Recently I rediscovered a cache of stories I had written long ago. We’re talking 30+ years ago for some stories. Back then I wanted and tried to write science fiction and speculative fiction in a short story format. I had dreams of getting those stories published in magazines and genre periodicals. I did try and I have a small stack of rejection letters to prove it.
What got me fired up to get published was a chance meeting with a famous science fiction writer, Ben Bova. I was at a sci-fi convention and Dr. Bova was one of the keynote speakers. For those of you not familiar with Ben Bova’s work, one of his best known series focused on human colonization of the our solar system. Likely the best known book in that series is Mars. Dr. Bova wrote over 124 novels, short fiction, and non-fiction works and has won many awards. Dr. Bova died in 2020.
At the convention, between talks, I decided to go have a drink. I was absorbing the vibe of being among like minded people who saw science fiction not as a literary stepchild, but a serious genre. As I sipped at my expensive beer, a guy came up next to me and ordered a beer as well. I looked over and nodded a hello. The man smiled and nodded back, then asked me how I was enjoying the convention. From there we started chatting, just two guys drinking beer and talking about sci-fi stuff.
I didn’t recognize Dr. Bova then and I think he knew I hadn’t recognized him. He asked me my name, I told him. He then introduced himself. I think I said something like, “Ben Bova? THE Ben Bova?”
He might have replied, “Yeah, that guy.”
We shook hands and continued our conversation, but in the back of my mind I was frantically trying to recall the last story of his that I had read, in case he asked me which story of his was my favorite. For the life of me, I couldn’t think of one. And, sure enough, he asked me.
I stammered a bit then decided honesty was best and told him I couldn’t recall a story, but I had read several of his short stories. He asked me if I wrote and I told I did, kind of.
“What does that mean, kind of?” he asked.
I replied that I had written many stories, though I had, up to that point, felt they weren’t ready to be published.
“So, you’ve actually have words on paper?”
“Yes,” replied, and wondered why he was being so specific.
He told me that he goes to these conventions a lot and meet people all the time who claim they are writers, but have never written so much as a sentence. That I actually had written and completed several stories was a lot further along than many so-called writers. He then did two things that I’ll never forget.
First, he paid for our drinks. I was actually intending to pay for them, but he insisted.
Second, he gave me his card and told me to send him a few of my stories. He would read over them and render an opinion.
I was floored.
I promised I would send him some stories and, after gathering what I thought were my best efforts, I sent him four. His reply was tactful, but hard hitting. I knew I had a lot to learn about the craft of writing, and he said as much, but he was also very encouraging, stating, “You really write well.”
He then went on to highlight what I did well in the stories I sent him, and where improvements could be made. One story was well executed, but predictable, another wasn’t engaging enough, while another had a strong plot and characters, but needed to be longer. Ultimately he suggested that I put my current stories aside and start something new, focusing on stronger character and plot development.
I took his advice and started pounding the keys and worked at improving the mechanics of my writing. I am still working towards improving my writing.
One of the stories I wrote before my conversation with Dr. Bova was called Juliettes. It was in that cache of stories I mentioned earlier. I’ve just edited it, expanded it a bit, and posted it on my Stories page. It’s a free download. If you’d like to check it out, please feel free. I’d also like your opinion. Tell me what you liked and didn’t like about the story.
In that cache there are maybe 40 or so short stories. I likely won’t post them all, but I will post others.
I hope you enjoy them.
What a great inspirational story and memory. Now I’m inspired to start reading SciFi again beginning with Mars.
I always loved hearing your stories and enjoyed following your travels via your blog posts. And now your short stories. I look forward to reading Juliettes.
Thank you!! I do hope you enjoy the stories. They aren’t to height of literature, but I liked the concepts that were explored.