Want to read a story by me featuring romance, cannibalism, and Dr. Who jokes? Then you’d probably be doing yourself a favor if you checked out the fourth volume of Unidentified Funny Objects, which came out earlier this month.
Let me tell you a funny story about this funny story. The first volume of UFO was announced as upcoming relatively closely to when I started submitting for publication. I sort of second-hand knew the editor, Alex Shvartsman, and he’s good folks. Also, I like writing stories about bad things happening to good people or bad people having a good time and other light-hearted, cheerful things like that. I can do amusing. I am a master of sardonic. But funny? Not so much my thing.
At the same time, I have a raging ego the size of some continents you could mention and am more or less convinced I should be the master of all things. So I wrote a funny story and I sent it to UFO1. “I don’t think anybody will get your jokes,” the rejection said, which is a nice way of saying, “It wasn’t funny.”
Undaunted, lesson not learned, I did it again for UFO2. With similar effect. I would have done it again for UFO3, but last year was a rather full one and there just wasn’t time to write a third not funny story. That was okay, though, because then Alex announced that UFO4 would have a theme, and it would be dark humor. I think the word “sardonic” may even have been in one of the submission calls. So, as all professional writers do when practicing their most finely honed craft, I cackled uproariously and began a deep study of the human condition in order to craft the most perfect, hilariously dark story I could.
That last line is a lie. What I actually did was carry out a threat I’d made to Dr. Unicorn about immortalizing certain in-jokes in fiction, made a couple Dr. Who jokes, then got very, very stuck. I knew how the story needed to end, there was only one acceptable ending, but I couldn’t really find a funny way to get there. This is the problem with being a pantsing, special snowflake of a writer trying to write for a specific theme. My muse, she’s a fickle beast.
Betrayed by my own creativity, I went for the second set of tools I have, stealing from other writers. I stared at the story’s middle, said, “What would Charlie Jane Anders Do?” and typed my way to a finish. A finish that was not the ending the story had to have because I’d intended my funny story to have a happy ending, but if you think about it for a minute, the actual ending is actually really, really not good. But it was the ending I felt like writing, and the submission window had about four hours left open before it closed and gosh darnit, I’m going to get an editor to declare that I Have Written A Funny Story.
Reader, the story sold. (Obviously)
Hurray! It only took four years, but mission accomplished, I am the master of all things, I have written a funny story! The ending definitely isn’t a happy ending, but it’s funny! Alex Shvartsman said so, by implication, when he bought it. Or did he? Here’s what he says in his foreward:
Among the twenty-three stories collected within there are horror tales with a touch of humor, such as “The Monkey Treatment” by George R. R. Martin and “Armed for You” by Anaea Lay.
Oh. Well. A horror tale with a touch of humor. Nevermind then. Not funny after all, apparently. I guess I’ll go sulk in the…
I’m in the same sentence as GRRM? VICTORY!
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While I’m bragging, Beneath Ceaseless Skies just bought a story from me. They’re an awesome market I’ve been trying to sneak my way into even longer than I’ve been trying to be funny. This story has the distinction of being my first rhyming title, “The Right Bright Courier.” It also provoked the very first time I’ve argued with an editor about a comma. It wasn’t really an argument, actually, but still. Me and commas. They’re slippery little critters, aren’t they? I usually leave their care and maintenance entirely in the editor’s hand. Here, have a teaser to tide you over until it comes out.
The sensor feeds of our approach washed over me as I sat in Shalott‘s cocoon, guiding her with my breath and thought and anticipation. The ether roads between worlds were long and we both bore the scars of our journeys. She furled her sails and pulled them tight to her hull, then turned on her side and beached herself upon the shores. Trails of nebula dust scattered in our wake, rippling out in a cascade of color and radiation that sparkled in the depths of our shared vision. We had arrived. But she did not withdraw the cocoon. Her warm, humid breath encased me, clutching me tight.
“You will not come back to me,” she whispered in my ear.