Saturday, September 04, 2010

Maps For New Territory

As far as I'm concerned there are two ways of writing a short story. First, there's the epiphanic, where more or less the whole package arrives in your head and is unpacked by writing it down. It doesn't happen often, but I'm always thrilled when it does. 'Little Lost Robot' and 'The Thought War' happened like that. The second is much more like work. I start with an idea, usually a character and a situation, an opening scene, and proceed from there. It's like exploring new territory without a map. You stumble into cul-de-sacs and pitfalls, and waste time picking up nuggets that turn out to be iron pyrites instead of the motherlode, but you travel on in the hope of finding a fabulous view or something rare and unexpected around the next corner. And sometimes scenes or ideas you discard become the seeds for a second story. What started out as exploration becomes cartography.

That's how the Quiet War series of stories evolved, and eventually turned into two novels (with a third on the way, but it's bad luck to talk about that right now). If I were brighter and more organised, novels and stories would have dovetailed neatly together. As it was, the stories turned out to be trial runs for the novels. Maybe I'll do better next time, with what some have started calling the Jackaroo stories, in which an alien species makes contact with the people of Earth after a short sharp global conflict, and hand them the keys to a bunch of planetary systems orbiting red dwarf stars and linked by wormholes. What does humanity do with this gift? What does the gift do to humanity? And what's the catch?

So far, there are just six stories.* But I'm beginning to wonder if it's time to get down and deal with the big picture.

*‘Dust’, Forbidden Planets, edited by Peter Crowther, Daw, 2006
 ‘Making Peace’, The New Space Opera, edited by Jonathan Strahan and Gardner Dozois, HarperCollins, 2007
 ‘Adventure’, Fast Forward 2, edited by Lou Anders, 2008
'City of the Dead' Postscripts, 2008
 ‘Crimes and Glory’, Subterranean Magazine, 2009
‘The Choice’, Asimov's Science Fiction, February 2011

EDIT: Of the above stories, only 'Crimes and Glory' is available online, here. Of the Quiet War stories, 'Reef' was available via my author's page at the Orion site, but was lost after a redesign; you might be able to find it using the wayback machine or similar. I'm thinking of putting up one on my web site's fiction archive. Any preferences?
EDIT 2: I totally forgot to include 'City of the Dead'. Corrected now. I'd like to think it's because I'm hip-deep in a third draft, but really it's down to stupidity. Thanks to Miles for pointing out the error!

Thursday, September 02, 2010

Quiet War Stories

Ram Gowda emailed to ask if I had a list of stories related to The Quiet War and Gardens of the Sun. I thought I'd put it up here rather than on the increasingly out-of-date website, which badly needs a major overhaul. I set it up in the mid-1990s, using a basic HTML scripting programme, and it is really showing its age; must get around to making it look twenty-first century when I'm less distracted. Or pay someone to do it for me. Meanwhile, here are the stories, with the usual caveat that they were published piecemeal over a decade, and represent the first iteration of the Quiet War universe. Portions of several of them have been folded into Gardens of the Sun, in highly modified forms.

'Second Skin' Asimov's Science Fiction, Dell Magazines, 1997
'Sea Change, With Monsters' Asimov's Science Fiction, Dell Magazines, 1998
'The Gardens of Saturn' Interzone, 1998
'Reef' Sky Life, edited by Gregory Benford and George Zebrowski, Harcourt Brace, 2000
'Making History' PS Publishing, 2000
'The Passenger' Asimov's Science Fiction, Dell Magazines, 2002
'The Assassination of Faustino Malarte' Asimov's Science Fiction, Dell Magazines, 2002
‘Dead Men Walking’ Asimov’s Science Fiction, Dell Magazines, 2006
‘Incomers’ The Starry Rift, edited by Jonathan Strahan, Viking, 2008
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