July 10, 2014
I just read a short story by Van Aaron Hughes in Abyss & Apex, called “Random Fire.” It’s sort of Van’s take on time travel, which in a way treads on a road well traveled. But, in this case, Van does it brilliantly. I literally got goose bumps while reading this, and they stayed. Probably the best short story I’ve ever read, honestly.
Aw, shucks! I didn’t know Tobacco Jones before he posted this, but when I saw it, I promptly e-mailed to tell him that if “Random Fire” is the best story he’s ever read, he needs to read more!
Meanwhile, this is from Shawn Camp’s review at Goodreads of the January issue of InterGalactic Medicine Show:
The best story here had to be “Seven Tips to Enjoy Your Time in the Unreal Forest” by Van Aaron Hughes. A kid struggling to fit in amongst bullies, girls, and an abusive father discovers a secret. In the end he discovers loss and wishes to share a message with everyone. A sad story with an important message.
Thanks for that, Shawn!
You know, you write these short stories and send them out into the world, but you’re never really sure if anyone but your closest friends is reading them. It’s awfully gratifying when somebody you don’t know responds to a piece you wrote.
June 17, 2014
Keyes wrote some other excellent SF and true crime, but will always be best remembered for “Flowers for Algernon,” which to my mind remains the greatest short story every written. It had a profound effect on me as a young reader, and it has never failed to move me to tears when I’ve reread it over the years. (Okay, when I read it out loud for Pizza & Prose at my office, I managed to hold off the tears.) I’ve never been able to read the novel or watch the film versions, because the story is so perfect I’m reluctant to experience it in any other form.
I mentioned Charlie Gordon in my Writers of the Future speech. The last line of my first published story was a deliberate paraphrase from the end of “Flowers for Algernon.” And it pains me that no one ever picked up on the fact that in my story “The Long View” in F&SF, the narrator is named Emzara Ghali-Gordon and refers to her husband as “Chuck.”
Farewell to a brilliant writer.
March 15, 2014
Winners of the Writers of the Future Contest are all flown out to Hollywood for a week-long workshop with Tim Powers and an assortment of other top-notch science fiction and fantasy authors. Every year, the winners are challenged to write a story in 24 hours. Everyone receives a different prop to incorporate into the story and is abandoned on Hollywood Boulevard with instructions to have a 30-minute conversation with a complete stranger, who hopefully will provide inspiration for a character in the story. The year I was one of the winners, my prop was a small hook and my stranger-on-the-street turned out, by blind luck, to be the amazingly talented and beautiful actress Carolyn Stotesbery, pictured to the right.
Go check out “Butcher’s Hook” if you’re curious what I did with these prompts.
March 7, 2014
I neglected to mention here that my story “The Long View” made Tangent Online’s 2013 Recommended Reading List, with three stars, their highest rating. Among the other three-star recommendations are stories by some friends, including Brad R. Torgersen and Matthew S. Rotundo, and a lot of authors I hugely admire, like Gene Wolfe and Susan Palwick and Rachel Swirsky and Ken Liu and Ted Chiang and plenty more. I am greatly honored to be included in such amazing company!
More recently, Michelle Ristuccia at Tangent reviewed the January/February issue of IGMS, and had nice things to say about my story “Seven Tips to Enjoy Your Time in the Unreal Forest”:
By blending the real and the unreal, this insightful coming of age tale explores the moral quandaries that arise when actions do not trigger overt consequences. The format provides a tidy package that follows from the title, yet nonetheless tells a linear story.
Thanks for that, Michelle!
February 26, 2014
Abyss & Apex magazine has decided this year to drop its subscription firewall and make all of its archived fiction available for free. That’s a whole lot of excellent stories you can now sample without charge. A couple Abyss & Apex pieces I’ve recommended in the past are “Deutoroi” by Samantha Henderson and “The Coldest Room in the House” by Lon Prater, but there’s plenty more good stuff to be found there.
This also means my story “Random Fire” is now publicly available. I’m very happy about this, because that particular story was deliberately written for publication on the Web, so I’m glad to have it accessible there for free. The story does not work quite right in other formats. You’ll have to read it to see what I mean. It’s my most gimmicky story so far, and my only attempt at time travel, but I’m still rather fond of it.
February 25, 2014
At InterGalactic Medicine Show‘s editorial blog, Side-Show Freaks, IGMS has been posting authors’ notes about the stories in the new issue. Here is my post about “Seven Tips to Enjoy Your Time in the Unreal Forest.”
February 20, 2014
My story “Butcher’s Hook” has sold to Electric Spec magazine. I wrote “Butcher’s Hook” in 24 hours at the Writers of the Future workshop, something I absolutely did not think I could do, until I did it.
Electric Spec is a small fiction webzine, which has published a lot of top-notch stories, for instance this one I recommended recently at the Fantastic Reviews Blog. “Butcher’s Hook” is scheduled to appear in the March issue.
January 23, 2014
Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show has posted its January 2014 issue, which includes my story “Seven Tips to Enjoy Your Time in the Unreal Forest” (illustration by Nick Greenwood). The January issue also has stories by such excellent authors as my fellow WOTF winner Marina Lostetter, Alex Shvartsman, Catherine Wells, and others
IGMS charges a $15 subscription fee, but for that you get everything they publish this year, plus access to all their archives. You can start with a couple I’ve recommended in the past: “Write What You Want” by Eric James Stone and “The Hanged Poet” by Jeffrey Lyman.
“Seven Tips to Enjoy Your Time in the Unreal Forest” is a contemporary fantasy, set on Mercer Island, Washington in the late 1970′s, where I grew up. The story begins:
Unreal Forest, under the silver fog of a winter dawn. That’s where we waited for the school bus in junior high.
We could hear the bus coming four to five minutes before it arrived, its ancient engine growling like an irritable dragon. We lived on the absurdly winding road tracing the perimeter of Mercer Island, back before you had to be filthy rich to live there, when the houses were fewer and smaller, tucked under a dense canopy of trees. On a sunny day, we’d spot the bus on the next curve over, before it dove back into the bend. But we didn’t get many sunny days in the Pacific Northwest. Come mid-October, mornings were too dark to see the next curve.
And most days, a feathery fog descended until you felt yourself floating in a cloud bank. We wouldn’t see the bus until it parted the mists less than fifty feet away. Within seconds, the door opened in front of us, the bald-headed driver glaring and urging in a monotone, “Hurry up please it’s time.”
How I hated that spot, until I learned it wasn’t real.
If you happen to get a chance to read “Seven Tips,” I’d love to hear what you think!
October 17, 2013
I just got word that my story “Seven Tips to Enjoy Your Time in the Unreal Forest” has sold to Orson Scott Card’s InterGalactic Medicine Show!
I’m hugely excited about this for several reasons. First, I was working on another long, discouraging streak of rejections. Second, IGMS is one of the best markets in the field. Just in the past year, it has published work by such top-notch writers as Eric James Stone, Ken Liu, Nancy Fulda, Matthew Rotundo, Rahul Kanakia, Beth Cato, and many many others. It’s great to be in company like that. Third, I really believe in this story, but it’s not heavy on genre elements, so I wasn’t sure it would sell even though it’s gotten a lot of positive feedback. I’m very happy editor Edmund Schubert was willing to take a chance on it.
Fourth, and perhaps most importantly, IGMS is a SFWA-qualified market. This is my third sale to a qualifying market, which means I am eligible to join the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. By rule, the real writers have to let me in the clubhouse!
Incidentally, “Seven Tips” is the story I will be reading at MileHiCon this weekend, and I’m bringing cookies, so if you’re in town come check it out.
October 16, 2013
I will be at Mile Hi Con 45 here in Denver all this weekend, October 18-20, 2013. In addition to wannabes like me, there will be amazing people like Paolo Bacigalupi, Seanan McGuire, and Catherynne M. Valente. Here is my schedule:
Friday, 8:00 p.m. If I Had the Franchise, The Reboot I’d Make. Tim Anderson (M), Tonee Bagley, Karen Bjorn, Van Aaron Hughes, Alan L. Lickiss
Saturday, 4:00 p.m. Top 10 Fantasy Films. Jesse Bullington, Van Aaron Hughes (M), Chaz Kemp, Carrie Vaughn, Connie Willis
Sunday, 1:00 p.m. Patent-ly Ridiculous. Arlen Feldman (M), Van Aaron Hughes, Thea Hutcheson, Stace Johnson, Rebecca Lickiss
Sunday, 3:00 p.m. Author Reading. Aaron M. Ritchey & Van Aaron Hughes
Yes, you read that right. I personally will be moderating a panel with folks like Connie Willis, Carrie Vaughn and Jess Bullington. Do I get some coolness by association?
Hope to see you there!