01 Sep

August Patreon Short Story: Sunset

Patreon lets me run a monthly short story subscription service for readers. Over 100 of my readers have subscribed to have a short story a month delivered to their inboxes for as little as $1.

The August Patreon short story came out last night, a 6,300 word long classic science fiction story about a headstrong young boy who encounters a starship bent for retirement on his out-of-the-way world.

Here’s a snippet of the story for you:

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Sunset

The starship crash-landed somewhere in the dark and early hours of morning. The thunderclap sound of it striking the East Bay woke Tamuel up, heart racing and confused. He glanced out his window, but didn’t see anything. He stumbled out into the common room to see if he could see anything different from the balcony.

“What was that?” One of his siblings also was apparently out and looking around for the cause of the sound. “There’s no storm.”

Outside, through the windows opened to allow the cool land breeze rushing out toward the ocean to pass through the foundling dorm’s corridors, Tamuel saw only stars and the looming dark of the Berenthais Mountains.

Tamuel squinted through the dark to see that it was Shau who had woken with him. Several of the other boys grunted and swore from in their rooms, annoyed at the late interruption to their sleep. Group classes would start early in the morning, this was an unwelcome event.

“I—” Tamuel stopped as the horrid wail of the tsunami sirens pierced the night.

Everyone woke up and streamed out of their doors, sleep forgotten as fear jolted them awake. There was a mass of panic before some of the prefects, older and well-drilled, asserted order. “Line up! Those of you near the east corridor, march to the stairs and head to the third floor. West corridor, march! Do not go back to your rooms to take anything with you. Move now!”

The thirty boys fell into lines and the entire common room split right near Tamuel into two groups that streamed out into the two stairwells. Emergency lighting, red and calm, dappled their worried faces as they rushed upwards.

Minutes later the water struck. It rushed up Watt Street, just several inches of foaming sea, lapped at the wheels of the carts parked around the dorm, then gently poured out through the storm drains and retreated back down the street leaving only some confused small fish behind.

The warning sirens stopped, leaving a strange quiet to fall over all of Weatherly, from the distant East Bay to the Callum Docks.

They all waited for whatever came next. Some of the second floor girls started to complain about Tamuel’s siblings staring at them in nightdresses. It was creepy. Tamuel understood. They were not all really siblings, they’d all been raised in the foundling dorm together. Go stare at some other girl from Summerstown’s foundling dorm.

“Hey, get off the balcony,” one of the prefects shouted from the back. “We don’t know if something else is coming.”

Shau was pressed against a railing, looking out toward East Bay with night vision binoculars. “Nothing else is coming,” he announced. “It’s a fucking starship crashed into the bay!”

“Language!” snapped Tosha, one of the prefects. Tamuel shivered when he heard her voice. She’d been singling him out for any dorm infractions and worse for the last year. “Who was that, is that Shau? Get over here. And what are you doing with binoculars? You’re supposed to leave everything in place during a drill.”

Tamuel decided to take a chance and shoved past siblings to get to the balcony. Shau was his closest sibling. Shau would let him use the binoculars.

“Shau, let me look!” he demanded.

Shau passed the binoculars over. Tamuel looked out over Weatherly to the curve of East Bay, skipping over the roofs of hundreds of structures in grainy green, and he gasped. There it was, a shark-fin shaped mass squatting in the dark pool of water where they normally sailed their tiny catamarans on weekends.

He recognized the shape. “It’s an Interstellar. It’s a Shatter Dart.” Thousands of tons of bio-organic, semi-sentient starship. With a crew of hundreds, it could leap between the stars. Hundreds of light years with each carefully planned gulp of the void-mouth contained deep in the belly buried under the water in East Bay.

“What the hell’s it doing here?” Shau asked.

“That’s it!” Tosha had pushed through and stood right behind them both. “I gave you a language warning, and asked you to get off the balcony.”

She grabbed Tamuel from behind. It was a violation, broaching someone’s physical space like this. The last time Tamuel had formally complained there’d been a disciplinary board hearing. No one would step forward as a witness. Tosha was six years older than him. A respected prefect who had the ear of the adult board. He’d learned to try and stay invisible to her since then. He’d wished for cameras inside, like the street cams, but that would be a violation of dorm privacy.

Tamuel twisted loose from her and shoved the binoculars into her hands. “It’s a starship.”

Tosha couldn’t help but raise the binoculars. Tamuel, as he’d hoped, had completely yanked the prefect’s attention elsewhere as she succumbed to curiosity and looked out toward East Bay.

He yanked Shau away from her. “Nothing like this ever happens in Weatherly,” he said as they pushed through the crowds of siblings toward a stairwell.

“My binoculars!” Shau protested.

Fuck your binoculars,” Tamuel hissed, just low enough none of the prefects would hear him. “Nothing like this happens in Weatherly. Or in Summerstown.” Or even, for that matter, Yelekene. Their entire world, all the archipelagos scattered across it, were far from the Core. Ships of this size had last visited Yelekene a hundred years ago, to ship terraforming equipment and raw materials here. Even the original Founders had come via smaller cargo skip-planers that had been disassembled upon arrival.

This… this was something different.

“What are you doing?” Shau asked as Tamuel pulled him down the stairwell.

“We’re going to be first to see it,” Tamuel said.

“We’ll get our asses handed to us.”

“All the prefects are upstairs herding us. We won’t get a better chance.”

Shau stopped. “You know how many demerits I have? No, I have to stay put.”

Tamuel paused. He really didn’t want to do this alone. Going out into the town at dark, it wasn’t scary, they’d snuck out before. But he’d rather have some company if he was going to head out onto the open ocean in the dark.

He briefly reconsidered, then bit his lip. “Then just cover for me as long as you can. Tell them I went to use the bathroom or something.”

“Yeah, sure,” Shau said. “Good luck, Tam. I hope it’s worth it, you’re going to be pulling weeds in the garden for weeks if you’re lucky.”

Tamuel grimaced.

Continue reading this story in text, PDF, MOBI or ePub for your ebook reader of choice by becoming a patron here for as little as $1.:

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23 May

Not sure if crowdfunding is so much ‘resorting’ as pivoting

There’s a review of Xenowealth: A Collection floating around that’s nice to the stories, but starts off being saddened about the fact that many authors have to ‘resort’ to using crowdfunding, or Kickstarter, to get their work into print.

Of course I instinctively flinched that this was the framing around the review from the start. I felt it decentered the focus on the stories, the art around the book, or the quality of the book itself, and might have put off some readers by focusing on the nature of crowdfunding. But that was mostly my ego worrying about whether I was being perceived as ‘as good as’ and also I don’t think the reviewer meant to do that maliciously. I think they may have felt a collection of stories they enjoyed should have had more backing by the publishers they were used to buying from. The review said nice things about them, so I have to assume it’s my own ego getting a little defensive.

But once I let go of my ego I stopped to think about it, because this has been my most successful collection of short stories and I think that’s why I was a little defensive.

The collection’s backers and readers gave me $7,105 via that Kickstarter. It’s sold more via my website and Amazon, B&N Nook, and iTunes since then. A year later, it’s tailed off quite considerably. But I think I cleared a little over $7,000 in the first year. I still get a trickle of money off that collection each month. Usually I have charts and spreadsheets, but the last year was so busy, so deadline-filled, that I have barely been able to keep track.

In the general world of publishing no one was offering me over $7,000 for a short story collection. Generally short story collections (from what I hear) are getting advances more like $500 to $2,000. Larger amounts for super stars, or bundled in with exciting novels.

I’m not going over 100% to crowdfunding. I’m really enjoying writing a short short story a month for my Patreon, I may do Kickstarters again. But, I am trying to make a living as a writer, so that means I go where I can demonstrably prove the money flows to me.

If someone wants to pay me more than $7,000 for my next short story collection (with almost 70 in print short stories, I’d love to see a Best of Tobias S. Buckell some day), my agent’s name is Barry Goldblatt of the Barry Goldblatt Literary Agency.

Until then, it’s not something I resort to, it’s something I pivot to because I make way more money this way and I have two kids to feed.

I know it’s dirty to talk about pivoting towards money. It’s not the only consideration. I wouldn’t be a writer if it was only about the money. I’d be a financial type, doing something with stocks. I knew becoming an artist meant money would be in short supply, that I was doing it for the art. I didn’t get into this for the money, or fame, but because I loved writing stories and reading so much that I could hardly imagine any other way to be.

But that being said, I live in a world where the mortgage is due, food comes when I pay for it, and I’m a father. Money is important. When I can do the same art, experience the same love for it, and get more money for the same art, you have my attention.

15 May

Feedback: what would you like to see me talk about at a convention?

So the nice folks at NASFIC have asked if there are any panels or events I’d like to do. They asked this a while back, so I’m criminal here in that I am just now unburying myself from months of backlog and then being sick the last 10 days or so, but, I thought I’d throw this out there in case I’m missing something obvious before I reply with some ideas.

Anything you’d like to hear me talk about? Or chair a panel on? Or have heard me chair a panel on and enjoyed? I’d love the feedback…

26 Apr

Halo: Envoy launch week!

Hello everyone. I have a new novel out!

I know, right? This is the thing I’ve been working on over the last year and a bit.

It’s called Halo: Envoy.

Check out the amazing cover by Chase Toole:

I love the new look.

So what’s this about? It’s a continuation of the story ‘Oasis’ that I wrote in Halo: Fractures, but not a direct follow up. Oasis sets up the world of Carrow where Sangheili and humans live side by side in a very tense peace. A peace that you can sense failing in Oasis. Melody Azikiwe has been sent to keep the peace as a United Earth Government Envoy, but things are falling apart pretty quickly.

Toss in Gray Team, a new threat buried deep under the sands of Carrow, and everything is going to end up in chaos.

If you’re interested in a deep dive into my story Oasis, there’s some scholarly level thought and detail about Oasis here in this essay:

The main theme of “Oasis” is survival.

It opens with Dahlia surviving the dangerous fever, it continues with Dahlia recalling the times she and her family survived the Covenant assaults, and its main conflict is Dahlia fighting to ensure that her family survives.

The introduction of the Sangheili Jat at first appears to derail this theme.

It’s a very deep dive into the obsessions and themes I play around with in that story.

I’m always deeply honored by how seriously Halo readers take what I’ve done and how deep they dive in.

Sometimes people assume that because I’m writing a game-related book or short story I phone it in, but I spent as much time on Oasis and Halo: Envoy as I do on any of my other fiction. I hope they reward close reads, while also being hella enjoying with enough explosions to satisfy fans of the games.

After all, I’m a player first!

Halo: Envoy came out yesterday. I hope Halo fans get a treat they weren’t expecting in it (chapter 12 you all) and that the book does well.

I’d love to get another chance to slip back into unleashing Gray Team into the universe.

18 Apr

Cosmic Powers anthology is available! Features my story Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance

I’m really excited about this anthology. It features my short story Zen and the Art of Starship Maintenance.

I really love the story. It wasn’t an easy write. Had to do a lot of edits, as I wrote it coming off another huge project and I was exhausted. Like, blurry screen exhausted. But I had come up with the title a few years back in a twitter exchange with Christie Yant and I really, really wanted to find a story that respected the title and did something really cool.

The seed of the story came out of my reading about some ugly, tough pieces of deep Caribbean history while also thinking about the Three Laws of Robotics. After selling this story, I told a friend it was something I was deeply proud of having written, though I wasn’t sure if would resonate with anyone.

Rich Horton at Locus Mag highlighted it as a must read story out of the anthology, Publishers Weekly did as well. Rocket Stack Rank also said kind things here, so I’m hopeful others find the story.

But enough about me, there are also a ton of other great stories in there. I know because I got to see the book early for copy edits.

17 Mar

Quick Book Review: The Dance of the Possible

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I think this may be one of my favorite books about creativity yet.

One of the things that’s useful about the publishing landscape today is the ability to make books that are the size they need to be. I’m willing to bet in another time, there would have been pressure to bulk this book up, provide more anecdotes, to make it look beefy and solid on a bookshelf.

But this is an arrow of a no-bullshit, humorous book about how to nurture creativity without a lot of the woo-woo that turns me away from other books. Including the beginning that notices that by reading the book, you’re delaying on going and doing something, in search of the perfect tool.

I’ve enjoyed a lot of Scott Berkun’s essays over the past years via his blog, and Ramez Naam mentioned how much he liked this book to me, so I snagged a copy right away.

This is a heavy practical guide to creativity by someone who makes a living teaching and talking about how to be more creative, and I made a lot of dog ears in the book for lines that are things I know I know, but often need reminded of. I may put a few of his choicer quotes around my office of reminders of how to get shit done.

I highly recommend it.

16 Mar

The Patreon passes the initial $500 mark, I will now be writing a short story a month for Patrons!

Holy Cow, the Patreon passed $500 and now I get to write a short story that will be delivered every month to Patron’s inboxes. That first story arrives on April 1st.

Let us pause for a moment and celebrate:

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Shit, guys, we did it.

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That also means we are now 2/3s of the way to the 2nd goal, the one where everyone gets a free copy of my next short story collection 6 months before anyone else can in PDF, Mobi and ePub.

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