I am still a writer of short stories

Hello, my beauties. Everything is going well for me. Writing proceeds apace. This draft of my novel-for-adults (working title: THE LONELY YEARS) isn’t quite a rewrite, but the scenes I’ve deleted from the last draft of the book (which was only 58k words) total 35k words! So more than half the words will end up being new. I was stuck on the book for a while, but now I feel less stuck.

I recently had a story accepted by F&SF, my second there, after last year’s “Bodythoughts”. “The Leader Principle” is my take on Heinlein’s classic story (which I thought was the coolest thing ever, as a kid) “The Man Who Sold The Moon”. It’s about a charismatic billionaire (DEFINITELY NOT BASED ON ELON MUSK) who is determined to establish colonies on Mars. But obviously, because this is 2019 and not 1932 (or whenever Heinlein published the original story), I have very different things to say about the worth of my billionaire’s mission. On the other hand, the billionaire himself is an engaging character and not a bad man. It’s just that, like most people, he cannot escape the hand of fate. This was definitely one of those stories that came out very easily. It only required mild tinkering to put it into saleable form.

This success inspired me to write a few more short stories. Sure hope something comes of them! What surprises me is that I do so much rewriting for my novels, but hardly none for my short stories. I’m not sure why: maybe it’s a skill I never developed. But I have heard other writers talk about not needing to revise their stories very much. I feel like they either come out more or less right, or they don’t work at all, and no amount of fixing is going to make them better.

I also tend to lack both the vision and the will for revising short stories. With novels, after I finish one draft, I tend to gestate a new conception of the book that’ll emerge triumphantly in a month or two and inspire me to obliterate the old draft. I literally will not be able to send out the book in its tired old form, no matter how much I might want to.

This doesn’t happen with short stories. And if it was to happen, I’d probably ignore it. Spending weeks revising a story that I wrote in a few hours and that probably won’t sell and, if it did sell, would be read by less than a thousand people and earn me less than five hundred dollars? Well…I dunno, doesn’t seem like an amazing use of time.

With the sale of “The Leader Principle”, I’ve now sold something on the order of fifty-mumble short stories. Of these, thirty-mumble were to reputable magazines and journals. That includes five stories at Nature, five at Daily Science Fiction, two at F&SF, three at Lightspeed / Nightmare, three at Clarkesworld, three at the now-closed Intergalactic Medicine Show, and two at Beneath Ceaseless Skies, amongst others. I’ve also sold a story to Asimov’s and one to Interzone and one to Apex, the latter of which led to my only Year’s Best inclusion (in Rich Horton’s Year’s Best, maybe two or three years back). I still want to sell stories to Analog, Strange Horizons and Tor.com. Analog will happen someday. Strange Horizons is only open for like three hours a week, so I can never get it together enough to sell there, and anyway I always get the feeling that my fiction isn’t woke enough for them. And Tor.com is NEVER open, so roughly every other year I’ll ask one of their commissioning editors if I can submit something, and they’ll say yes, and then my story will get rejected. If you’re an editor from Tor.com, can you please add me to Tor’s secret site for taking online submissions, plz? I mean I’m just assuming such a thing exists. Actually, I have an agent now, so maybe I should just get him to submit. That seems way too formal for the sci-fi/fantasy world though.

I also submit literary stories on occasion. I have a few making the rounds right now. We’ll see what happens with those!

Sometimes I do think about trying to come out with a story collection, but I’m not sure. A few years back, I spent an afternoon trying to put one together, and I concluded that I didn’t have 50,000 words of fiction that I actually wanted to get reprinted. And there’s also ZERO audience for a single-author collection of my works. To be honest, although my short fiction is, I think, better than most of what’s out there, I don’t know if it’s good enough that I could honestly say, “You should spend a day reading nothing but Rahul Kanakia’s short stories.”

I’ve stopped trying to market myself for science fiction and fantasy awards. Not because I think there’s anything wrong with such marketing, but because, I don’t know, it’s not really my world anymore. Winning a Nebula or a Hugo is great for a sci-fi / fantasy writer’s career, but it doesn’t mean anything if you’re writing outside the genre. I have to say, it was a blessed relief to be able to stop asking other people to read my stuff and, in turn, to stop promising to read other peoples’ stuff. It really made an incalculable improvement in my life.

I still have stories coming out every so often. This year I had “The Intertidal Zone” in the May/June issue of Asimov’s, so, you know, if you want a Rahul short story you can check that out.

I made my first sale to a high-profile magazine (my first ‘real’ sale) to Nature in 2008. That was 11 years ago! From a short story writing perspective, I’ve been around a LONG TIME. Most people who started publishing stories when I started publishing stories aren’t here anymore. They’ve quit writing. Or at the very least, they’ve fully moved on to novels. After a decade in this biz, you get to realize, well, there’s a lot of value just to surviving.

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