Sold a story to Nature: my third SFWA-qualifying sale

I sold a story – “Ted Agonistes” – to Nature, the scientific journal. I’ve been published there before, way back in 2008, but it still feels good to sell them another story, especially since my last sale was at the end of last June.

This one also marks a milestone for me. It’s my third qualifying sale for membership in the Science Fiction Writers Association (of America?) or SFWA.

Basically, SFWA is a professional association – like, say, the Asian American Motel-Owners Association or the American Bar Association – for science fiction (and fantasy, and horror) writers. In order to join you need to have either sold a novel, or three short stories, to a qualifying venue (the qualifying factor for venues is mainly pay rate).

SFWA itself is not incredibly useful. But being able to join SFWA is often seen by aspiring writers (including myself, many years ago) as a major milestone.

When you start submitting to magazines, it is difficult to fathom how incredibly far you are from even being close to producing work that will be of value to anyone who doesn’t know you personally. That ignorance is a good thing, because it puts you over the hump period when you should, rationally speaking, give up.

Because the more you work, the more you realize how many aspiring writers there are out there. It is quite inconceivable to me that there could be such a thing as National Novel Writing Month and its 200,000 participants last year alone. Some of the magazines I submit to get over a thousand submissions a month.

Just think about the amount of ambition that is hanging on all those words and all those works. And all those dreamers are not dreaming of having a story published here and there. They’re dreaming of having the kind of effect on people that their favorite writers have had on them. And that’s a hard dream. If that was the kind of milestone we aimed for, then it would be hard to tick off any kind of progress.

That is why we have intermediate milestones like becoming eligible for SFWA. On the one hand, it is something I dreamed about for many years, and it means that I am more successful than tens (if not hundreds) of thousands of aspiring writers.

On the other hand, it doesn’t feel that important anymore, since all it means is that three editors (well, actually two) liked my work. It doesn’t seem to have much bearing on the ultimate questions of artistic achievement. But, you know, every little bit helps.


Oh, and I am not going to join SFWA: membership dues are like $80 a year. That’s too much for me.

Comments (



  1. bradley


  2. Tracy Canfield


    I think you’ve precisely pegged the value of SFWA – newbie writers get the idea that it’ll make editors more likely to buy their stories, though I’ve never seen credible evidence of this. When I qualified, I realized that for a short story writer, you’re basically paying a hefty fee to be able to vote on the Nebulas.

    But at the same time, there’s that jump from “sold a story to a pro market” to “qualified for SFWA” that’s a big deal psychologically, even if it doesn’t change much in the real world. (It’s like losing your virginity.)

    1. R. H. Kanakia

      Yeah, it does sound fun to get to nominate for the Nebulas. But not for $80 a year.

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