An Odyssey Favorite


I’ve been busy doing Odyssey prep stuff lately. This morning I went through a ‘dry run’ of packing the car, figuring out how many suitcases, storage totes, and cardboard boxes I could fit where, so that I know what to pack my stuff into. Once the car was unpacked again, I  took it through a car wash, went to CAA to renew my membership, buy travel insurance, and get some maps. And I bought some new running shoes at the mall.

One other thing I’ve been working on is an assignment where we’re supposed to bring a photocopy (or printout) of a favorite short story along with some thoughts about why we like it so much. I wasn’t quite sure what to do about this for a long time, but I’ve gone through my bookshelves for anything that would have short stories in it, and thought about some other favorite short stories of mine, like the Beowulf Shaeffer stories by Larry Niven. I have those on audio, and also in Fictionwise multiformat e-book formats, including PDF, so I suppose I could print from the PDF format.

But I’m leaning towards a particular story for sentimental reasons, including the story of how I got it. When I was young, I was a voracious reader, but I didn’t read many short stories, and definitely not from magazines. There were Isaac Asimov collections around the house, (and probably some mainstream short story anthologies that didn’t appeal to me at the time.) I definitely picked up a few science fiction anthologies at school libraries and probably public libraries too; I distinctly remember one story set after the fall of the first Terrestrial Empire, where Earthmen shaved their heads for some reason and were kept as status symbols in the courts of alien kings.

But in my late teen years, when I was starting to get interested in writing, I came across the following pieces of advice, which was pretty good, especially at the time:

  1. If you want to get published in science fiction or fantasy, you should start with submitting stories to magazines.
  2. Before you submit, or even write the story, you need to buy them and read them to see what they’re publishing.

And that was more of an adventure than you might think. In my suburban, respectable neighborhood on the West side of Hamilton, you could get a lot of magazines at the corner store, but they didn’t stock science fiction or fantasy magazines. Neither did the libraries, or even the hobby store, (though that had tabletop gaming magazines!) And being that it was the early nineties, you certainly couldn’t go and order them online. I’m sure that if I knew the right phone number or mailing address I could have gotten a subscription, but I didn’t know where to find those out.

Eventually I found a news-stand downtown that had what I needed. I think it was in Jackson Square mall, but I can’t be 100% sure about that detail. And the magazine I picked was the August 1993 issue of Analog. (That means I was seventeen going on eighteen at this point, though I’d still be in high school for another two years, which is a very different story.)

There are quite a few stories in that issue that I remember well, but the one that has stayed with me the most, and I’m considering bringing, is ‘Swan Song’ by Gregory Bennett. It’s a tale of disaster and survival on a supply run from Earth to Mars, with a really cool AI computer and cool themes about the value of family, when to take chances, and how to never play fair with Lady Luck.

🙂

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