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Posts Tagged ‘The Weight of Silence’

Another ANALOG story coming — “Twilight’s Captives”

This is threatening to become a regular thing — I’ve sold my seventh story to Analog Science Fiction and Fact. Called “Twilight’s Captives,” it’s a novelette about an interspecies diplomatic crisis in which a tense hostage situation, created and complicated by a fundamental clash of human and alien values, threatens to spark an interstellar war.

Like my previous Analog story, “Murder on the Cislunar Railroad,” this tale is in my main original-SF universe; but it’s centuries further in the future and delves into humanity’s FTL interstellar era, a period that to date has only been peripherally glimpsed in my Buzzy Mag story “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing” (and foreshadowed in my long-out-of-print “The Weight of Silence”). This is also only my second published story in that universe to feature sapient aliens, the first being my professional debut, “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” way back in 1998. I’ve developed a number of alien races for my default universe over the years, putting a lot of thought into their evolution and culture and history, but somehow I’ve almost never managed to sell any stories that featured them (in part because I was saving the main ones for novels — a strategy I’ve been reassessing lately). But “Twilight’s Captives” introduces aliens of three distinct types, belonging to two major astropolitical unions. I’m glad I’m finally getting the chance to flesh out this underutilized aspect of my future history.

Like “Cislunar” and “Butterfly’s,” this is actually an older, unsold story that I recently took another stab at, emboldened by my success with those two. But this one required surprisingly little reworking to make the grade — just a little streamlining here and there and a stronger opening paragraph. Which goes to show how important a good beginning is.

The publication date hasn’t been set yet, but I’ll let you know when it is.

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I’ve sold a novelette! “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing”

I’m pleased to announce the sale of an original novelette, “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing,” to the online magazine Buzzy Mag. It’s a transhumanist love story set in a young, distant star system where human castaways have transformed themselves to survive among the asteroids. It may sound a bit similar to the setting of Only Superhuman — and in fact it’s set in the same overall universe — but the transhumanism here goes much farther than anything in Emerald Blair’s world.

I’m particularly pleased because this is a story I originally wrote a long time ago, around the time of my earliest sales to Analog, but was never quite able to get into a sellable condition. I got a slew of rejection letters from editors telling me it was a beautiful, poignant tale but didn’t quiiiite work for them, and I couldn’t figure out how to get it over that last barrier. Eventually I realized that, on top of that, I’d made some scientific mistakes in my portrayal of the setting, so I shelved it until I could figure out how to resolve both problems. And that’s where things stood for quite a while. But last year, I tried revising it to submit to a themed anthology that I felt it might work for, and I noticed a couple of plot problems I hadn’t spotted before and reworked the story to fix them. It didn’t quite fit the anthology, as it turned out, but apparently the revisions did the trick, since Buzzy Mag bought it. I’m really glad that the story will finally see the light of day after all these years.

This will be my fifth published work in my “default” universe, after “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide,” “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele,” “The Weight of Silence,” and Only Superhuman. It doesn’t really have any direct connections to any of the others, though — it’s too far removed in space and time for that. But it’s one more small step to fleshing out that universe and maybe, eventually, building it into a more unified whole. It’s also my first published default-universe tale since 2000 to be set outside the Sol System.

The publication date for “The Caress of a Butterfly’s Wing” hasn’t been determined yet, but I’ll announce it once it’s set.

ALTERNATIVE COORDINATES is gone

I’ve just discovered that the Alternative Coordinates webzine has apparently gone completely dead, taking my story “The Weight of Silence” along with it.  Effectively, that story is no longer in print.  Hopefully I’ll find a way to get it back into print sometime.

I guess online fiction magazines are still something of a gamble, even though they’re increasingly common these days.  But it’s always a shame when one of them goes under.  I’m grateful to Jeff Cochran and the staff of Alternative Coordinates for publishing one of my stories, even if it was only online for 10 months.  I hope they bounce back in some form.

Earth: A nice place to visit…?

In my last post, I talked about the interactive Google Maps thingy at the end of “No Dominion” on its DayBreak Magazine page.  It occurred to me that “No Dominion” is the only one of my published original works that could have a Google Maps page, since it’s the only one that’s set even partly on Earth.  And the first draft of it was set on a habitat in Earth orbit!  In fact, of my five published original stories, only the latest two, “The Weight of Silence” and “No Dominion,” are even set in the Sol System.  “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide” and “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele” are set within ten parsecs of Earth, respectively en route to and at Gamma Leporis.  “The Hub of the Matter” and its upcoming sequel “Home is Where the Hub Is” are set near the center of the galaxy, 40,000 light years from Earth, and at various other locations within a volume 300,000 light-years in radius around that point.

What can I say?  I like space.  It was Star Trek that introduced me to science fiction, and the original show never went to Earth except in the occasional time-travel story.  And space is just so much roomier than Earth.  The tastes of the prose SF community turned away from “space opera” for a while, though that’s somewhat reversed itself by now, but I never lost my preference for it.

Ironically, my first published Star Trek tale, SCE: “Aftermath,” was set primarily in San Francisco and, I believe, pretty much entirely within the Solar System (other dimensions notwithstanding).  However, I think the only things I’ve written since then that are actually set on Earth (at least from the perspective of the viewpoint characters) are a few pages toward the end of The Buried Age and the briefing in the first chapter of Greater Than the Sum (although the prologue of Over a Torrent Sea opens in orbit of Mars).  My upcoming Star Trek DTI novel will probably spend more time on Earth than any of my other Trek fiction, although it features quite a lot of other locations as well.

I was going to say “than anything I’ve had published to date,” but then I remembered my X-Men and Spider-Man novels, both of which are set entirely on Earth (alternate timelines notwithstanding).  However, my original idea for the Spidey novel had Spidey travelling to another planet; I liked the idea of getting him out of his comfort zone (and, admittedly, more into mine).  It was decided it was too much of a departure for the character, but I’m still hoping I’ll get a chance to tell that tale someday.

Making stories shorter

I’m in between turning in the outline on Star Trek DTI and getting it approved, so I’ve been doing a bit of work on original stuff in the interim.  I decided to revise an old novelette that I haven’t had much success selling.  I belatedly realized part of the reason why.  I’d attempted to give all the story’s characters nuance and texture, but I somehow ended up making them all rather unlikeable.  Maybe that’s because it’s a murder mystery and I wanted them all to be plausible suspects, but then, the detective wasn’t much better.  So I wanted to strip away the unappealing aspects of the characters.  I also decided that I wanted to trim this 10,000-word story down to 7500 or less, short story length, since that would increase the number of markets I could submit it to.  (This was kind of inspired by my recent realization that I’ve never actually had a short story published, unless you count “The Weight of Silence” at 7600.)  I figured I could kill two birds with one stone, cutting out the unappealing character stuff along with the rest of the extraneous verbiage.

I wasn’t sure I’d actually be able to  meet my goal of 7500 words, but as of a little while ago, I managed to pull it off.  One thing I realized in the process was that I’d put in a lot of unnecessary worldbuilding.  The story’s in my “Default” universe, and as with much of my Default-verse fiction, I tried too hard to establish the story’s place in the larger continuity, to elaborate on backstory and historical and social context, even though a lot of it wasn’t really necessary to tell the story per se.  I guess that’s an important lesson to learn for an aspiring short-story writer: keep the focus tight.  Only include what you need in order to convey the crucial information about the single specific event you’re depicting.

Indeed, detailed descriptions in general are unnecessary in short stories.  I ended up stripping out a lot of the physical descriptions of characters and settings, paring it down to the bare essentials, and doing the same for a lot of the description of characters’ expressions, reactions, etc., letting it rely more on the dialogue.  Again, keeping the focus tight on the specific ideas that are relevant to the story, leaving out extraneous detail.  Short-story writing is about tightness of focus.  It’s not something that comes naturally to me.

The next bit of story reworking I want to do is the opposite in some ways, yet symptomatic of the same problem in others.  I got one of my recent short stories rejected with a very helpful note that I wish I’d gotten sooner: namely that the early portions of the story focus too much on setting the scene, on worldbuilding, and not enough on establishing the viewpoint character, what’s at stake for him, and why the reader should care.  This story actually turned out to be one of my shortest; I succeeded in the part about focusing on a single specific event and leaving out unnecessary detail.  But maybe I left out too much detail on the main character, or maybe included it too late and the other exposition too early.  I’ll have to look into remedying that, and since it came out so short, I have room to expand it where I need to without having to worry about cutting stuff.   But maybe cutting stuff from the early portions is what I need anyway.  Remains to be seen.

How many words? (UPDATED)

Today in a thread on the TrekBBS, someone asked my colleague David Mack whether his published word count to date had topped one million words.  That got me wondering how many words I’ve gotten published (i.e. stuff I’ve been paid for).   It might also just be useful for my future reference to have a list of all my word counts.  So here goes:

ORIGINAL FICTION

  • “Aggravated Vehicular Genocide”: 12,000 words
  • “Among the Wild Cybers of Cybele”: 9400
  • “The Hub of the Matter”: 9300
  • “The Weight of Silence”: 7600
  • “No Dominion” (upcoming): 7900
  • “Home is Where the Hub Is” (upcoming): 9800

Total original fiction count: 56,000 words

MARVEL NOVELS

  • X-Men: Watchers on the Walls: 83,500
  • Spider-Man: Drowned in Thunder:  71,000

Total Marvel novel count: 154,500 words

STAR TREK NOVELS

  • Ex Machina: 110,000
  • Orion’s Hounds: 105,000
  • The Buried Age: 132,000
  • Places of Exile: 55,000
  • Greater Than the Sum: 78,500
  • Over a Torrent Sea: 89,000
  • Seek a Newer World (sold but unpublished): 82,000

Total ST novel count: 651,500 words

STAR TREK SHORT FICTION

  • “Aftermath”: 26,000
  • “…Lov’d I Not Honor More “: 12,000
  • “Brief Candle”: 9800
  • “As Others See Us”: 9100
  • Mere Anarchy: “The Darkness Drops Again”: 28,900
  • “Friends With the Sparrows”: 10,300
  • “Empathy”: 11,000

Total ST short fiction count: 107,100 words

STAR TREK MAGAZINE ARTICLES

  • “Points of Contention”: 1040
  • “Catsuits are Irrelevant”: 1250
  • “Top 10 Villains #8: Shinzon”: 820
  • “Almost a Completely New Enterprise”: 800
  • “The Remaking of Star Trek“: 1350

Total article count: 5260 words

All told:

  • Novels: 806,000 words (724,000 to date)
  • Short fiction: 163,100 words (145,400 to date)

Total fiction: 969,100 words (869,400 to date)

Add in nonfiction and the total goes to 974,360 words sold,  874,660 published to date.  Include everything but Seek a Newer World and I’ll have at least 892,360 words in print by the end of the year, probably more.

So I’m within 110,000 words of my million-word mark.  As it happens, I’m aiming for 100K with my Star Trek DTI novel, and I have stories on the market that could add another 12K if they sell.  So there’s a very good chance that DTI could put me over the top.

EDITED TO ADD: What about breakdowns by word count?  It comes out to 9 novels (over 40,000 words), 2 novellas (over 17,500 wds), 11 novelettes (over 7,500 words), and 0 short stories.  I guess “The Weight of Silence” is right on the borderline, though; the magazine it appears in, Alternative Coordinates, technically has a cutoff of 7,500 words, but I guess it’s not absolutely rigid.  So TWoS might end up being classed as a short story in bibliographies, if anyone considers it worth cataloguing.  The two stories I currently have on the market are both short stories, at 6900 words and 5200 words.  Another I’ve been shopping lately is 4200 words, but a recent rejection letter suggests that the opening could use some revisions which might add to that.  (I’ve been trying to produce shorter fiction lately because there are more markets for shorter works.)

“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:

http://www.ac-mag.com/

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:

http://home.fuse.net/ChristopherLBennett/Originalfiction.html#TWoS

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.