvement. As for my new glasses, I’m still getting used to the new prescription. I think I may need to have them adjusted a bit to align right with my eyes. I was planning to do that yesterday after my physical, but the glasses place near my doctor’s office was closed for renovation, and it would’ve required driving well out of my way to get to the next-nearest one.

Meanwhile, I got my editor’s revisions of the Captain’s Oath manuscript on Sunday, and I’ve got until Monday to do whatever further revisions I want to do. After that, I’ve picked up a bit of paid copyediting work with an e-book publisher — not paying much, but it’s nice to have a little something extra. I started doing some work for them a few months back, but I only got a couple of manuscripts edited before I had to devote all my effort to Oath. Beyond that, I’m planning to work on various original-fiction projects I’ve had in mind for a while. It’ll be nice to be free to focus on those at last.

Emerging into the light

October 26, 2018 1 comment

Hey, folks. I’ve been neglecting the blog for a while since I’ve been busy trying to make my tight deadline on my novel. Good news — I just made it. And it was recently revealed what that novel is — Simon & Schuster and the major book-buying sites have posted listings for Star Trek: The Original Series: The Captain’s Oath by yours truly. There’s still an official announcement coming up sometime from StarTrek.com, so I don’t want to give any details until that happens. But at least the word is out — I’m doing Trek again.

As my readers know, I went through a period of severe financial hardship due to the delay in getting the Star Trek license renewed, in combination with delays in several other projects I had going, so that pretty much all my sources of income were postponed at the same time. My fans very generously helped me through the worst of it (and those who did have been thanked in the book’s acknowledgments), but the stress and depression resulting from the career slowdown made it difficult for me to get back to work. Since we were delayed so long and wanted to get back up and running as soon as possible, I was given a tight deadline, but it was still a struggle to get myself back into gear. I talked about my delays and my coping efforts somewhat in my September post. I think my use of coffee and sugar to stimulate my brain helped, or at least the placebo effect did, since I was able to hold my focus better after that and make some real progress. I think I wrote more than half the novel within the last 3-4 weeks. As usual, I managed to gain the most momentum once I got to the climax and denouement of the two main story arcs, and got more done on the last day of writing each arc than on the previous several days. So I got the first draft basically done 5 days before the deadline. However, I then needed to add some peripheral/stylistic stuff that took a fair amount of thinking, and I also realized I needed to add another scene to tie off a major character thread, so all that only gave me time to make one revision pass through the manuscript before turning it in. I’m sure there will be more tweaks to come once my editor sends me her revisions, but at least I made the deadline in spite of everything. This was a rough one, and I’m glad to be through it.

By contrast, it’s taken me only 3 days to write the first draft of my next commissioned story, including one day for preliminary work and two for actual writing. This is the story for the Footprints in the Stars anthology that I mentioned back in August. I’ve got until March to turn it in, but I’ve been eager to write it, so once I was finally done with the Trek novel, I dove right in. It came easily because it’s a story I’ve had in mind for years — actually it was originally going to be a flashback chapter in a novel — and it’s in a milieu that I know well and that comes easily to me. Also, it was only 5000 words. Seriously — that was my maximum target length, and the first draft came out at exactly 5000 words — well, including the bit up top with my contact information and “approx. 5000 words.” Although I’ve already made a tweak that cut it down about 40 words, and I’ve got 5 months to do more revision and refinement. But I’m glad it’s written at last, and so quickly. I guess I’ve still got some of my creative momentum going from the Trek novel. I should try to see how much else I can get written before that wears off.

Meanwhile, the November/December 2018 Analog with my story “Hubstitute Creatures,” the concluding tale of the second Hub trilogy, should be out this week, though Analog‘s home page has not yet been updated to reflect it. I’ve put up subscription and ordering links for it on this site’s home page.

Oh, and one other thing I’ve done now that my novel-writing seclusion is over and now that I’m not quite so broke anymore: I’m finally getting a new pair of glasses. My current pair is so old, with the scratch-resistant coating so worn out on the right lens (my only good eye), that it’s hard to get an entirely clear field of vision. And I’ve gotten a bit more nearsighted in the 4 years since my last pair, so I need a new prescription for distance vision. Yesterday I went to the glasses place with their own eye doctor, got my new prescription, and bought my new pair. It’s the place that used to promise they’d have your glasses done in about an hour, but my appointment lagged late enough that they’d be closing the lab before my glasses would be ready, so I still have to go back sometime today to pick them up. Which actually worked out better in a way, since I didn’t have to hang around at the mall for an hour trying to find something to do. Although it means I have to make that long drive twice in as many days.

Anyway, I’ll try to get back to posting a bit more regularly now that I’m not desperately striving to catch up with a tight novel deadline.

“Crooked Hub” discussion and annotations are up!

You know the drill — the new Analog is on sale now, so I’ve updated my Hub Series page with non-spoiler discussion of “…And He Built a Crooked Hub,” plus a link to the spoiler annotations page, which I trust folks will save until after they’ve read the story. You’ll need to scroll down a bit, since I decided to put it below the “Hubpoint of No Return” discussion, which just seemed logical.

I tried looking for online reviews to quote, but apparently it’s a bit early for those.

For some reason, while it took me ages to get around to finishing the previous issue I was in, I’m already nearly finished with the current issue; I’ve read everything but the novella. Some interesting stuff in this one, including a sci-fi twist on the French Revolution called “The Pendant Lens” by Sean McMullen, a story of AI activism called “Optimizing the Verified Good” by Effie Seiberg, a twisty monster-movie deconstruction called “The Unnecessary Parts of the Story” by Adam-Troy Castro, and a handy science-fact overview of “Alien Biochemistry” and its possible forms by Jay Werkheiser, useful for the SF worldbuilder.

“Crooked Hub” now on sale!

It’s a few days ahead of the nominal release date, but Analog Science Fiction and Fact has updated their homepage to show the September/October issue, featuring “…And He Built a Crooked Hub,” part 2 of my ongoing Hub trilogy. Here’s the issue cover:

I’ve updated my home page with ordering links.

What’s more, the Next Issue page at the Analog site reveals that the concluding story, “Hubstitute Creatures,” will be in the very next issue, November/December 2018, going on sale October 23. That’s sooner than I expected, since the first two installments were four months apart. But then, it makes sense, since there was a delay between my sales of the first story and the other two. Anyway, I’m glad we won’t have to wait much longer for the trilogy to be complete.

But I’ve belatedly realized that “…And He Built a Crooked Hub” is a career milestone in itself (I seem to be achieving a number of those recently). It’s my 10th Analog story! (Yippee!! Cue celebratory sound effects.) Which seems like a lot until you consider that it took me almost exactly 20 years to achieve it, since my first story was in November 1998. Although there was a gap of over 9 years between my second and third Analog stories, so this is also my 8th story in the past 8 1/2 years, which is nearly twice as good. It’s also my 5th story in the past 2 1/2 years, which is yet another doubling of the pace. I doubt I’ll be able to continue accelerating, though, since with this story and the next one, I’m already up to one story per issue. I’d say that’s about as good as it can get.

For what it’s worth, “Crooked Hub” is also my 15th distinct published work of original fiction overall, not counting reprint collections (the non-Analog ones being “No Dominion,” “The Weight of Silence,” Only Superhuman, “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing,” and “Aspiring to Be Angels”). I have 3 more coming up with “Hubstitute Creatures,” my fantasy story “The Melody Lingers” in Galaxy’s Edge, and the story I’ll be writing for the Footprints in the Stars anthology. Two more sales and I’ll be up to 20 works of original fiction. For comparison, my tie-in tally currently stands at 27 novels and stories, two Marvel and the rest Star Trek. At this rate, it may only be a few more years before I can say that more than half of my published works are in my own original universes — although since all but one of my original works to date are short fiction while close to 60% of my tie-in works are novels, I’m still a long way from balancing the scales in terms of word count. But that’s another post…