/ / Stories

Realms of Fantasy

This story appears in my short story collection A Place So Foreign and Eight More and is licensed for downloading under a Creative Commons license. Download it here

Podcast: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4

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.
more

/ / Stories

Interzone
Adbusters Magazine, July/August 2005
Podcast

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 stuff is over the top, of course, like all satire. But it’s successful because it’s played with a perfectly straight face, and because the story is thick with details that buttress the theme and keep the reader smiling and grimacing: the sponsored grade school classes, the worry about competing with 8th graders when you graduate to 7th grade, even the well-chosen character names. This is very well-crafted, very entertaining, very satisfying story.

Rich Horton,
Locus Magazine

The other standout is by the 2000 John W. Campbell Award Winner for Best New Writer, Cory Doctorow. “The Rebranding of Billy Bailey” is a very clever and funny story which takes an off-kilter notion and plays it for all it’s worth. Billy Bailey is a 6th grader who specializes in being a “heel”, or a class brat. The thing is, that’s a commercial decision: he has an agent, his Dad is his VP Operations, all his pranks are decided on the basis of how they will affect his media profile, etc. The story revolves around a prank which gets blamed on him unfairly, and which will affect his “brand”. Perhaps he needs a new brand? This is consistently funny, and the satire is consistently on target. I really liked this piece: in my opinion, it’s the best story so far by an already very promising new writer.

Rich Horton,
Tangent Online

I think the best short story Interzone published this year was “The Rebranding of Billy Bailey” by Campbell Award winner Cory Doctorow. I also discussed this story in the Locus essay mentioned above. It’s clever satire about school kids commercializing their images, and it works smartly throughout.

Rich Horton,
Duelling Modems

more

/ / Stories

Asimov’s

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.
more

/ / Stories

Science-Fiction Age

This story appears in my short story collection A Place So Foreign and Eight More and is licensed for downloading under a Creative Commons license. Download it here

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.
more

/ / Stories

Amazing Stories 599

This story appears in my short story collection A Place So Foreign and Eight More and is licensed for downloading under a Creative Commons license. Download it here

Podcast: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

I wrote this strange, stylised Scientology/Alien-Invasion/Oedipus story at a Gypsicon, the writers’ workshop that gave rise to Craphound and Visit the Sins.

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.
more

/ / Stories

Tesseracts 8, Tesseract Press

This story appears in my short story collection A Place So Foreign and Eight More and is licensed for downloading under a Creative Commons license. Download it here

Podcast: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

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.
more

/ / Stories

On Spec

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.
more

/ / Stories

Asimov’s
Year’s Best Science Fiction 5, HarperPrism 2000, David G. Hartwell, Ed.

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.

You can read the whole story online at Strange Horizons.
more

/ / Stories

Asimov’s

Gardner Dozois was the first editor I ever sent anything to, in 1987, at the tender age of 16, a story called “Birdblood.” Over the following decade, Gardner saw virtually everything I wrote — and rejected it all.

In August, 1997, I went out to my mailbox and extracted a SASE with “Grace, Asimov’s” scrawled on the back in my hand. “Damn,” I thought, “another reject. Wonder if Van Gelder will buy it?”

Standing in the driveway, I opened the envelope. I read the letter. The first three paragraphs told me why he didn’t think he should buy it — not really sf, in a nutshell. The last one said that he was buying it anyway.

I freaked. There’s no other word for it. I whooped and did a barefoot dance in the driveway of the factory that I live in, then ran down the hall, screaming like an idiot. I burst in on my neighbours, who were entertaining a new client, and screamed and screamed and screamed. Eventually, I managed to let them know what had transpired, and they congratulated me roundly and offered me a beer. Then I called everyone I knew and screamed.

That was a great day.

A month later, Gardner bought another one, “At Lightspeed, Slowing, another story set in Costa Rica, where I spent a lot of time in 1993 as a volunteer on a Youth Challenge International project.

When the October/November double-ish of Asimov’s arrived in my mailbox, I whooped all over again, rubbbed my contrib copies all over my body, and then signed one, “To Cory, You Big Stud, You Rock!”
more