Monday, June 25, 2012

Greener Grass





I don’t write short stories.

There is a school of thought that aspiring authors should learn their craft by writing short stories, get a few published, and then put out a novel. I think this is analogous to a musician learning to play a violin well enough to stage a few shows, then switching to the piano for a concert. Both require knowledge of music, but these are two very different instruments, and knowing one will help with the other in only rudimentary ways.

It’s not like I’ve never written short stories. My first agent explained she would have an easier time selling my first book if I obtained a few short story publishing credits. I wrote a couple, but my book had been published before I sent those out. And it’s not that I don’t like them, I just have a hard time cramming novel-thinking into 4,000 words. 

Last year, between the disappearance of my self-published novels and the Orbit books debut, there was a few months where I had nothing out. My wife Robin asked me to write a short story to help fill the void. She suggested something like, Royce and Hadrian: the early years. So I wrote about an incident that occurred about a year after the two first met. This was called The Viscount and the Witch. I gave it away, and the story remains free, available in a number of places—including this blog. 

This year something different happened.

I was asked, along with a few other professional authors, to donate a short story to an anthology designed to promote aspiring authors whose works would be chosen by a contest. The theme of the anthology was post-apocalyptic. Robin wasn’t certain I could do a post-apocalyptic short story, so I had to try just for ego’s sake. Over the weekend I hammered out a story I called Greener Grass. Robin was very impressed, but the story wasn’t exactly post-apocalyptic. Technically I think I could make a case for it, but before I bothered, Ray Bradbury died. 

This got me thinking about a tribute story and Robin suggested a tale about the fate of ebooks in a post-apocalyptic future. So then I banged out another short story called, Burning Alexandria.  More post-apocalyptic certainly, and just as good. So that was done. 

But I still had Greener Grass

Robin suggested I publish it as a short. Better that than sit in my drawer. Only it’s not fantasy…its science fiction, and has a distinctive voice of its own and much different than The Riyria Revelations. For those interested, the short is now available (Amazon | Barnes and Noble), and here’s the teaser:
 
He wanted to escape his problems. He wanted to see the future. He never considered what the future wanted.

Confronted with suffering a painful death from cancer, Dan Sturges, a retired Ford’s engineer, foregoes treatments to try an idea of his own. After reading a theoretical article in
Scientific American on time displacement, Dan builds a time machine in his garage. With nothing to lose but a few months of pain, Dan pins his hopes on a future where cancer might have been cured, or at least a quicker death by electrocution. But what happens after he presses the button is more shocking than the eighteen car batteries he connected himself to.

I'm also running a poll about the short story. It's just a single question and any feedback you can provide would be helpful.

3 comments:

  1. Hi Michael,
    Your short 5400 word story 'The Viscount and the Witch' has already received a five star rating on alfiedog.com. I think, unless I am mistaken, it is still the only story with that high reader's score. 'Greener Grass' which deviates from your usual genre path has the same writing quality. There have been some great authors over the years who have been prolific in full length as well as shorts, the recently departed Bradbury to highlight just one, so my humble opinion is; that whatever is in that drawer, you owe it to us to continue to provide any length there is.

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    1. You and my wife have similar ideas. I didn't know that about Alfiedog though. Thanks for the news.

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  2. I absolutely agree with Tyler. Even though "Greener Grass" wholly deviates from the usual stories you bring us, it is well written and has,deviates wholly again, some of the almost, but not quite, dry humor I have come to attribute to you and your writing. This little story went down easy. I can't say I liked your protagonist, but as a whole it was a quite interesting "future" take on everything we know today. It definitely is a good discussion starter since it has a lot of topics covered. I'd say five stars, for real ..... And please, never deprive us of your stories, short or long. Once again, it was a more than enjoyable read.

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