Just for fun, I did a Google search for my name to see where I rank these days. I’ve now moved up to #4, and even passed up one of my unsavory name-doppelgangers that has thwarted me for a long time–the web page is titled “Is David Steffen and elitist bigot?”
I recall reading from a Roman historian who complained that on one night, some 40 men were dragged from their beds and eaten by wolves. He said, “The only thing worse than the wolves are the wild Scotsmen themselves!” I was thinking about that, and suddenly my subconscious said, “Hey, I’ve got your magic system!”
How different would my writing career be nowadays if I had sent that first manuscript off to ESP instead of Tor. I probably would never have started writing short stories, so I wouldn’t have come across critique forums like Baen’s Bar. I never would’ve made the awesome friends I’ve made, and I would be left slogging through the revisions of that novel (or ones of a second novel) with little or no feedback to help me understand what works in stories and what doesn’t. ALL it would’ve taken would have been a different address on that one envelope, and this would be so different.
I highly recommend this story from Abyss & Apex: “Snatch Me Another” by Mercurio D. Rivera. It’s a well-told highly emotional tale exploring what the world could be like where we could have pretty much everything we wanted for free, by a new black market invention called The Snatcher.
“They all deserve to die. Tell you why, Mrs. Lovett, tell you why. Because in all of the whole human race, Mrs. Lovett, there are two kinds of men and only two. There’s the one stays put in his proper place and the one with his foot in the other one’s face. Look at me, Mrs. Lovett, look at you. We all deserve to die. Even you, Mrs. Lovett, even I. Because the lives of the wicked should be made brief. For the rest of us death will be a relief.”
Anyway, since I started writing 2 years ago, I haven’t come across a single novel I enjoyed. I’d been starting to think that by learning to pick apart my own stories critically that I’d rendered myself unable to enjoy other people’s novels. So I was very glad to realize that I was thoroughly enjoying this one.
Abyss and Apex has a story I particularly liked this month by William Highsmith. I tried to give this one a critique before it was published, but I enjoyed it so much that I really just enjoyed it the way it is.
Interestingly, what Pat Bertram claims are the rules of the submitting to literary violate what is common knowledge for speculative fiction magazines. Listed below I listed the major differences I noticed. “Literary” refers to the comments entered by Vince Gotera (though he may not speak for the entire genre, he speaks as though he does).
Give to First Readers. I give it to a few people whose critiquing opinions I trust. Exactly who I give it to depends on who I’ve been interacting more with lately, who I’ve read stories for (I prefer to trade rather than one-sided critiques) etc… I read the critiques as they roll in and mark comments into the draft document so they’re easy to look at later.
This story is one of those rare cases where I liked the movie better than the book. Not the original Jack Nicholson movie, but the miniseries starring Steven Weber in the 90s. I’ve yet to see a Nicholson movie I liked (to be fair, I haven’t seen some of his more famous ones like One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest).