Sold a story–“Next Door”–to the Diverse Energies anthology of YA SF

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.

11 thoughts on “Sold a story–“Next Door”–to the Diverse Energies anthology of YA SF

  1. Amy

    Hooray! This is fabulous news.

    Also, my guess is they were always planning to market it as dystopian. Dystopian and science fiction in YA mean the same thing a surprising amount of the time…

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Well, I’m glad I didn’t turn in the sunniest, most positive story ever, then (although honestly, with me, I don’t think that was ever a possibility). Every now and then people put out a call for stories about ‘positive SF’ and I’m like, “Err…I thought that the future where we’re all being kept as pets by all-powerful machines _was_ the positive future?”

    2. tobias buckell

      Amy is correct. In the YA market they’ve decided anything that looks SF is ‘dystopian’ because ‘SF’ is like a bad word, so if there is a way to shoehorn the word dystopian on the cover it seems to end up there.

      As for the short turn around, it was due to the fact that I wasn’t sure how many words we would have for solicited stories free until stories got turned in. Then I realized I had some room for some extra invites for writers who might be able to turn around stories pretty quickly for an opportunity. But also because I thought it would be cool to bring some new voices into the game.

      Totally sorry about mixed signals on the acceptance, first time I’ve been involved in a project like this. I’m learning.

      1. R. H. Kanakia

        What? No need to apologize for anything. For me, the whole thing was a great experience.

        Interesting note about ‘dystopian’. So it really is just being used as a synonym for SF? I’ll have to remember that.

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Thanks! Yep, this definitely seems like your kind of anthology…personally, I sometimes kind of wonder about short fiction targeted at young adults (Kelly Link’s YA collection comes to mind). Do they actually read it?

  2. Alex J. Kane

    Congrats! I am so getting this one. Bacigalupi’s “Pocketful of Dharma” is one of my favorite stories, and I’m already intrigued by the description of your story, as well.

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