I have another book out, from Yard Dog Press, The Logic of Departure. More on that later.
I’m having something of a productive year, career-wise. To recap, the official release party for my first short story collection, Gravity Box and Other Spaces, if this coming Wednesday at Left Bank Books, 399 N. Euclid, St. Louis, MO, at 7:00 PM.
Also, I’ll be doing another program with the St. Louis Science Center at the end of July. More on that when things are firmed up.
But on July 11th, we’ll be celebrating the 45th birthday of Left Bank Books and for that we’ll be doing something wild and crazy and insane—you know, normal fare for Left Bank—called Writers Under Glass. I have roped, er, enlisted the participation of three very talented local writers for this. We’ll be writing a story in the window of the store. Scott Phillips, Ann Leckie, and Kevin Killeen will be tag-teaming along with me in this endeavor and who knows what we’ll produce, but it will be fun and there will be refreshments and it will be for a good cause and, well, it’s a party and a show, so not to be missed.
I’m writing two books more or less simultaneously, did I mention that? More crazy, but it needs doing, for many reasons.
But right now I want to talk a bit about the books.
I always considered short story collections to be a kind of marker that a writer had “arrived.” There was a time when they constituted a substantial part of an author’s published œuvre, equal to the novels, but that changed while I was growing up and beginning my career. Received wisdom in the industry is that anthologies and collections “don’t sell” and hence I came to see such things as the equivalent of “best of” or “greatest hits” album, something not likely to sell as well (if at all) but an indicator along the road that one’s work is worthy of attention. I saw them as a bone thrown to the writer by a publisher if the sales of the novels seemed to merit it.
Which would mean that I was unlikely to have one. For many reasons, some of which I’ve discussed here, my sales are…not what I’d prefer them to be.
So it is with considerable pleasure (and pleasurable surprise) that an opportunity more or less fell into my lap when Lisa Miller of Walrus Publishing approached me about a project several years ago. She was starting up her publishing company, looking for projects, and she asked me what I wanted to do. I confessed that I would really like to put out a collection. After looking over some stories, she enthusiastically agreed, and here we are.
Gauging one’s impact in this business is difficult at best. I’ve published just north of 50 short stories and to the best of my knowledge none of them garnered much notice. I’ve consistently failed to be nominated for awards in short fiction and I’ve had to date only three stories anthologized (one in a best of the year!) and my production of short fiction fell off after I began selling novels. For all I know, few people thought much of my short fiction.
Initial reaction to the release of Gravity Box has been surprisingly positive, though. The echo chamber in which many of us work may be returning some of our early shouts finally. I choose to be hopeful.
I am very proud of my short fiction. I never worked so hard at anything. My inclination was always to be a novelist. Short stories were not my preferred form, but in order to be a professional I thought I needed to learn how to do them and in fact they taught me a tremendous amount about craft and character and all the small indefinable yet indispensable things that comprise “story.” Time permitting, I desire to write more of them. I came to genuinely enjoy the form.
What people will find in Gravity Box and Other Spaces is a collection of stories orbiting around themes involving family and relationships tied to family. The theme emerged during the process of assembling the pieces. A third of them have been previously published, the rest are making their debut here. I ignored subgenres—there are science fiction stories, full-blown fantasies, borderline horror, a lot of “slipstream” and a couple of quasi-historical magic realism types. I feel they all fit comfortably within my definitions of speculative fiction. Without wishing to seem presumptuous, I hope they appeal to an even wider audience looking for literary merit.
The second book now out is a happy accident. Yard Dog Press has published a few of my longer short pieces. They did two chapbooks for me, Extensions and Diva, both novellas. Anyone in the business will tell you that novellas are damnably difficult to market. Not long enough to be a book, not short enough to leave room in a magazine for everyone else. I’ve written few of them in consequence. Last year, Lynn and Selena, who run Yard Dog, contacted me to let me know they intended combining the two chapbooks into a single, perfect-bound edition. At the time I was wrestling with a new story that seemed determined to sprawl into a novella, but which also seemed workable as part of the background world in which these two chapbooks shared. I asked their indulgence to wait till I finished and perhaps they could publish the three of them together. It still took me an inordinate amount of time to finish the third novella, now entitled Raitch, Later. But they were happy with it and now the three pieces, under the title The Logic of Departure, are out. Serendipity.
Now I’m back at work on the novels, hoping for further good news this year. We could use some, given certain other things that are going on (and not for public consumption). Be that as it may, I am thrilled right now and of course I look forward to seeing throngs at the release party this Wednesday.
I will be updating everyone on the other events as details come in.
In the meantime, my thanks to Lisa Miller and John Kaufmann and the terrific people at Left Bank Books. See you all Wednesday.