Fine, okay, there were some bits that are never fun. Like building an ebook table of contents or going through a bunch of stories written in standard manuscript format and deleting all the tabs so they won’t screw up the ebook.
But yeah, I liked it. There are 21 science fiction stories in there, arranged roughly from the nearest future to the most distant. From the most plausible to the most conjectural. From the least to the most alien-to-us-today vision of humanity.
There are self-driving cars and artificial intelligences in love and undersea civilizations and killer climate change and all sorts of other good stuff.
You can preorder it from Amazon right now. Or from Barnes & Noble, or Kobo, or Smashwords. Or Google Play Books. Or the iTunes bookstore. Or… there are others. How many others I cannot guess. The internet is big. 🙂
The release date is December 24th. Who doesn’t need something to read on Christmas Eve? I do. Ugh, the stress!
I’m kicking around a new idea.
I want you to comment and tell me what you think.
And now you have to read this WHOLE POST BWAAAAAAHAHAHAHAHA
So. *Ahem* I’ve been knocking around this ‘writing (mostly science-) fiction’ thing for a while.
I like writing science fiction. I like writing nearly anything, but science fiction is the gravity in my personal cosmos, if you get my lack of drift. My mother has the first story I ever wrote, in fact. With hand-drawn illustrations, and you can REALLY tell my main talents aren’t in the visual arts — shame I don’t have a picture to post here. It was something involving dinosaurs flying around in jets and a time machine. I think I was 9 or 10. And off and on through the years I fiddled with storytelling in one form or another — writing the occasional story and a lot of pretty stinky poetry. Playing and especially refereeing various pencil-and-paper role playing games.
Around… was it 2008? My memory isn’t what you’d call a steel trap… I started writing a lot more. For myself at first, to see if I could do it well. I thought I might have something publishable and mailed a short story submission to Fantasy & Science Fiction around 2009 or 10. I ran across it a year or so ago and cringed. I still had a lot to learn as a writer.
It’s funny. ‘They’ say read if you want to write. They’re right, but you need to do a lot of writing, too. It takes practice to translate “I know a good story when I read it” into “I wrote a good story.” And an open mind and a mindful purpose to improve and yada yada if you write you’ve probably heard it all before, probably from Stephen King who sells WAY more writing than I do — and almost certainly than you, too, as you read this. And if you’re reading this and you can say you sell like Stephen King, I’m flattered a literary icon of some variety is reading my blog. Hi there!
BUT ANYWAY. I’m pondering trying yet another angle at this self-publishing thing, because what I’m throwing at the wall right now isn’t particularly sticking.
And when I ponder major changes in anything, I tend to beat around the bush a lot before getting to the point.
I’ll try to keep it to a minimum.
I put my first self-published stories on Smashwords in early 2012. I have since pulled most of those early stories from my catalog and archived them — maybe I’ll rewrite them or repurpose their ideas for new stories; I’m not sure yet. As written, they share some of the just-beginning-to-write-with-publication-in-mind flaws that were in that first story I subbed to F&SF. But already, they were better. And I won’t elaborate more right here and now lest I sidetrack myself again.
Between then and now I have tried different approaches to gaining a wider readership as a self-published author. I have tried a little advertising here and there when I had the budget (Project Wonderful, concentrating on genre webcomics and Google Adwords). I have tried charging for every single story because some people say that’s The Way To Do It. I have tried higher and lower prices for the same reason. I have tried having both few and many free stories because some other people say… you get the point.
I have tried posting links to my stuff on social media often, and less often, and not at all. Scheduling posts and not scheduling posts. I have tried being serious, and I have tried being humorous, and I have tried being self-deprecating.
That last one, self-deprecation, is far too easy to actually do it very much without triggering some sort of depressive crisis. Because self-doubt is very easy when you don’t have a ton of fans — and when your earlier life has given you much ammunition for self-doubt, as mine has. (Which is where I say thanks to the Patreon patrons I have. Because not only do they think well enough of me and what I write to contribute a significant, pay-my-internet-bill amount of money, but they do that while being few in number (at the time of this writing — I hope for this to be incorrect in the near future). And only one of them is my mother! The majority of them are people I have never met in person. And since my personality is probably 51% annoying to only 49% awesome, they MUST believe in my writing.)
So how can I not believe? But, onward:
I have tried and am still trying to drum up MUCH NEEDED BECAUSE I AND MY WIFE AND THREE KIDS LIVE BELOW THE POVERTY LINE SO HEY COME OVER AND HELP ME OUT CANYA? support and readers on Patreon.
And now, shockingly, I’m getting to the point. My latest permutation on the How To Do Self-Publishing thing. Which is an I’m Going To Tweak How I Publish My Stories And Therefore How I Handle My Patreon thing.
Because there’s not really one way. There are the ways that make sense for you and that you like doing enough to do persistently. And, most importantly, that work. Different things work for different people. It’s a controversial point, but if you don’t go all buckwild taking it to absurd extremes and using it as an excuse to sit around and chow entire bags of chips when you should be writing and publishing, it’s also a true point.
Here (is/are) The New Thing(s) I’m considering doing.
Though I will occasionally still publish a free story, I’m planning on pulling most of the ones I have out at present to be integrated into small collections priced at 99 cents. They’ll have a minimum word count of a novella (7500), and probably not much more than a novelette (17,500) on the high side.
I’m still planning on publishing a big collection, Closer Than You Think, in December. It will probably be my last novel-word-count-length collection for a long while.
Currently, I submit stories to various zines for publication. In fact, one is scheduled to be published in Amazing Stories in November.
I’m thinking of stopping that. Not because I don’t like being published. I do! But maybe if I’m going to self-publish I should concentrate on, you know, self-publishing.
Instead, my thought is that I should publish all of my stories straight to Patreon for my patrons to enjoy first. Then publish the ebook, still at least 30 days later as I do now. And usually, now, significantly later, because I’ll be sitting on them until I have enough to fill out a small collection with some kind of unifying theme.
Or should I just sit on all the individual stories and publish the collections, and maybe the longest ones individually? HMMMMM!
With, for the first time, an actual reward structure for patrons. Because I don’t actually have one of those things at the moment. I’m just thankful for the support and give everyone some posts and fiction and ebooks.
Public/ no pledge: microfiction under 250 words, and blog posts.
$1/month pledge or more: gets to see (and get any ebook file I have to give) flash & short stories (7500 words or fewer).
$10/month or more: same as above, but also gets to read novellas & novelettes & collections over 7500 words.
$20/month or more: same as above, and I also mail a signed paper copy of anything I publish in paperback (probably through Createspace).
So that’s what I’m thinking of doing. What do you think of it? Anything you’d do different? Tell me!
The working, 99.9% sure I’m using it, title is Closer Than You Think and I’m planning to have it ready for pre-order as an ebook in November and released in December in time for Christmas!
I have over 50,000 words of short stories and novelettes ready for it right now, and if a couple more stories come together I hope to release it at 60,000 or more. That’s on top of the serial I’m doing over the next couple of months. And tweeting too much. And my coursework in my second master’s degree (Communication / New Media — the first just wrapped up in June and is in, surprise surprise, English / Creative Writing). And Patreon pieces like SciFi News Network and thirteen word stories. And homeschooling our 3 and 5 year old sons with the help of my wife and adult stepson. And any work the ugly, rickety trailer all five of us live in needs to keep it from falling apart before we can move the hell out at some as-yet-undetermined date in the future which will be sooner rather than later if you are kind enough to buy, read, and review some of my stories or head over to my Patreon to help me improve my life and income and readership by establishing some reliable and significant income from this writing thing I’m doing.
Um, hint-hint. Seriously, if you can, do the stuff I just said. Because living in this little crappy trailer and having next to no money is stressful and makes it hard as hell to write anything at all because DISTRACTIONS and WORRIES and from the list of stuff on my mind in the previous paragraph I’m also WAY TOO BUSY but everything has to get done if I want to make sure MY FAMILY DOESN’T END UP LIVING IN A VAN DOWN BY THE RIVER. *cough*
But I was supposed to be telling you about the collection so let’s do that: Closer Than You Think will focus on human stories on or near Earth. No aliens, no space travel. Just the future of humanity right here in our cozy ancestral home which we’re currently polluting and crowding up and apparently baking with this climate change thing we’ve done to ourselves.
The stories will progress roughly from near future to far future — from tomorrow to a couple thousand years in the future. There will be stories of failure, disaster, ambition, success, mistakes, and just plain weird futures where humanity has become something most of us would consider just a bit… alien. Despite the lack of “Little Green Men” in the stories.
It’s going to be awesome, and you’re going to love it.
…but you can, too! The first installment will be posted here as well as there. Subsequent installments of Broken Rice will be patron-exclusive on Patreon first, but will also appear in ebook form after a short delay! I explain it all over on my Patreon page — but before you click the link, please enjoy the cover art for Broken Rice below. I really enjoyed making it (even if some moments were kind of a pain in the butt) and I’m really pleased with how it came out. 🙂
Yes, this one is about acquiring an archaic skill that nobody needs — driving an uncomputerized car in a time when cars not only drive themselves, but have no user-accessible steering wheel, accelerator, brake, not even a switch for the headlights. Where your car not only drives you, but it also comes to your side when you call — literally.
Stories that simple are never that simple, and there’s a lot more than that to this novelette — which, by the way, is available as preorder until its 27th July 2016 release, and of course as an instant purchase after that at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Kobo, Smashwords, and Google Play Books.
It’s about learning to see past the context of your time and place in history, learning to see what in your society helps and what holds you back, about a woman going hand-to-hand with caveman tech just to see if she can.
I posted more about it in an earlier post.
I also wrote a short description that appears where it is sold: “Angela’s world is automated — the cars drive themselves. Houses and tablets and phones are always listening to tell you how to do things and warn you against things you’re not supposed to do. When she and her boyfriend inherit an old-style manual-drive car, it inspires her to try to master it — and to realize how little a person actually controls in a technological,automated world.”
And I think you should buy a copy because I enjoyed the hell out of finishing it and loved seeing how it ended — I think that enjoyment and love shines through in the finished product.
[Also, just so you know, over on Patreon my patrons got a free copy a few days ago (and you can still get one by becoming a patron and scrolling down to the post and downloading your preferred format) — not only did they not have to wait for the preorder to release, but they also didn’t have to pay. Good deal, no?]
…or at least the happy little solarpunk short-short they star in is free!
I have often said that I hope that someone — anyone, government or private or whatever — builds a really decent retirement home on the moon or in geosynchronous orbit or at L5 in time for me to retire to it.
This is a story about two people who are retiring to just that sort of place. It’s a good idea for a few reasons — the reduced ‘gravity’ of a spinning habitat or the real low-gee of the moon may be enough to avoid the health troubles of microgravity while also avoiding the health troubles of living in full Earth gravity as an elder. Good times!
In the story, Brittany is happy to move to orbit. Dustin, however, is really unhappy at the idea of leaving Earth behind forever. Resolving that conflict forms the base of this happy little story.
Give it a peep — because it is FREE, and because my career as an author is still getting off the ground and every single one of you who reads it increases my chances of being seen by new readers by making my work more visible to everyone.
Your support is VERY MUCH appreciated! (If you’d like to lend even more support, I’m on Patreon, too)
Here’s where to find it:
Thank you for reading!
A short story, about 3500 words.
Parkhar’s father has a plan to wrest an ancient talisman from the glittering City of the ancients and the godlike, deathless Bots that guard it — but it will be Danwill, Marjay, and their cohort who take the risks. What they find will shape the future of the whole tribe, maybe even of all humanity itself!
This is my newest ebook short story single. While my patrons at Patreon have downloaded their free copies as part of their patron privileges, thirty days before release,
at this writing it is available elsewhere only by preorder. The release date is April 7th HEY YOU CAN GET YOUR COPY NOW! The cost is a mere 99 cents — all you can get for that price at Starbucks is a funny look from the cashier. Of course you don’t have to buy and read this — you should read what you want, that’s kind of a central idea in this whole freedom of expression thing we like to talk about in authordom — but it would make me really happy if you did. And there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be happy too, because if you’re here reading this far into a science fiction writer’s bloggy stuff you probably enjoy science fiction in general. Right?
The preview below is a bit over the 30% you can view where it is available to preorder (or buy directly if you’re reading on April 7th or later). You can find it at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Google Play Books, Kobo, Smashwords, and hopefully soon at iTunes! [Right now iTunes is not listing it, though I haven’t gotten a ticket from Apple about any problem with the ebook file — if/when it finally is listed, I will hopefully remember to come back here and update the link to point at the book instead of my iTunes author page]
Enough of that, here’s the preview:
S.A. Barton — Copyright 2016
Since the time of my grandfather’s grandfather’s grandfather, the People have sought the Grail. Today, I hold it in my hand. The other two survivors of our band eye me as warily as I eye them. It is easy to talk of sharing before you hold the key to all wealth and power in your hands; after, it is more difficult to practice. Temptation…
Parkhar sits with his back against the office door, twisting a leather tourniquet tighter on his left wrist. He hisses through his teeth at the last twist. His hand and the stumps of his fingers tremble, dotting his pants with more blood, red over red. He’s wondering if we’ll let him live now that we’ve found the prize. Marjay, though – she and I are unwounded but for scrapes and scratches. She’s short, broad, agile almost to the point of acrobatics; she stands across the massive burlwood desk from me, eye on the grail, hand on the haft of the heavy machete at her hip.
“Well, Danwill?” she asks, soft in the silence that falls after Parkhar’s groan. “Can we share, or must we duel?”
For a thousand and some years, we the People have lived in the hills and mountains surrounding the City. For the same amount of time, anyone setting foot in the City has been swiftly confronted by its tireless Bot defenders and either killed or captured. They are immortal spirits, avatars of the ancient giants who strode the land before the People were created and who have since passed Beyond. A few Bots fly through the air on circle-blades that whirl faster than even the wings of hummingbirds flap; a few, the size of bison, roll on wheels. Most wear forms like those of human beings, but bulky and shiny-black armored, and they walk in magic boots that never wear out. When Bots take a captive, on nights when the winds are still the captive’s cries can be heard all the way up in the mountains. Some of them live and scream for many weeks.
The City, in stories passed from grandmother to grandmother to grandmother, has always been a pool of jewels in the night, luminous treasure cupped in the great ancient mountains’ palms. As in the tales, even now it is bright there while in our tents and burrows we strain our eyes at guttering tallow candles. It is warm there while we shiver. There are storehouses packed with food while our lean bellies growl. The City is jealous of her bounty.
The holy tales say that once, the People dwelt among the giants in the City. Then, talismans brought them shelter, food, and other luxuries we can no longer imagine. The holiest talisman, the Black Grail, is said to grant the bearer all the heart’s desires, provided by the Bots.
With the Black Grail, the People might be brought back into the City to live in riches – and the one who brings them would be their King.
“Well?” Marjay asks one more time. The cords stand out on her thick forearm with the power of her grip.
If we fight, either might die. Even the victor might die of wounds later, or lingeringly of gangrene. We are too closely matched.
Slowly, I draw my own machete – a little longer than hers, its spine not quite so thick.
She tenses. Half the length of her blade clears its sheath in a blink, with a sound like the chirp of a bird.
Slowly, slowly, eyes locked with hers, I extend my blade, turn it sideways, lay it on her side of the desk.
“There’s only one way that we both walk out of this place,” I say.
“You have to be joking,” Marjay replies. “You know I have no interest in men.”
Over many years, many bands of young warriors have challenged the City and its lethal Bots for the Black Grail – or simply, in famine times, for a few armloads of food from the City’s warehouses.
No previous expedition has ever recovered the Black Grail. Few who have gone hunting it have returned. From those handful of survivors, we have some trinkets of the city among us. The Herndez clan has a ball-shaped lamp that has stayed lit for twenty generations. The Denneh clan, Marjay’s, has a box that plays music that no instrument of ours can duplicate. When it stops playing, allowing it to rest in the sun for only an hour will restore it to play for many days. My own clan, the Kirkays, keeps kitchen herbs in metal cans that once held food captured from the City in a famine time a hundred years ago. There are a few other trinkets, but not many.
Few are willing to challenge the Bots. They cannot be harmed by blade, arrow, or spear. There are tales of talismans that might stop them, but those have proven as elusive as the Grail itself.
My father was one who was willing to challenge the Bots, in his own way. By studying the holy tales and the many stories we tell around our campfires, he thought he knew where the Black Grail must lie. But he was also a man of extraordinary patience and cleverness. Instead of going himself, he made a plan for the future. As he executed his patient plan, his hair slowly turned iron-gray and I grew into a man.
I remember, dimly, being four summers old, waddling with the weight of a reed basket of dirt and gravel gripped in both hands. It was a scoop of what my father and his fellows dug out of a long tunnel under the city boundary. Part of his plan was simple: avoid the eyes of the bots for as much of the path to the Grail as possible. The entrance of the stealthy tunnel, squared off with heavy smoke-blackened timbers, was shielded from the inspection of the Bots by the abrupt stony mound of a hill near the city limits. Still, that we were digging must have been obvious. We children, who, grown, formed the company that has brought we three survivors to the residence of the Grail, carried out endless buckets of earth and stone, filling nearby dry washes and building new hills. It’s obvious in hindsight. So many things are obvious in hindsight. Things that might have saved lives if only they’d been obvious to us before. But the desire for the Grail was strong in us all, we young adventurers, our aging parents and grandparents, even our wise toothless Eldest whose food we youngers trade the honor of chewing for her ease. The vision of wealth blinded us all. Perhaps that is the curse that ended the reign of Giants and allowed the humble People to step from their shadows.
But the Bots had never shown curiosity about anything beyond the border of their domain. We had never seen any pay attention to anything under the ground. And so we thought we were safe…
…and that’s the preview. Want to see what happens next? Head back up to the top and click a retailer link, or click one of the Patreon links there or in the header, become a patron, and download your free copy!
(This post originally appeared on my Patreon page on 17 February 2016. My patrons see blog posts three days before anyone else — and when I publish a new ebook, they get that THIRTY days ahead PLUS they get a FREE .pdf copy EVEN IF I CHARGE FOR IT ELSEWHERE. On top of that, they get my sincere thankyous as a grateful author — priceless, yes? Totally. See you there.)
There are a lot of potential reasons to unpublish an ebook once you’re set it free. Maybe you published in haste and realized you actually still had a TON of editing and proofreading left undone and it will take AGES to slog through it and do it right. Maybe you’ve had second thoughts and you’d rather wait a while before getting your name and work out there for reasons of your own. Maybe you just don’t like the story anymore, or it picked up a 1-star review you HATE (they happen to everyone, go look at some bestsellers’ reviews and you’ll find 1-star reviews) or…
Maybe, like me, after a few years of self-publishing you decided to read one of your earliest stories and after a couple of pages you thought, oh man, there’s a good concept here and maybe a decent story but man, Years-Ago-Me just didn’t understand that this one wasn’t quite ready for the big time.
And maybe, like me, your first impulse – whatever your reasons – is to rush to wherever you’ve self-published your story and YANK THAT SUCKER FAST PLEASE DON’T LOOK EVERYONE STAAAHHHHHP READING!
But hold on.
Take your cursor/pointer/whatever off the UNPUBLISH link.
Push the mouse away. Gently.
Take a deep breath.
One thing I’ve learned in the last few years of self publishing my own work: if you make a decision in a hurry, you’ll probably regret it later.
So let’s talk about why unpublishing MIGHT be the answer, but is PROBABLY NOT.
MOST OF US HATE OUR WORK SOMETIMES
For, at a guess, most of us, we both love and hate our own writing. We write away with great abandon and then come back and realize THIS little bit is a hoary old cliché we picked up from television when we were in grade school and THAT is a plot hole and THIS OTHER is a character acting totally out of character and THIS YET ANOTHER part is just awkward as all get-out. If we proof and edit with a will, and especially if we have a first reader or two experienced in evaluating stories (or an editor to work with, you lucky duck) we catch most of it. But as I pointed out in my post about plot holes, something always slips through. Even if nothing slips through, someone will think your awesome perfect story isn’t awesome or perfect at all, because people have opinions about stuff like fiction and how it should be done – which often translates to their particular preferences (remember the Puppies kerfluffle? Mostly people confusing their preferences with the ‘right’ way to write and sell a SF&F story – even authors). The very concept of perfection is an illusion outside of narrowly-defined specialized circumstances. You can spell a word perfectly – most of the time, unless you’re talking about color/colour or draft/draught in which the difference is merely regional and has nothing to do with ‘perfect’ or ‘correct’ – but you can’t write a perfect story. Can’t be done. You can only write an excellent story.
And yes, you can keep on making changes if you want, but BE CAREFUL WITH THAT. You can find yourself fiddling with one story forever – we’re imaginative types, we writers, and can always think up a different way to tell the same story, write the same scene, word the same sentence. There’s a point in rewriting when you’re only making things different, not better – and you might even be making things worse. There’s a point where you have to decide to either trunk it, or to let the story go out into the world as it is. You’ll get better at knowing when that is the more you write. It’s subjective. Sorry about that, but that’s reality on this one.
OH GOD I JUST FOUND A TYPO ON THE FIRST PAGE WAIT THERES ANOTHER AND ANOTHER NUKE THE STORY FROM ORBIT IT’S THE ONLY WAY TO BE SURE
Whoa, be cool. Yeah, I freak out a little if I realize I have a typo, especially right on the first page. That makes it worse, somehow. And it happens even to those of us who have regular access to pro proofers and editors – at least, it does on rare occasion. For writers in circumstances similar to mine (no money to speak of, remember?), pro proofing and editing isn’t practical. Or even possible. I sweat the economic impact of ordering twenty-five bucks worth of pizza maybe once every other month, so how the hell could I justify the cost of hiring a professional to look over a short story – especially when there are four other people in the house with an equal claim on every penny? If you’re in that boat, typos will happen to you a bit more often – the more work you devote to ferreting them out, the less it will happen but it will always be more than it is in 90% of stuff that passes through a traditional publisher.
What I’m saying is, don’t panic. Read through your story. Open it in your favorite word processing software and blow it way up until it fills the screen side to side and focuses on only a few lines at a time, and proof it with care. That helps in finding typos, way more than I thought was possible when I first gave it a try. Or print a copy and go over it slowly, red pen in hand. Fix all the typos you can find. Then submit your new typo-freeish copy as a new version. Make a little effort to let your readers know you cleaned it up. Tell ’em on Facebook, Twitter, your author site, whichever place(s) folks are paying attention to you. Let them know you’ve fixed your typo-ing ways and mean to do better going forward. If you really mean it and put the work in to publish the cleanest copy you possibly can, they’ll notice the difference. They may not say so, but they will. And new readers will come away with a better impression of you.
BOTTOM LINE: IT IS EASIER AND FASTER TO SUBMIT A NEW VERSION THAN UNPUBLISH ALTOGETHER
If you take your time and think about it, you might still come to the conclusion that you want that story gone. Unpublishing is your call, in the end. But be aware – it’s more likely to be a big fat pain in your butt than submitting a new version. There are a few horror stories [like this one] about the hassles of unpublishing. That’s because the self-publishing system is set up to facilitate the submission of new versions of the text and/or cover art, and it’s NOT set up to facilitate taking a story down. Yes, your dashboard at Smashwords or whatever may have a handy-dandy UNPUBLISH link right there to use. And THEY may take it out of their catalog instantly or reasonably close to instantly. But while a fresh version of the text may be automatically accepted by iTunes and Barnes & Noble and so on and so forth, a takedown may not be. An order to unpublish seems to be much more likely to go ignored, and then you have to email or call that publisher, which will tell you to talk to support wherever you self-published, which will either tell you to go back to that publisher or alternately tell you they’ll try sending the request (REQUEST? IT’S NOT A REQUEST DAMMIT I TOLD YOU TO TAKE THE STORY DOWN) again and please wait at least three weeks to see if it worked… UGH WHAT A PAIN IN THE BUTT NOW I HAVE TO MAKE A NOTE ON MY CALENDAR TO EMAIL YOU BOZOS AGAIN TO SEE IF IT ACTUALLY HAPPENED THIS TIME WHY DIDN’T I JUST SUBMIT A REVISED TEXT MAYBE THAT’S WHAT I’LL DO OH WAIT IT’S UNPUBLISHED AND NOW THEY SAY I CAN’T JUST REPUBLISH IT AGAIN DO I PICK A NEW TITLE FOR IT OR WHAT I LIKED THE OLD TITLE AND WHAT WILL MY READERS THINK IF THEY BUY WHAT THEY THINK IS A NEW STORY BUT IT’S JUST AN OLD ONE GUSSIED UP A BIT HELLO MORE 1-STAR REVIEWS OH GOD WHAT HAVE I DONE
And that’s why my advice to you, with all respect, is: if you want to unpublish a story for whatever reason, you’re better off fixing what you feel is wrong with it and submitting the corrections as a new version. Even if it’s radically different than the old. There’s precedent in traditional publishing – remember a little story titled Ender’s Game? Before it was a classic novel of the SF genre and a movie, it was a short story and it changed quite a lot between short story and novel. If Mr. Card can do it, so can you.
The robot worker, it’s a-comin.
Automation, though we seldom think of it now, has already taken quite a few jobs that once were taken for granted.
The elevator operator used to control the rise and fall of the lift before the advent of the button-studded control panel anyone could just operate with one finger. Children (and the occasional adult) shined shoes before the coin-operated automated shoe shiner (itself almost extinct with the advent of easy to apply liquid shine goop). Robot welders and assemblers now dominate vast swathes of automobile production line once filled shoulder-to-shoulder with workers doing boring, repetitive, sometimes dangerous work that (here’s the upside) once paid wages good enough to admit the earner into the lower reaches of the middle class.
Soon, it seems, the working robot will likely dominate more jobs than we’d like to contemplate. Long-haul truckers may stop being a thing before 40-somethings like me shuffle off their mortal coils. Same with the people who prepare food in low-end restaurants… and maybe high-end ones, too. A lot of food service jobs are prep-work. Look behind the scenes at your favorite 3-Michelin-star restaurant, if you have the dough to have a favorite one of those. You’ll find a bunch of prep staff doing repetitive menial tasks like slicing shallots, dicing onions, shredding lettuces, julienne-ing carrots, and so forth. I’m not the first one to think a robot could do an equal or better job dicing onions — that bot is already in the works.
There are even bots that can write blog posts. I shudder!
There may be downsides, even after we figure out what to do with all the surplus humans who will no longer be needed to dig ditches, cut carrots, flip burgers, and so forth. Personally, I favor Basic Income (but that’s a different post) rather than pushing them all out to die on patches of floating arctic ice. By the time it’s an issue, anyway, we may be fresh out of patches of floating arctic ice. But that, too, is a different post.
And that’s a lot of writing to get to my 99-cent short story. But I think the trip was worth it.
Automation, like every other things humans have done ever, will have a downside. Some of them are obvious — if you see a machine screwing up a job, you can’t just yell at it to knock it off. You have to get to wherever the things are controlled from, shut it down, and then probably call tech support — which is an adventure in itself if you’ve ever been forced to do it. Especially if the tech support is automated, which it often is at the level of basic functions.
To Labor No More gets into one of those potential downsides, both for machines and humans. For example, what if your servant robots, at work and at home, are just a… little too servile?
Anyhow, you should give To Labor No More a try. Go ahead — it’ll be fine. The reading’s not automated, after all.
Here’s a little preview to whet your appetite:
“Hate loading the dishwasher? You don’t even have to clear the table. Let a Right Hand Model 2100 do both for you. You don’t have to cook, either—your Right Hand can do that for you too! And if you run a small business, or even a multinational megaconglomerate, a few good Right Hands can take the wage-wasting drudge work off of your employees’ hands and let them devote all their energy to making your business as big and better as it deserves to be!”
–Transcript excerpt from Vintage 21st Century Collector, Right Hand Robotics Inc. television and web advertisement, late 2099.
… (sometime later in the story) …
“Yes! Come take my socks off before they smell up the whole living room,” he says, voice halfway to a shout. He forces the volume back down, tries to hold onto his cool. “It seems like I had to okay the placement of every damn box that went in or out of the warehouse today, and Zebediah was out sick so they pestered me all the way through lunch, too. I need a drink.” The 2174 pauses; it has removed one of Buddy’s socks and stops with the other one tugged halfway off. It lets go; the half-off sock flops over limp. The robot walks into the kitchen, its compact little spider legs mincing along directly under it.
“What the hell?” Buddy says, wiggling his toes hard in an effort to get the sock the rest of the way off.
“I think it went to make you a drink,” Eunice says, sitting down on the sofa next to buddy…