I guess it’s no secret now, since my constant self-googling has revealed that the Table of Contents is all over the place (actually…I’m not really sure I was ever supposed to keep it a secret…), but my story “Next Door” will appear in Diverse Energies, an anthology of dystopian YA* (with a focus on diverse protagonists) edited by Joe Monti and Tobias Buckell. So, yes, if you want to read an SF story about a gay Indian teen, I am pretty sure that’s the only place you’re gonna find one.
So, I’ve wondered for years about what a person’s gotta do to get invited to be in an invite-only anthology and…I still have no idea. I think that someone more famous than you has to drop out and then you have to be willing to write a story in, like, ten days. Tobias Buckell (who I met once, six years ago, at Clarion) emailed me in mid-February and asked if I was willing to contribute an action-oriented SF story with a teen protagonist who had some kind of diversity. Oh, and he also needed it by the end of the month (i.e. in about eleven days).
My answer was “most definitely”. Then I did something that I have never before done in my life! I’d recently read, in Scientific American**, a truly horrifying story about how bed bugs are slowly becoming pesticide-resistant. And I’d read a really fun story in Wired** about this super-snobby underground collective of art restorationists (based in Paris) called UX. I slammed those two articles together and a story popped out. I wrote the story in six days and submitted it.
It’s kind of stressful to get an invite to an anthology. You know that there’s not much competition. I mean, no editor is gonna overbook their anthology too much (because that’s just rude). So you know that they’re really, really gonna want to accept your story (as opposed to most editors, who get so many submissions that there’s no downside to rejecting yours). And you know that if your story gets rejected, then you really bobbled it. You had a really sympathetic editor, but then you let him get away.’
My next communique re: this story was an email from Joe Monti with a bunch of edits. My email back to him said, “Umm…I agree with all these…but…umm…are you buying my story?” Apparently they’d decided to buy my story, but the acceptance email had gotten lost in the shuttle.
So, umm…cool. That’s a story that’s coming out. I think it is going to be in bookstores? If so, that’d be really nice. It’d be the first time I’ve been shelved on a bookstore.
This is the paragraph where a person customarily talks about how amazing it is to be in the same anthology as Ursula K. Le Guin and Ken Liu and Paolo Bacigalupi and such. And…you know…I do like all those authors quite a lot, but I’m not sure excitement is really the right word for this feeling. I mean, those people didn’t select my story. Nor is any of their goodness going to rub off on me. So I can’t say that this part of it makes such a big impression on me.
What I am more excited about is…wow…my name is, like, out there…in the world. When at least one person thought, “Colored SFF writer,” my name popped up. That was in February 2012. I don’t think my name would’ve even been on the radar in February 2011. In fact, my second professional publication (in Clarkesworld) was only in July of 2010. In 24 months, I’ve come a pretty long way.
Even if it is only in some incredibly weird and minor and specific way, I exist, in the public consciousness, as an SFF writer. And that feels pretty good.
*Actually, no one ever told me (when I was writing a story for it) that it was going to be marketed as an anthology of dystopian stories. I wonder if that’s because they just assumed my story would be dystopian (which it was, of course) or if everyone else also turned in dystopian stories and they just decided to roll with it, marketing-wise
**Yes, I read Scientific American and Wired in order to get story ideas. That’s just the kind of person I am now.