This is the 40 YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF MY FIRST SF PRO SALE AND PUBLICATION!
When I was fifteen I was a winner in Scholastic Inc.’s National Writing Competition, and the editor from Science World saw the story, paid me pro rate even by today’s SFWA standards, and published “The Last Ray of Light” May 18, 1978. Science World doesn’t publish science fiction, they publish articles about science, 500,000 copies an issue, to help science teachers get kids excited about, well, science! So this was a special deal for my story. It did happen to be about a hyperloop/vactrain, many decades before Elon Musk theorized building one through Tesla. There was nothing for me to read on such a thing at the time, but the country was in an energy crisis, and I just made up an energy starved future world, how they would travel, what would happen if the system failed, and the price my protagonist would have to pay to save those people trapped inside.
Forty years later and I’m happy to say the story that kid wrote still works–editor Joe Monson will be reprinting it in the anthology TRACE THE STARS around February 2019 along with stories by New York Times bestselling authors David Farland and Kevin J. Anderson! I am thrilled this tale is coming back to life in an anthology where proceeds will help students reach for the stars! If you get a chance to read it, just forgive my naivete’ about how computers in the future would communicate–our school’s computer lab had a strong impression on me, and those of you in the know will understand why my computer says STOP at the end of every sentence. STOP.
Okay, now, you can stop. STOP. No, seriously, I mean it, computer! STOP.
This was sad for me last night–I saw a post from Kevin J. Anderson on a group I’m in, and realized I had missed the news that David Bischoff died March of this year. David was a member of the Wordos writers group in Eugene, Oregon, and so was I. Mild mannered, quiet and kind, you would never have known how much he had accomplished in the industry unless you really pressed him–he was just another writer showing up to help critique for the weekly sessions. Dave and I became friends, and he really liked my writing, especially my Borg love story published in Star Trek: Strange New Worlds II. You see, among his many accomplishments, Dave had worked the Hollywood scene, had written the Star Trek Next Generation episode “Tin Man” and coauthored “First Contact,” and also wrote the bestselling Trek novel Grounded. Imagine my surprise when one day he asked me to work up a list of pitches that we’d take to Paramount to pitch to the execs at Voyager. He liked my ideas, prepped me on how fast you had to change them as the producers added their twists, and we planned our dates to go. Alas, just as we were about to buy tickets, Dave got nervous, apologized, but said he had reconsidered–having done the Hollywood scene (you make a lot of compromises in your work to exist there), he had changed his mind about going back into it. He had decided he was happy where he was at in his career, and I respected that.
It would have been cool to have shared in that world with him, however, and I can’t help my selfish wish that we would have gone. For me, it has always been a great dream of what might have been, and it’s my fondest memory of Dave, because he had made a choice, and he knew where he wanted his writing and life to be. I’ll miss you, Dave. You were always kind and insightful, and you believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself. You had a profound impact on my writing, even though my move created distance that caused us to drift apart. You will be missed by all that were graced with your kind presence.