StoriesA collection of my stories, called A Place So Foreign and Eight More was published by Four Walls Eight Windows in September, 2003. Six of the nine stories are available for free download under a Creative Commons license, and the book is selling briskly.
Business 2.0 commissioned this short-short story from me as a sidebar to a feature of way-out technologies written by my pal David Pescovitz (who co-edits Boing Boing with me. It was really challenging trying to squeeze all those technologies into such a short piece!
I wrote this story for a meeting of the Turkey City Writers Workshop at Bruce Sterling's house in Austin, Texas. The critiques there really helped me whip it into shape, and Salon published it soon after.
The story is based on a bunch of stuff that is really going on now: Indian bands in Canada are really experimenting with high-powered cognitive radios to allow for unlimited wireless communication, despite Canadian federal laws that prohibit this; wireless hackers are really figuring out how to make radios that are so much more efficient than today's devices as to make them look like tinker-toys.
scifi.com (with Charlie Stross)
In spring 2002, Charlie Stross and I co-wrote a story called "Jury Service," an extremely gonzo post-Singularity story whose writing was more fun than any other story I've ever written. Charlie and I pitched the manuscript back and forth to one another in 500-1000 word chunks, each time trying to top the other. We have very little "meta" communication -- just sent the story around and rewrote what we had, then added our own bits. I can remember chuckling so loudly while considering what I would do with Charlie's latest challenge in an airport lounge that the security guard came by to ask if everything was all right.
Stross is amazingly fun to write with. We've put together another story since and will be writing some short shorts as soon as both of us can take a break from our novels for a couple weeks.
"Jury Service" was published in four pieces -- it's 21,000 words in all! -- on scifi.com, weekly through December 2002. The first chunk went live this morning. I think that this is one of the most entertaining pieces I've ever worked on, kind of Rucker-meets-Stephenson-meets-William S. Burroughs. Hope you like it.
I'm not really big on sequels. For me, inventing a new world is about 80% of the fun. That said, I did write one novelette-length followup (not really a sequel) to Down and Out in the Magic Kingdom, this story right here, Truncat.
This is yet another one of those stories that I've written at a summer writers' retreat with old Clarion classmates and friends. This one came out of a workshop at Cynthia Zender's house in Colorado Springs, CO -- the same town where Tesla set the world's record for longest piece of man-made lightning.
It was originally published in BAKKANTHOLOGY, an anthology of stories by writers who've worked at Bakka, the Toronto-based science fiction bookstore where I once worked. It was a great little limited-edition book, but I wanted the story to have wider distribution, so I arranged with Salon to have it reprinted in August, just before the next WorldCon.
Mammoth Book of Tales from the Road, Maxim Jakubowski (Editor), M. Christian (Editor), Carroll & Graf
Two things inspired me to write this: Ian McDonald's Klingklangklatch, a graphic novel that is a tribute to Tom Waits, and Tom Waits' Asylum Years LP. It has all my favorite stuff: alien visitors and popculture trash.
Swedish translation (Johan Anglemark/Enhörningen Magazine)
Slovak translation (Pavol Hvizdos)
I wrote this while at a summer writer's workshop in July, 2002, at an arts-center on Toronto Island. Like most of my fiction, this reflects a lot of what's going on in my life at the moment. In this case, it was my immersion in copyright issues, nerd culture and posthumanism. This is the first SF story Salon ever published, and it made quite a splash -- and was nominated for a Nebula Award in 2003.
NB: This story is available for free online, through the good graces of Fortean Bureau, an excellent webzine. You can read it here.
I got the idea for this story one day while wandering around my local fairground -- a good pastime for a theme-park nut. There was an old-timers' ragtime band there, a clarinet and a set of tubs and a guitar with a little amp and a trombone, and all in matching red jackets, not a one under 60. They swung their way through a bunch of my requests, but it was all cut short when the goddamn airshow started and they got buzzed and buzzed and buzzed by jets. They valiantly struggled through it for a couple numbers, but then gave it up.
I've always been obsessed by the apocalype (I grew up in the antiwar movement, three-quarters convinced that I was headed for nuclear doom), and with apocalyptic lit, especially John Wyndham and Nevil Shute. When relatives nag me about not saving up for my old age, I usually smart off with a remark about not needing a retirement plan, just a long pole so I can dig for canned goods in the postapocalyptic rubble.
The title, of course, is from a great old Andrews Sisters number.
I've written usuccessful fiction inspired by my activist past for years, but I think I've finally nailed it. I'm sure glad it's found a home.
Starlight 3, edited by Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Tor Books
I've been trying to break into Starlight for, oh, six or seven years. For my money, it's the best original sf anthology I've ever read, and I'm unspeakably pumped to finally sell Patrick a story.
No less spectacular are the circumstances under which Patrick accepted the story: it was at the reception before the Hugo Awards, and I was in a state of barely contained panic. Patrick said, "Hey, I keep forgetting to tell you -- I want to buy your story for Starlight" -- an hour later, I won the Campbell Award, and that was possibly the only thing that could've eclipsed my ecstasy over selling this piece.
I wrote this story while stuck in a hotel room in Montreal, working for an ad agency.
Asimov's (with Michael Skeet)
This is the first collaboration I ever wrote, and man, am I glad I did.
I wrote the first part of this story as a sort-of response to Heinlein et al's "bootcamp" stories; that is, stories about personal transformation brought on by violent, abusive training experiences. Having had some bootcamp-experiences (Clarion, for one, not to metion working on behind-deadline software projects), I had some opinions on the subject.
Having written the first half, I was hung up on an ending -- or even a decent middle. At Judith Merril's memorial party at the Bamboo Club in Toronto, I found myself in the buffet queue with my workshopmate Michael Skeet, bemoaning this state of affairs. He remarked that he had quite the opposite problem -- he couldn' get started, but he did great endings.
So I sent him the story's start. He's a busy guy, and it was about a year before I saw the story again. I was enchanted. Michael had picked up the story's thread beautifully, and had run with it, taking it nearly to conclusion. I sent it back to him with a note or two and he went back to work.
In Spring 1999, my workshop -- the Cecil Street Group -- went away for a weekend-long writing retreat. Michael and I finished the story over the weekend, and a few months later: success!
It was immensely gratifying working with a collaborator. I really felt like the whole was more than the parts.