I'm working on a scifi story collection called There's a Sword for That (using a fantasy motif in a scifi context — just for the fun of it). The tales come out of a weapons shop on a space station, which you can see on the cover.
The collection won't be ready for a while, so I've released a couple of two-story bundles in the meantime, for your amusement.
I have a few scifi short stories lined up for release, and here's the first one — Second Sight, a story about unintended consequences.
BORROWING SOMEONE ELSE’S PERCEPTIONS FOR A POPULAR DEVICE CAN ONLY MEAN COMMERCIAL SUCCESS. RIGHT?
Samar Dix, the inventor of the popular DixOcular replacement eyes with their numerous enhancements, has run out of ideas and needs another hit. Engaging a visionary painter to create the first in a series of Artist models promises to yield an entirely new way of looking at his world.
But looking through another’s eyes isn’t quite as simple as he thinks, and no amount of tweaking will yield entirely predictable, or safe, results.
I find that long-form works like novels seem to match well with the sorts of stories I like to tell — multiple characters, various sub-plots, threads to be woven together. I wouldn’t dare try to keep two novels going in draft simultaneously. It would be like listening to two engrossing conversations at once, and impossible to keep track of.
But sometimes you just want a break. For me, that means writing short stories. Any shorts I write for my ongoing series will probably go straight to publication, but I’m also beginning to produce stand-alone short stories. Since the current series are in the fantasy genre, I’m doing the shorts mostly as science fiction, just for a little variety. Some are truly stand-alone (Second Sight), but others (Buntel Mayit, Monsters) are intended for a story collection called There’s a Sword for That, all of the stories for which will involve some sort of edged weapon. (Since swords are usually associated with fantasy, I thought it would be a challenge to produce science-fiction sword stories instead. That involves a wee bit more than just declaring, say, dragons to be aliens and getting on with it.)
You won’t see these stories for a while, since each one is going through the magazine submission process, and that takes quite a bit of elapsed time (more than a year, maybe two). But I expect to put a dozen or more stories out this year, and I entertain myself prior to publication with getting their covers done as I write them, so that there won’t be anything left to do after they come back unbought or their rights expire, if bought. At least I get to put the covers and blurbs up that way. And if I keep this up every year, there will soon be a regular stream of submissions coming back for publication — I’m just filling the pipeline this year to reap in the future.
Paring it down
Aiming for a certain size in a short story is not something I can control. They’re as long as they need to be, seems to me, and each one is different. Monsters, the latest story destined for the sword collection, surprised me by being only three pages long (1000 words), just two scenes, what they call “flash fiction”. My beta reader wanted to know what happens next, and perhaps you could spin a long story or novella out of it, or it could be the start of a longer character-based novel — sure, I could see that.
But sometimes a molehill is just a molehill, not a mountain. If the characters come back and start explaining their life story to me, well, maybe there will be a followup. Meanwhile, I like the unanswered questions that spin off from the brief encounter. Gives it a concentrated flavor, like a wound-up spring.
I recently finished a science fiction short story that I haven't told you all about because, for the first time, I'm submitting it to magazines and online periodicals to see if someone would like to buy it. If I'm successful you'll hear all about it. If no one has a place for it at this time, Perkunas Press will publish it. You can find out more about it here.
Either way, it will take several months. In general you can only submit to one venue at a time, so it can take many weeks or months before you reach a venue that wants it. Then they will not publish it right away, and when they do they will want exclusivity for it for a few months. If I am not successful with the submission, Perkunas Press will publish the story in the usual way and I'll announce it here, otherwise I'll let people know where they can buy it, and then Perkunas Press will publish it after the exclusivity period runs out.
I'll be doing more of this over time, especially for short stories that are either not part of a series or that can stand alone. It's a new experience for me. Short stories don't sell in great quantity, but if a magazine buys one, that changes the financial result dramatically. It's also just about the only way that an author-publisher can be part of the consideration for the genre and category awards that are such a major part of fantasy and science fiction. Finding out exactly what the magazine editors want will be a learning exercise all by itself.