SAM BOONE AND THE THERMAL COUPLES is an examination of translation of alien speech, particularly with whom we share few physical attributes, was an idea that I had been considering for years. This particular piece was inspired in part by the old Freas drawings of whacked-out aliens.
While I was attending ConFranCisco I attended a seminar featuring Stan Schmidt, who said that he had been trying for years to write an alien translation story. When I got home I decided to see if I could bring the idea to life, but inject a little humor as well. The aliens just sort of popped up as the writing went along. The Rix is my favorite, and I made them quite different from the Rix in ETIQUETTE. I requested Freas as the illustrator and was so pleased by the result that I bought the lead illustration, which now hangs on my wall.
Appeared in: ANALOG, October 1995 – page 106 Created : June 1994 (Revised June 2004) Sold: December 1994 Words: 11,300 Illustrated by: Kelly Freas
ETIQUETTE was inspired by the style of C.J. Cherryh. The driving, internally absorbed, consciously thinking narrative taken to extremes. The story supposes a galactic culture that is casually vicious, largely uncaring of humanity, and doing things that are beyond understanding. It seemed appropriate that the protagonist be a woman. I have Jeff Kooistra to thank for the image of the huge spaceship. Some aliens and settings were later used in SAM BOONE AND THE THERMAL COUPLES.
Appeared in: RADIUS, April 1995 Created : February 1994 Sold: April 1994 Words: 4,500
RATE OF CHANGE began when I tried to imagine what it would be like as the final hours of the singularity approached. In it I make reference to Vernor Vinge, who originated the idea of the singularity in the PEACE WAR. It seemed to me that the rate of implementation would increase as well as the speed of development and, given the growth of the internet, would be facilitated by worldwide communications. My experience as an independent contractor/consultant gave me the idea of the transient company, created for a specific task, and then going out of business. While I was writing this I spread my expertise among three companies.
Appeared in: RADIUS, November 1994 Created : October 1993 Sold: August 1994 Words: 3,000.
Audio (CD) version in Frequency Magazine #2, January 2001 Cover from the Ackerman Collection.
THE LAST GREAT MAN was written in honor of John Campbell and some disgust at the direction I think technology and our educational system is taking the fiction market.
Consider the advent of word processors, grammar checkers, spelling checkers, and language translators and you will see that this crazy idea might not be so far in the future at all. This was to have appeared in SPECULATIONS anonymously, but I let the cat
our of the bag before publication and embarrassed a few people as a result, for which I am sorry, but unrepentant.
Appeared in: SPECULATIONS, March 1995 – page 35 Created : December 1992 Words: 4,300
CHILDISH THiNGS is highly autobiographical and includes various members of my family, albeit thinly disguised. The genesis of this is the concept of transience. Stories about this subject have always fascinated me, especially those by Lee Cory. This story appeared side-by-side with another one about an alien message by Jerry Oltion. It was interesting to see that, while I was more inclined to welcome the gifts from beyond, Jerry was not. The two stories make an interesting counterpoint. Neither Jerry nor I knew about each other’s story in advance.
Appeared in: ANALOG, December 1994 Created : October 1993 Sold: February 1994 Words:3,900 Illustrated by: Nicholas Jainschigg
HURRICANE!! came from a chance conversation while I was standing in line, waiting to get in to ConFrancisco. The guy ahead of me was talking about the effects of hurricane Andrew, which had just ravaged Florida. The connection with parasailing and sport jumping was immediate. I wrote the outline for the story that very night, sitting in the
bathroom so I wouldn’t disturb my wife’s sleep.
This story required a lot of research, during which I discovered that not much is known about the internal structure of hurricanes. I expected to get a lot of comment from meteorologists and was surprised when the only criticism I got was that I depicted kayakers as daredevils when everyone knows that people who take a teeny little boat in white water are usually conservative cautious types — sure they are – HA!! I also worried that someone might actually try to do what I described and put a line in that the editor later removed: “This story is narrated by a professional. DO NOT ATTEMPT THIS AT HOME!” This was the cover story for that month. In case you are interested, compare the opening of this story with that of HUGO AND ME.
Appeared in: ANALOG, September 1994, Created : September 1993 Sold: January 1994 Words: 14,300 Illustrated by: George Krauter Cover by: John Maggard
MARY’S PRESENT was written because I was dissatisfied with JAKE’S GIFT, since
there were some long term effects of Jake’s invention that were not discussed. I wrote Mary’s Present to describe some of these effects. In this story I described my first sailboat, a Wesort, in some detail. This is a twelve foot wooden boat that weighs about one hundred pounds and has about 120 square feet of sail (main and jib). It is exciting
to sail, but tips over very easily when the wind shifts suddenly. I received some favorable comments from biologists about the accuracy of the descriptions of vegetation that populates the edges of the bay in this story. I did a lot of research on that feature and, when I heard that I got it right, I was very pleased. Most of the story’s place names are fictitious, but have an affinity to actual locations. A third installment of the story, tentatively named “Simple Gifts,” was being written when my computer was stolen in 1995 and I didn’t have the heart to recreate it. Fortuitously, as I was moving in 1996, I discovered the outline and an earlier fragment in my files. I am now considering
writing it to complete the Jake and Mary story.
“Mary’s Present” was reviewed in both LOCUS and TANGENT, neither of
whom liked it particularly well, probably because they didn’t understand
that it was a sequel.
Appeared in: ANALOG, May 1994 – page 82 Created : May 1993 Sold: August 1993 Words: 6,400 Illustrated by: Christopher Bing
EVE OF FEAST is the result of a whim. I was thinking of how I’d done ALBA KRYSTAL when I started this. ANALOG originally wanted to buy this seasonal piece, but already had R-TRNRD in hand, so it went to other markets. Somehow I think that it might be even better in verse, but I don’t have that much time ( or skill).
Appeared in: RADIUS, December 1994 Created : May 1993 Sold: October 1994 Words: 2,400
PERSISTENCE was written while I was in the depths of depression about my writing ability. On the afternoon of the day I wrote this, I received five (5) rejection notices in the mail. This, by itself, wouldn’t have been so bad, but I’d also gotten disgusted and trashed 10,000 words of a novel I was writing. I wrote the story in four hours (2000 – 0200) and swore that it was the last thing I’d write. I mailed it the next day. I was chagrined when Stan Schmidt told me that he thought that it was the best thing I’d done.
On reflection I realize that there is a lot of autobiographical material in this story. The woman who was the model for this story told me that she cried when she read the draft, so I guess it I did something right. It also made the preliminary ballot for the Hugo that year, which means that it also touched a few fans’ hearts as well.
This issue of ANALOG also contains a bio of me by Jay Kay Klien together with an absolutely ugly picture of me.
Appeared in: ANALOG,, May 1994 – page 82, Words: 7,200 Created : April 1993 Sold: July 1993 Illustrated by: Todd Cameron Hamilton
IRIDIUM DREAMS is a complex story that works on many levels. This received some good press from the reviewers and was given an
honorable mention in Dozois’s YEAR’S BEST SCIENCE FICTION – 1994. I
combined information from NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC, SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN,
and TIME magazine articles to provide the details of the story. There were
about six drafts before it was submitted, and two thereafter. I even made
a few revisions on the galley proofs!
This was composed with a Hypercard scene development stack I created to
allow me to shift scenes and text around. After I was satisfied with the
sequence of the basic plot, I went to word processing and smoothed the
text. The working title for this piece was A JURASSIC LUCY, but was changed
due to the appearance of the movie, Jurrasic Park.
Appeared in: ANALOG,, April 1994 – page 117 Created : February 1993 Sold: April 1993 Words: 7,200
JAKE’S GIFT contains scenes from my childhood haunts, my sailboat, my sailing instructor, and my dog, Chessie. It is mostly a love story about the Chesapeake Bay, but also recalls the floating farms I saw in Burma several years before. The Rhode River facility is a real place and wonderful to visit when you are in the area. There was some research interest in the floating platform idea from Exxon, but it never came to anything, as far as I know. In 2009 I discovered that someone had taken this idea and made it a commercial venture.
I wrote JAKE’S in a single afternoon while my wife and daughter went shopping (OK, so they REALLY went shopping!) It was written on a portable Macintosh that I had borrowed for the trip.
Appeared in ANALOG , September 1993 Words: 6,200 Created : October 1992 Sold: November 1992 Illustrated by Christopher Bing
RTRNRD: Sometimes you have to have some fun. I decided to do a riff on a popular Christmas tale and R-TRNRD is what came about. I won’t speak too much of the story and ruin the jokes that populate this piece.The story pretty much wrote itself, after the basic idea was laid down. At the insistence of Stan Schmidt I had to research infra-red wavelengths to get that aspect right. Surprisingly, there was some fan mail on this. One fan wanted to know what the final words were and that letter, and my answer, appeared in the Brass Tacks section some time later.
Appeared in ANALOG,Mid-December 1992 – page 72 Created : August 1992 Sold: March 1993 Words: 5,700 Illustrated by: Dell Harris
DAD was the first science fiction sale after I decided to return to writing SF and was written as a father’s day gift for my son. In this I recalled the white-water canoe camping trips we had taken on the Shennandoa River, near Luray, VA and Harper’s Ferry, WV.
This is really a story about coming of age, when every boy realizes that he has become his father. I often think that this would make a wonderful story for The Outer Limits or The Twilight Zone, were they still around. My mental image of the protagonist was a black boy, not the white one that illustrates this story. Jeff Kooistra, who has become a good friend as a result, was given credit for this story in the Table of Contents. A very large box containing an apology for the mix-up appeared in ANALOG two months later.
Appeared in ANALOG, June 1993 Created : June 1992 Sold: August 1992 Words:5,500 Illustrated by: Broeck Steadman
THE HAT AND THE DRAGON: After the local reaction to HUGO I decided to try something more difficult, quite out of character with the normal stories that appear in this magazine. The editor asked me to heighten the fantasy aspect while reducing the word count. I was quite surprised by the reactions to this sort of story by everyone I encountered. The editor was so taken that she graced the article with a photo of yours truly. The story was featured as the central piece in the 1992 Annapolis Boat Show issue. This appeared just one year after I bought the hat featured in the story.
Appeared in CHESAPEAKE BAY MAGAZINE, October 1992 Created : October 1991 Sold: March 1992 Words: 1,500 Photos by: John Sparhawk
HUGO AND ME was my first writing submission after a thirteen year hiatus. This recounts, with slight exaggeration, my flight from the Severn River to the South River to protect my boat from hurricane Hugo. This is a humorous piece that shows what an inept sailor can encounter when confronted with the simplest of navigational problems.
Appeared in CHESAPEAKE BAY MAGAZINE, April 1992 Words: 1.500 Created : December 1990 Sold: January 1991 Illustrated by: Cindy Fletcher-Holden
ALBA KRYSTAL arose from three factors. First I had just taken my kids to see Disney’s SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS and thought that the plot could be easily converted to an SF theme. The second factor was my anger at the untimely death of my dog. Apparently, some of those emotions bled through in the death scene in the latter part of the story. Harlan Elison contends that the tropes come through in the language, even if the words aren’t there and I guess that happened here. Finally, I wondered if it was realistic that seven dwarfs could really be celibate around a sexy young woman. Ben Bova bought LIZARD’S CHILD and changed the title. Because of the pressures of grad school, and the need to support my family, I stopped writing for thirteen years after this piece saw print.
Appeared in ANALOG, January, 1977 Created : June 1976 Sold: August 1976 Words:4,200
Illustrated by: Mike Hinge
THE TOMPKINS BATTERY CASE: Prior to this sale I’d written about 20-25 non-salable stories. The origins of this story were melodrama and the song “Father, dear father, come home with me now…” which described a child begging his drunkard father to return to their sick mother. I guess the Six Million Dollar Man also had an influence on this in a weird way. There must have been a run-in with some bureaucrat as well, and that came out in the last part. This was written on a plane trip out of Okinawa.
Appeared in: ANALOG, August 1976 – page 123 Created March 1975 (Revised June 2004) Sold: April 1975 Words: 4,200 Illustrated by: Doug Beeman