tubby’s letter

“Jim has these didactics you can download,” said Mrs. Xin. “You can implant them with a little hypnotherapy course or a normal NM port. I have an NM port left over from a bit of depression in my forties. He had one installed for work.” Mrs. Xin pushed the soft grey hair up from the bone just above and behind her left earlobe, revealing a rectangular metal patch about a half-inch wide and half as high. “He calls it the dreamgame, because you study in your dreams. It works great for programming.” She shrugged a bit. “The math stuff is harder, but that’s the stuff Jim really likes anyway.”

“Are all the little boys down there writing software?” Tubby asked.

“Or doing something. Laying out blueprints of buildings, looking at molecules. They’re all very smart. One of them reads the same paper over and over again, and I still can’t remember the title because there are more Greek symbols than words in it.” Mrs. Xin chuckled. “The rest of them use Jim’s program to keep track of what they’ve done — that guy is the only one who doesn’t use it. He says he wants to learn to work with his ‘naked brain.’ Do you know what I told him after that?”

“If you tell me, I’ll kill you,” Tubby said.

Last Monday, I got an idea for a story while I was walking to the train station, past the nursing home full of Chinese people behind the Valero station in West Windsor.

Today, I wrote the last word of the first draft and did a word count. It’s not a short story, as it eventuates. It’s 18,660 words. It’s been National Novel-Writing Month for the past 11 days and I didn’t even know it — NaNo requires 1667 words per day on average to “win,” and I wrote 1696. It’s no 8000 words per day, but it’s not nothing either.

I’m happy to be done, and so quickly, but all I can think right now is “not another fucking novella.” I knew I was going to go over budget on this story, but I figured I’d hit maybe 10,000 words. I’m starting to worry the story isn’t tellable at short story length. Writers of the Future (for which I am, shamefully, still eligible) will consider up to 17,000 words, so I could submit it there with relatively little editing, but I was hoping for something I could submit widely if WotF passed, which presumably it will.

Well, we’ll see. There’s definitely plenty to cut — I started the thing four times, so several thousand words at the beginning are going to the backstory file. But I don’t know if I can reduce the length by the 60-70% it would need to be appealing to short fiction markets.

I suppose I should possibly worry about becoming the guy who writes nursing home sf. Maybe not until (if) this gets published.

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