Placed a story in American Short Fiction

Hello friends! Some writers are very reticent to talk about their short story sales (or ‘appearances’, as a literary writer might say?) before a contract is signed. I’ve never had that reticence. Usually if an acceptance disappears it’s because the journal has gone out of business, and that can happen whether you’ve signed a contract or not.

In any case, I have now signed a contract, so can doubly announce that a story will appear in American Short Fiction–a relatively high profile literary journal (certainly the highest profile in which I’ve placed a story). This prompted me to go through and update my various bibliographies. I maintain many now: one for essays, one for literary stories, one for science fiction stories, and one for poetry. But just looking at the short stories, I see that this makes my 62nd short story ‘sale’ and my 41st at professional rates, as defined by the Science Fiction Writers of America back when I first started writing (five cents a word). I think SFWA has since bumped their criteria up to eight cents a word, and it’s a good thing too, what with inflation and all. But I am sticking to five cents as my ersatz definition, mostly to cut out the short stories I sold to tiny embarrassing magazines early in my career. Many of those journals aren’t on the internet anymore, so I suppose I could simply scrub them out of existence if I wished! But I don’t.

Forty two! That’s a lot! I could put together a collection if I wanted. But I don’t.

There’s no demand for a collection by me, and I think perhaps a collection will wait until the distant day when there is. Maybe at the end of my career I’ll put one together. Most of my stories, I have to say, are not necessarily ones I’d want to put before the reading public again. I’m not sure if off the top of my head I can think of ten I’d truly recommend. Hmm, certainly ‘Bodythoughts’ and ‘The Leader Principle’, which appeared originally in F&SF. My forthcoming ‘Nick and Bodhi’, which is coming out in a YA LGBT SF anthology, Out There, is pretty good. Several of my Lightspeed stories, most notably ‘The Girl Who Escaped From Hell‘ and ‘A Coward’s Death‘ are worth reading. Probably ‘Everquest’, which also appeared in Lightspeed. And then hmm…well I suppose ‘Sexual Cannibalism‘, which appeared in Birkensnake, and ‘The Anti-Fascist‘, which appeared in West Branch, are both pretty good. Hmm, that’s eight. ‘Corridors‘, which appeared originally in Nature, is a hell of a ride. ‘Empty Planets’, which was reprinted in one of Rich Horton’s Year’s Bests, and which originally appeared in Interzone. And that’s ten. But all together that can’t be more than thirty thousand words. Half a collection.

Oh there’s other stuff I could throw in there–my three stories in Asimov’s and one in Analog and my three Clarkesworld stories, and a few of my other literary stories too–but I don’t know if it really adds up to anything. I’d feel difficulty recommending it whole-heartedly, the way I can recommend my novels or my cynical guide to the publishing industry.

Anyway luckily I don’t have to sell anyone on a collection, because it doesn’t exist! I don’t even campaign for science fiction / fantasy awards anymore–something I’ve at times done assiduously. If I’d won or even been nominated, I’d probably have become an inveterate campaigner, but as my efforts came to nothing, I’ve thankfully been rescued from that practice. Now I just throw the short work out there without any expectations. They’re fun to write, and the psychological reward of selling a story far exceeds the amount of effort it takes to produce and submit one. And in the last five years I’ve also been selling a much greater percentage of what I write. During my first 14 years as a writer, I wrote 210 stories and sold 48 (22%), more than half of which were to complete no-name publications. In the last four years (holy crap, I can’t have been doing this for more than eighteen years, can I?) I’ve written 43 and sold 15 (35%), almost all of them to respectable publications, and the unsold number for the last five years includes fifteen or so that I’m still submitting and which might yet sold.

Feels good! Feels like a sort of accomplishment.