I am proud to announce that my novelette, “Outbound,” is now available in print and in electronic format, both in stores and on the web, in the November 2010 issue of Analog Science Fiction & Fact magazine!
“Outbound” is a story with a bit of history to it. Having tinkered with and scrapped several opening scenes, I put the piece away in the Fall of 2008 and didn’t come back to it until several months later. With the Q1 deadline for Writers of the Future looming, I pulled it back out and combined it with another, somewhat different story, which had also suffered a series of aborted beginnings. But together, the two half-formed story concepts gelled wonderfully, and I was able to rapidly complete “Outbound” in the space of a few days, leading up to Christmastime, 2008.
I had a good feeling about “Outbound” when I popped it in the mail, and was overjoyed when Joni Labaqui called to tell me that “Outbound” was a Finalist for L. Ron Hubbard’s Writers of the Future, vol. XXVI.
This is it, I thought to myself. This would finally be The One.
Which is why I was rather crushed when I found out a few months later that “Outbound” had not Placed with the Contest. Having gotten a lot of rejections over the years, that one punched me in the stomach the most, precisely because I’d felt like I was so very, very close, and I was crestfallen to learn that the judges for that quarter had not liked “Outbound” enough to give it a home.
Dave Wolverton, however, had seen the story, and was kind enough to offer me some feedback. He didn’t think it was a perfect story, there were things he would have liked to see me do differently, but he felt it was a very emotionally strong story, and this perked me up enough to keep plugging away on new work, in spite of the setback.
Flash forward to my (surprise!) win with “Exanastasis,” for Q3 of the Contest. I never expected “Exanastasis” to win. I put it out to the Contest in June of 2009 because I literally had nothing else to send. It had not been workshopped or alpha-read, and I was very unsure of it, but it was what I had on-hand at the time, so I sent it, it won, and suddenly life turned improbably happy again.
Well, with “Exanastasis” winning, what to do with “Outbound,” a story that had been technically in reserve with the Contest for potential published Finalist material? I looked to the first prestige market I could think of — a market I’d been submitting to for many, many years, never having sold to it, but it was the one market above perhaps all the rest I most esteemed to crack: Analog. So I put “Outbound” back into the mail, this time addressed to New York instead of Los Angeles, and I waited.
My SASE for the story came back in January of this year. Perhaps 60 days after I’d sent it. Feeling sad, I opened the SASE assuming it was another rejection, since the envelope contained the standard Analog half-page stationary on which Dr. Schmidt usually pens personalized rejections. Lo and behold, Dr. Schmidt said he liked the story, the contract was on the way, and would I please take a look at some fine-tooth-comb problems he wanted to see fixed before the story reached print.
Even now, with the issue in my hand, I can’t quite believe it. I have more rejections from Analog than I do just about any other publication. I’ve also read more issues of Analog than just about any of the other digests. Is it a thrill to finally be numbered among the list of Analog authors, like my writing friend Eric James Stone? Absolutely. Thrilling and gratifying, as much or maybe even moreso than winning Writers of the Future. Because selling to Analog was the first time I went head-to-head with pro talent for space, and won! And not just any win, a ‘feature’ win. “Outbound” is the final story in the November 2010 issue, with gorgeous two-page artwork from Mark Evans. I am told by several pros that the last position on the pole in any magazine is a choice spot: it means the editor thinks your story is a strong “anchor” for that issue.
Huge thanks to Dr. Schmidt and Company for not only buying “Outbound” but also for featuring it so prominently in such an august publication. Along with Placing in Writers of the Future, I feel overwhelming satisfaction at finally being able to chisel my name into the edifices of the Science Fiction establishment — joining the ranks of all those currently working professionally in the business, as well as all of those hallowed folk who have gone before.
A marvelous thing, this writing and publishing racket. As Dean Wesley Smith says in his writing article, “Standing Up,” in the WOTF vol. 26 volume, writing (“Sitting in a room and making things up”) is the greatest job ever invented. Truly, more fun that human beings should be allowed to have.
EDIT TO ADD: readers will probably detect many similarities in theme and subject matter, between “Outbound” and “Exanastasis.” This is because they were written literally back-to-back, when I was exploring several ideas at once — ideas I wanted to approach from at least a couple of different angles, which suggested at least a couple of different stories. Now that I am re-reading both in print, they are suggesting to me, in turn, still more stories. So, will there be sequels? Perhaps!