It seems it’s that time of year again. Once a year, in December, I get what I call the “collection bug”: the persistent urge to write and self-publish a collection of short stories. There are a number of motivating factors: frustration at having so little of my work in print, eagerness to find a way to get my work out there and have people read it, the feeling that I have more than enough material at my disposal to do it. Usually it passes sometime in early January, as I get back into things at work and start looking back at whatever novel I’m currently working on. But this time, I’ll admit, it feels different.
Perhaps it’s the change in my frustration: while over the past two years I was frustrated by my stories being rejected out of hand, this time it’s more due to the increasing number of rejections praising my work but noting they aren’t quite right for the publication in question. Perhaps it’s due to my sense of urgency in getting my name out there: when I start querying my first novel, as I’m preparing to revise my second, I feel I should have something out there, for sale, that perspective agents can read. Perhaps I simply feel I’ve toiled in unpaid obscurity long enough.
At any rate, I truly believe that this time I’m going to do it. I have a lot of stories, finished or partly so, to work with. So I think now is the time.
I have a lot of work to do, not only in terms of writing but also researching how best to go about this. It’d be nice to tell people I have a collection for sale on Amazon, but I’d like to actually sell a copy or two. At the moment, all I really have is a few concepts, but that, I think is enough to start with.
What really got me going on this was an idea I’ve come to call Unrealized Realities: the term I’ve long used to describe my unfinished works of short science fiction.
The term was taken from a Farscape episode, in which an alien John Crichton referred to as “Einstein” explains that unguided travel through a wormhole could lead to various possible realities. These realities are not true dimensions, as the events never actually happened, but rather could have. Essentially, each unrealized reality is a glimpse of what could have been.
Unrealized Realities will be a collection of hard sci-fi short stories. Each story will be limited in scope, focused on a single main character (usually an astronaut) with a small cast of supporting characters, if any. The lack of characters and dialogue is intended to emphasize the theoretical science behind each story, while also creating a sense of the isolation felt in space and allowing the reader to better identify with a single character. The real challenge, I feel, will be keeping things fresh; each story has to provide the reader with a unique experience, not just variations on a theme. Many of my short stories over the past year have revolved around the same basic premise: an astronaut alone in space, facing some manner of calamity resulting from an anomaly. Still, I feel if I look at all of my finished or in-progress short stories, I can put together a unique experience from start to finish.
The other big challenge will be deciding precisely which stories to use. Ideally, I’d like to glean the stories used primarily from my array of works either rejected by all suitable publications or those already published here, which can thus only be submitted to publications offering reprints. I’d prefer to see my work in print with a notable publication, rather than in a self-published collection. So this project may take some time to complete.
When We Left Earth Short Fiction
For some time now, I’ve planned to release short stories, or collections of short stories, to accompany each novel in my planned series When We Left Earth, of which The Pioneer will now likely be the first installment. Taking a page from the writers of The Expanse, these stories would serve as an accompaniment to each novel, giving the reader a better glimpse into what’s going on. In my case, however, it’s intended to provide the reader with a more complete picture of how humans live and work in this future I’ve created.
Many of the works of short fiction I’ve published here over the past year have been set in the universe of When We Left Earth. As such, I have a lot of material to choose from. My current plan is to release a collection of five-to-seven short stories with each novel. Three of those would be heavily action-based, revolving around characters featured in the novel itself, helping to flesh out the plot. The others would focus on new characters simply going about their lives, to expand the universe and fully immerse the reader in the world of the late-21st and early-22nd centuries.
Here, too, I have some problems to address. The largest of them is that, originally, the first installment of the series was to be Pathfinder. As such, most of my short fiction in this universe to date has been set during that novel, which takes place between 2094 and 2108. While Pathfinder could still end up being the first installment published, at this point that’s highly unlikely (given that The Pioneer has already made it to first draft). The Pioneer takes place between 2122 and 2123. As the story establishes that the ECV Susan Constant left Earth in early 2113, I’ve decided that any stories taking place after that date also fall within the Pioneer time frame. Even still, I’ve found that of everything I’ve written to date, only two stories take place within the proper time frame, only one of which is complete.
So obviously, I have a lot to do. Not one, but three potential collections of short stories command my attention. Still, I feel like I’m finally ready to pull the trigger and do this. I’m eager, and I’m looking forward to finally having something out there for readers to purchase and enjoy. Keep reading for further updates on these new ideas, and as always, dare to dream. – MK