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.
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.
Frequency Magazine, Volume 3
Jeremy Bloom is a fellow Torontonian-cum-Californian, a starry-eyed sf writer who went to Hollywood to write screenplays. His latest venture is Frequency Magazine, this really cool audio anthology on CD, featuring really tasty theatrical productions of short stories. I'm an audiobook addict -- I can't clean the toilet, drive a mile, or fall asleep without an audiobook in the background -- and I've always dreamed of having one of my stories produced professionally. This kicks ass.
Realms of Fantasy
This is the story of the ogres who run the concession stands on Pleasure Island, where Pinnocchio's friend Lampwick turned into a donkey. Like much of my stuff, this has a tie-in with Walt Disney World; the idea came to me on the Pinnocchio ride in the Magic Kingdom, in 1993.
I went back and reviewed the original novel, in two translations, and found that Pleasure Island was a scary, scary place. During this time, I spent a lot of time listening to the creepy voiceover on "High-Diddle Dee-Dee" on Stay Awake, a wonderful Disney tribute album. The result is what you see below.
Like many of my recent stories, "Return" deals with self-indulgence, discipline, and attenuated attention-spans.
Boy, it's great to sell this one. I wrote it in a weekend while stuck in a hotel room in Montreal, while I was doing work for an ad agency. I'm afraid the ad business has a tendency to encourage a degree of cynicism...
The original title of this story was "From Heel to Babyface and Beyond: The Re-branding of Billy 'Beetle' Bailey," but it got truncated during a couple passes through both my home workshop and the Gypsicon gang.
This is one of three stories I've sold about the time I spent volunteering on sustainable development projects in Costa Rica with an organisation called Youth Challenge International.
The village I lived in, Caño Rito de San Jorge de Upala, was about 40km from the nearest road, generator, water-pump, and telephone. Our lone technology was a shortwave radio with a solar-charger that only worked for about an hour a day.
Strangely enough, I loved it. Me, Mr. Technocrat, having the time of my life digging latrines and mixing concrete with shovels, making gravel by smashing volcanic boulders with hammers.
Ever since, I've been obsessed with the idea of returning with a solar-powered laptop/sat uplink rig, living in the middle of the jungle, technologically plugged in without living technologically.
When I sold this, it was the longest story I've ever sold, at 18,000 words. By a very happy coincidence, I sold it to the highest-paying market in the business.
I owe much about this story to the Great Brain books of John D. Fitzgerald. This autobiographical children's series captured my imagination when I was a boy, and I find myself returning to them again and again.
Amazing Stories 599
Now, you're not supposed to play favorites, but, just between you and me, this is one of my all-time favorite stories. I loved writing it, and I'm delighted to see it heading for print.
Tesseracts 8, Tesseract Press
This story is a sequel, of sorts, to Shadow of the Mothaship, which Kim Mohan published in Amazing Stories.
I got the idea for this while snorkeling in the Bay of Pigs, on the south coast of Cuba. I'd just gotten out of the water and picked up E.L. Doctorow's brilliant Book of Daniel, when the entire story smacked me between the eyes. Once I returned, I sweated blood for a month, cranking out the 10,000 words -- I had this tremendous vision of the effect I was trying to capture, but implementing it was trickier than it appeared. I finished it on a Sunday afternoon, read it through twice, and decided it was the best thing I'd ever written. I've just re-read it, prepatory to emailing the manuscript to Tesseract Books, and I still think it's brilliant.
Like Craphound, Visit the Sins and Shadow of the Mothaship, I wrote this story at Gipsycon, the post-Clarion summer workshop I attend every year. There's another Clarion connection: the title for this story was conceived of while at the Clarion 30th anniversary reunion, as I sat in the Owen Hall courtyard with a gang of other Clarion grads and talked about the memories the place brought back, discussing the possibility that we were being bombarded with "recollectons," the fundamental units of memory.
This story, which I sold today, October 26, 1998, completes my Asimov's hat-trick: three stories to Asimov's in just over a year.
I wrote this while at Gipsicon '98, a writers' retreat founded by my Clarion classmate, Janis O'Connor. We meet in a different city every summer, in a rented University dorm or schoolhouse, and write and critique our heads off. I heartily recommend this experience: I write my best stuff during that week (I wrote Craphound at Gipsicon '97).
This story was written in a blind panic, terror inspired by a heinous writer's block that had me chewing my toes at the prospect of not finishing a story while at the workshop. So I did what I always do when I feel blocked: I went and saw a bunch of bad movies, which bored me to the point where I could write again -- about boredom.
A note for my folks: although this has parallels to my family -- my grandfather just went into a home -- this is by no means an indictment of my family, who are wonderful people.