My latest science fiction story “In The Dying Light, We Saw a Shape” is available today to read on Lightspeed Magazine. Here’s an amuse bouche to get you interested:
She struck up a conversation in the usual way, asking how he had become involved in “all this,” with a sweeping gesture to include the other contactees, ripe with unwashed, road-weary bodies, the dying space whale smelling strangely of gunpowder, and the ephemeral industry that sprang into life around new landing sites. T-shirt hawkers and knickknack vendors shouted ever-lower prices while local news media interviewed the oddest looking contactees they could pry away from the whale’s hulking presence. Diminutive and ancient Hispanic women strolled through it all with the serenity of Buddha, selling homemade burritos and tamales cocooned in aluminum foil out of large coolers on creaking, plastic wheels. On the fringes, half-hidden in the corn, well-bribed deputies and sheriffs stood watch, eyes narrow, lips pursed, ready for signs of trouble, any reason to shut it all down. With state budgets being in such sorry states and the federal government headed into its eighth year of complete deadlock, they took what they could, saw industry and commerce for what it was. But by God, wasn’t it all just too damned weird?
Behind the Scenes, or: A Year in the Life of a Story
I’ve been struggling with some variation of a story like this for about a decade. At first, the whales were flying saucers, and the first version of this story involved a widower and the ghost of his wife. I didn’t have the skill to tell it well. I don’t know what happened to that draft, but I’m thankful that I never did anything with it. But the idea of a first contact story in which anyone could participate stuck with me all this time.
Last spring, after reading yet another space whale story, I realized that I had Things to Say about space whales and space exploration and how we as the public feel about it. And because I am obsessed with the idea of whalefall and the ecosystems that spring up around it, this story of “space whales” was suddenly born — in concept anyway. I struggled for weeks to formulate an actual story from the images I wanted to utilize.
The very first draft of the story is actually of the first night that my protagonists meet, a very decompressed telling, and involved a dangerous ex mixing up things. It spent a lot of unnecessary time exploring the taxonomies of the different conversationalists and how they interacted with the whales. Once I had finished it, I realized that again I’d missed the mark in what I wanted to do. I wanted to explore the idea further along. So an early draft of what became the final story was written, which was in part an attempt to tell a story with a greater scope than I would usually attempt in so few words.
The story went through two more extensive drafts after that. One from my initial first reader critiques from the fantastic First Readers Brigade (thank you once more, all of you), and then a second based on the initial comments from the Young Gunns Science Fiction Workshop that I attended in June. From the very helpful comments of the attendees and instructors, I was able to come up with a much tighter ending than before and it finally came together in a piece that I am really proud of. I hope that you enjoy it!
The Part Where I Implore You to Support Lightspeed
Lightspeed Magazine is a product of immense accomplishment and a group effort by a number of volunteers and staff. I couldn’t be prouder to be featured again alongside authors like Ken Liu and Maureen McHugh, just to name a couple of recent authors.
For those of you who don’t know, Lightspeed Magazine is a monthly magazine that publishes both science fiction and fantasy stories, all for free online. If you prefer to read on your Kindle, you can purchase a subscription via Kindle Periodicals or buy the ebooks as single downloads. Otherwise, you have a wide range of options for purchasing issues of the magazine via the Lightspeed website. Here’s a link to the January issue. You can find purchase links to major retailers there, as well as subscription options.
If you read and like my story, I encourage you to consider a subscription to Lightspeed. If that’s not an option for you, then please tell you friends that there is great quality science fiction online. I would like to see Lightspeed continue to grow and become an even bigger force for great new fiction in the years to come.
And if you don’t like my story, browse around. There’s a lot of great material there by writers that humble me with each new publication. It’s worth checking out.
Full disclosure: I helped build the website for Lightspeed Magazine and continue to provide technical support for the site’s software. I have no input in the editorial process.