Friday, October 23, 2009

"Hello," Said the Stick


I still have a Theo Gray book to blog about, but I'm putting it off 'til next week because The Drabblecast has just posted an audio podcast of my short story, "Hello," Said the Stick.

So how did I come to write that story in the first place? I'm glad you asked. It began when I went to a reading by a friend whose name I shall discreetly elide. Mere minutes into the reading I had discovered two facts:

1) That I already knew the piece, since I'd read it in manuscript, and

2) That my friend was the single worst reader I'd ever heard in my life, bar none.

For a time, there was some entertainment to be had from determining whether or not a verbal fumble and correction would be made in literally every sentence read. But then it became clear that, yes, it would, and boredom set in. I started word-doodling in my notebook, creating neologisms and writing down odd sentences. One of which was: "Hello," said the stick.

Huh, I thought. That's intriguing. It would make a good first sentence for a story.

So, while the reading droned on, I played around with the notion. By the end of the evening, I had a couple of paragraphs and a good idea of the plot. I borrowed the idea of mercenaries fighting with weapons well below their culture's technological level from Larry Niven's "Night on Mispec Moor," and his clean, lean, stripped-down prose style as well.

The next morning was a Saturday. After breakfast, I said to Marianne, "I think I'll spend the day writing, if that's okay with you."

"Have fun," she said.

So I went to my office, wrote the story, and dropped it in the mail to Analog before the post office closed at 2 that afternoon. From original conception to actual submission in a grand total of eighteen hours -- and I got to sleep in late in between!

Oh, yeah, and it made it onto the Hugo ballot.

There is no moral to this anecdote. But, oh, if only everything I wrote came half so easily!

You can find The Drabblecast here or go straight to the podcast here. The podcast also includes "Eat the Dog," by Reverend John Sleestaxx



HANNAH'S DAD said...

The direct link to the podcast comes out a bit funky and doesn't work. Has the URL been in the presence of Microsoft Word? Word loves to "correct" quotation marks wherever it finds them.

For what it's worth, this works:

Michael Swanwick said...

Okay, I think that's fixed now. Many thanks!