I’m excited to appear once again in the webpages of Nature with “Deus exed,” a story about an AI that’s believed to be a god and the false prophet who controls them. You know, real Steven stuff. Like with my last story in Nature, I was very eager to see Jacey’s original art for this story, and holy guacamole it’s perfect.
In the story notes, I mention the intro to StarCraft: Brood War as a key inspiration for the feel of Deus exed. After reading, I recommend watching the 4-minute video yourself. It has apparently been living rent-free in my brain for decades, and rewatching it for the first (and second, and third) time in 20 years still gives me chills.
Once again, it’s been a year (and then some). Looking back, it felt like three. The pandemic has really screwed with life’s pacing. A lot of ’20 and ’21 could have been cut, but ’22 needed to slow wayyyy down. After a rip-roaring January, ’23 shows no sign of learning this lesson.
Writing-wise, it was a banner year for submissions. I sent out 47 subs, comfortably topping 2020’s record 39 subs. 2020 still holds the belt for stories drafted, though. In Mario Party Method terms, I collected 6 stars (stories drafted) and 47 coins (submissions).
It’s been a while since my last story was published, but stay tuned, because I’ve got a new one coming out very soon…
A couple of recommendations for things I really enjoyed this year:
American Horror Story: NYC stuck the landing and left me in tears. No matter where you may have dropped off in the wild world of AHS, come back for NYC.
Speaking of sticking the landing, Better Call Saul. I’ve never felt as tense watching a TV show as I did in a certain moment toward the end of the series.
Inscryption is unlike anything I’ve played before. Just buy it and start playing.
Rollerdrome is an ultra-stylish tale of a violent sports competition in a rising police state. It’s also Tony Hawk with guns.
2021 is in the books, and what a year it’s been, right?
*stares, dead-eyed, at wall for an undetermined period of time*
Anyhoo, let’s take a look at what happened this year, writing wise. I’ve had two stories published this year:
Practice on a pulsefish, published in Nature, is a story about fishing on Europa, space pirates, and dangerous shortcuts.
I shook the pulsefish by the tail, the last drops of blood draining from its opened throat into the dark waters. Between the pulsing vibrations of the fish and the sway of my boat, it was hard to keep my knife straight as I sliced through its ghastly skin. My hands were fully numbed by the time I plopped a white fillet onto the cutting board, as if I was watching someone else do it. The meat shimmered with resonant electricity.
“It’s not a pyramid scheme. It’s dimensional marketing. And if there was something funny about it, why did so many of us buy into it?”
There’s a bit of humor in both, but at their core they are dark stories. I love them and hope you enjoy them, too!
On the writing and submissions front, I’ve continued using Mario Party shorthand and logged 5 stars (stories drafted) and 34 coins (submissions):
This lags last year’s pace, which was a record for me. I was planning for that on the drafting side (revise your stories already, man!), but on the submissions side I definitely came up short. With that said, I’m close to finishing revisions on a pair of stories, and so that, along with Codex’s Weekend Warrior contest starting in a couple of weeks, gives me a nice springboard to hit a record number of submissions in 2022.
I’ve found some of the novelty in the hobbies I honed last year–namely cooking, baking, and drawing–wore off this year. But now that the pandemic has made clear it’s going to sleep on our collective couch as long as it likes, I’m looking forward to nurturing these skills further next year.
A couple of things I really enjoyed this year:
Axiom Verge 2 and Metroid Dread are both stellar, meditative experiences that are paced perfectly and have killer soundtracks.
All four seasons of Channel Zero are worth it, but especially No-End House. But especially The Dream Door.
Don’t Look Up, which just came out. Maybe “enjoy” is the wrong word. *back to staring dead-eyed at wall*
I first drafted this story during a Codex flash contest last year. After noodling over the mechanics of a multi-dimensional multi-level marketing scheme, the story itself fell into place quickly as soon as I realized that the easiest path to success would be to simply sell to yourself, which is right where the story starts:
After Bas signed up to be a distributor for Healinair, he asked his uprift for tips on cold calling through the multiverse.
His uprift–who was also Bas, but from a parallel dimension–laughed.
“Don’t waste your time. The training materials suggest starting with friends and family, but here’s a question. Why not start with yourself? After all, if you don’t believe in yourself, who will?”
A frequent criticism of MLMs is that the market is oversaturated: There are too many sellers, and not enough buyers. If there were infinite universes, this specific problem would vanish. But a multiverse would only further obfuscate who’s really actually making money, and how many “business owners” are actually just customers.
If you’d like to learn more about MLMs, check out r/antiMLM. Bonus: My story was posted there, so I say: Write the stories you want to see picked up by the subreddits you love.
My story “Practice on a pulsefish” was just published in Nature! This story marks a lot of firsts for me: First sale to a SFWA-qualifying market, first story where I got to include author notes, first story that includes original art (and oh is it perfect).
Fair warning, it’s also pretty dark, too. If you’ve ever wanted to read about space pirates trying to rob a fisherman who’s just trying to enjoy some electric sashimi for lunch, head over to Nature. Bon appétit.
I’m not going to linger too much on a year that was, well–you lived it, you know. Below is my 2020, writing-wise.
The headline: I submitted more short fiction in 2020 than in every previous year combined. Since my first-ever submission to an NPR Three-Minute Fiction contest in 2013, I’ve had a fairly erratic submission history, including a handful of years (’13, ’14, ’18) where I only managed a single sub. While my focus has regularly been elsewhere throughout this time–novel work, work-work, etc–a lot of it came down to putting my stories aside right before a final revision, the last step before I’d consider them ready to go on sub.
Thinking back, forgoing that final revision (and effectively trunking the story) is a form of self-rejection. After all, if I don’t take the training wheels off a story, I’ll never know if it can ride unaided or not. This year I was much better about taking off the training wheels and giving my stories a good push.
On the stories drafted side, 11 is the most stories I’ve ever drafted in a single year. Of those, two were short stories, and nine were flash. Eight of them were produced for Codex contests, which provide the much-needed deadlines this ex-journalist craves. On the submissions side, of the 11 different stories I submitted, five of them were first drafted this year. I submitted to 19 different markets, 13 of which I’d never submitted to before.
I was thrilled to have “Acquisition: Earth” published in Translunar Travelers Lounge. Additionally, I just sold a story to another incredible market, and I look forward to sharing that story, too!
Now, with all of the above said, did I meet the goals I set out at the beginning of the year? Not even close! But I didn’t set submission or publication goals, so I’m quite happy with how things turned out. Shoot moon, land stars.
Other highlights from a wretched year:
Like many people, I got into baking. Primarily bagels, which I made cheerfully and ceaselessly
I backpacked across the US, sailed the Caribbean, and fought pirate crocodiles in Donkey Kong Country—all from the comfort of my own home!
Inspired by countless Inktober posts, I started drawing again after a long hiatus. I’m gearing up to do Inktober in 2021
Wishing you a safe and joyful start to what hopefully will be a better year.
I’m stoked to have a new story published in Translunar Travelers Lounge. It actually kicks off Issue 3, but you’ll do yourself a favor if you stick around and read the rest of the issue. TTL’s focus is on publishing fun stories, a welcome respite in these fun-starved times.
“Acquisition: Earth” is about an alien who’s tasked with integrating Earth into a galactic corporation. It’s a sci-fi humor story that’s a little Invader Zim, a little Office Space, and that takes less than 5 minutes to read, so hop on over to the Lounge and read it!
Since last year, I’ve been using Mario Party-inspired shorthand for tracking some of my short fiction-related writing goals. I “collect” a star every time I write a story and a coin every time I submit a story, a simple technique that works for me because my gamer brain loves gamification. Read more about it on Medium.