For the last several months, I have been writing short stories. It's much different than writing novels. Stories must be tighter, driving along to their end point without too many diffusive sub-plots (often, none) or point-of-view shifts. They should deliver an emotional punch of some sort at or near the very end. Character change may be minimal, since there isn't a lot of room to set one up, but it (usually) does need to be present. And since these stories were all commissioned for anthologies, they needed to fit the editors' themes or other parameters.
First I wrote "Knotweed and Gardenias" for a hard-SF anthology due next year, STARSHIP CENTURY. Edited by Gregory and James Benford, this grew out of the 100-Year Starship Symposium held in 2011 and features both fiction about exploring space and non-fiction by such luminaries as Jill Tarter, head of SETI, Stephen Hawking, and Robert Zubrin. Freeman Dyson will write the Forward. I'm really pleased to be included in the book, contributing a story about unforeseen neural responses to deep space.
"Writer's Block" is something entirely different. Called RIP OFF! and edited by Gardner Dozois, this will be an audio book, with possible print version eventually. The demented and fun premise is this: Author's take a classic (and out of copyright) first line from a famous book and write an entirely different story built from that line. I picked "It was a dark and stormy night," originally written by Edward Bulwer-Lytton and since made famous by Snoopy.
"Pathways," for Technology Review out of M.I.T., is hard SF built around the burgeoning field of optogenetics (see a previous blog).
"...And Other Stories" was written for a Gene Wolfe tribute anthology edited by Jean Rabe. For this, I had the inestimable privilege of writing in one of Gene Wolfe's created worlds. I chose "The Island of Doctor Death and Other Stories," and brought back that heart-breaking little boy, Tackie.
I owe one more story to an anthology. Then, back to novels. However, I don't actually have an idea for a novel. This is where literary faith comes in -- faith that by the time I'm done with summer traveling and ready to settle in to a novel (September), I will have an idea that I'm excited to write. Faith, faith, faith...