Sale! (or, how I learned to stop worrying and write science fiction)

This will be very old news to those of you who follow me on Twitter, Facebook, and Google+, but I’ve made my first pro sale!

Lightspeed Magazine has picked up “The Parting Glass” for its December 2011 issue. I’m very proud of this story. I wrote it during Week Six at Clarion West in 2010, and as someone who’s a long-time self-avowed fantasy writer it was kind of a big deal for me to write it.

Science fiction is often perceived by readers and would-be writers to always involve loads of hard science, complicated astronomical or biological theory (with attending formulae worked out in the text), and brainy scientists who save the day because of their intimate understanding of quantum mechanics. Okay, science fiction is sometimes these things.

But it doesn’t have to be.

Speaking as a writer who is more right-brained than left, I’ve always been intimidated by the idea of writing science fiction. Of course, I’ve read countless tales by folks like Le Guin, Silverberg, and Bradbury, where the setting was clearly science fiction but the emphasis was more on the speculative story than the hard scientific facts. Somehow, this never mattered to right-brain me, who insisted any foray into spec-fic had to steer wide around anything with the word “science” in it. I’m glad I stopped listening to that voice!

Every week at Clarion West, I challenged myself by trying to write a different kind of story than I had the week before. I knew I wanted to try to write at least one science fiction story while I was there, but we had some really smart people in our class who knew science and were very thorough in their critiques*. Ulp.

I waffled. Time flew past and suddenly there weren’t many weeks left. I had this rudimentary idea for a story, but I could see making it fantasy as easily as science fiction. I was tempted to take the “easy” way out. And then I had a conversation with Nisi Shawl and Eileen Gunn at the end-of-week 4 Clarion West party. They waved away my concerns and insisted I shouldn’t be intimidated by writing science fiction. “Write the story,” they said. And so I did. Thank you Eileen and Nisi!

The story fared relatively well in class, by the way. I got some great feedback from my classmates and instructor Ian McDonald. Such surprisingly positive feedback, in fact,  that it helped turn my “I can’t write science fiction” mantra into my first professional fiction sale. So thanks to everyone who helped shepherd this story along.

If I can do it, you can do it. Never thought you could write science fiction?

You should try it. You never know what might happen.


*Very thorough but very constructive, I might add.