My latest ebook, Nine of Hart’s, was published on Amazon this morning. Consisting of sixteen short stories written over the course of my forty-plus year writing career, it encapsulates the arc of my fiction writing.
Here’s the Amazon blurb:
Sixteen short stories of unicorns, trophies, stuff found in attics, of Christmas invasions, Chautauquas, Family secrets, sequels to classic films, and imaginary musicals. Moving examinations of “what it means to be a man” in a new era without rulebooks or codes. And hilarity in equal doses.
Here’s the Introduction:
Nine of Hart’s Introduction
The science fiction writer Theodore Sturgeon once told me that he was sorry for me, starting out in the Seventies, as I did.
There are so few markets, he said.
Neither of us realized just how un-hyperbolic that observation would turn out to be. Markets dipped exponentially over the succeeding years, and, while I started out as a writer of short stories—and, hopefully, novels—journalism and writing to pay the rent took precedence for many years. And the markets shrank. And the pay shrank.
For years, my lower and lower paychecks were ascribed to the rise in the price of paper. And then, when paper print media began to vanish, evidently pixels cost more and more, as well. Either way, markets dwindled and my fictional skills were turned, more and more, into essays. I published short stories here and there, and two novels. But mostly, there was nothing to do with the stories I wrote.
Part of it, that I now realize, is that I have never fit into pigeonholes, and in writing fiction, this is a great difficulty. I always managed to fall between the editorial cracks in my submissions. I still don’t fall into pigeonholes, but now I just am what I is, and that takes care of that. No apologies, and we move on.
And then there were, finally, nearly no outlets for short stories—during that long period where writing experienced parallels to the horrors that the Guilds experienced during the first Industrial Revolution: editorial staffs terminated, magazines closed, newspapers merged, newsrooms gutted, mid-list authors purged; the rise of the “celebrity book” (because a celebrity can do a book tour and, ultimately, there are plenty of ghost writers to create product that the book tour is the marketing arm of), the death of independent and then chain bookstores and the rise of fifth-rate unpublishable books in an e-commerce that suffered from a paucity of talent and an excess of marketing skills.
These are old cavils, and the auctorial field continues to evolve and struggle for survival. So Sturgeon was right. Just far moreso than he had realized.
Still, I wrote short stories between assignments, between book reviews between movie reviews, between interviews, between “how-to” pieces and “wry observations” pieces, between editing and (ghost) rewriting the writings of others. And I ended up with a lot of short stories that had no real home, so I published a chapbook of nine short stories in the ’Nineties entitled Nine of Hart’s.
I gave it out as a sampler, when pitching novels, but nothing ever came of it. And it laid, saddle-stapled and reprinted at least once, gathering moss. And then electronic publishing happened, and I no longer needed to kill trees to be successful. My father was in the Forest Service and I was always painfully aware that the more successful I was as a writer, the more trees had to die to produce the paper to publish my words on.
And here, again, is (an expanded) Nine of Hart’s using the mathematical logic of the American college football conferences The Big Twelve (10 football teams in 2017) and The Big Ten (14 teams in 2017). *
[* I wouldn’t necessarily, prima facie, recommend the math departments at any of the twenty-four schools noted. A thing is what it is. Then again, perhaps the mathematics professors have very little clout when faced off by the football empires and emperors that fund the athletic programs. Still …]
There are more than nine short stories here. But I have included the original nine, so please don’t get down on me for my math. I should have listened to my SATs and gone in that direction, since I always scored higher on math than on verbal. But it’s too late now. The die is cast, the Rubicon crossed, and, having survived a thousand and one cliffhangers, these manuscripts still exist (not a fate that all my unpublished writings have managed, thanks to angry girlfriends, faithless landlords and careless roommates) and are now available in commercial form.
There is no unifying theme to my fiction that I can discern. And so, for once, the literary critic in me has nothing substantive to offer to the literary discussion. He will, therefore, shut up.
These are stories that evoke mashup sensibilities and cross-pollinate from several different genres, although none come from the nursing fiction genre, that I can tell.
April 24, 2018
Nearly all of these tales were written on a typewriter.