Stephen King once described short stories as “a quick kiss in the dark from a stranger,” which I used to think was cool and mysterious and romantic and now realize is pretty creepy and stalkerish and actually kind of assault now that I really think about it.
Authorial definitions change, is my point. How we define fiction and our work and ourselves, it’s a constant, frantic, Jarod-from-The–Pretender-which-was-a-really-good-and-underrated-TV-show-in-my-opinion evolution.
Take me. Ten years ago (Jesus, yes, ten fucking years) I was the Short Story Guy. I had a semi-popular short story podcast. I won short story awards. I had short stories in magazines and anthologies and on other podcasts all the time, it felt like. I wrote a short story a week at one point. My first book was a short story collection. I ingested short story mythology both SFF and non-SFF like it would give me short story super powers. It was what I loved to write. Then I found out you need money or you can’t like, buy stuff. So I became the Screenwriter Guy. I wrote a dozen movies that never got made, but for which I received checks that did clear. I wrote some other stuff that did get made, like webseries and TV shows and animated series. I moved out to Los Angeles and wrote more unmade movies and more stuff that did get made like an entertainment show that’s actually on your Apple TV right now.
I still wrote short stories, albeit infrequently, but I didn’t bother with publishing. I didn’t see much point, honestly.
A few years ago I started doing fiction seriously again, and I became the Self-Pub Guy. And I started with short stories, because that’s what I knew and what I largely wrote and I had a bunch of ’em stored up. They did okay, and that led to longer stuff, as it often does. Lately I’ve been the Novella Series Guy. I did a self-pub novella series throughout 2014, now I’m doing my Sin du Jour series as standalone print/e/audiobooks for Tor.com Publishing, and I just had a new one announced with indie publisher From Parts Unknown. It’s an old and new thing and I’m enjoying either rediscovering it or being on the frontier or both (publishing is weird that way).
All of this is to say I am all of these things except for periods when I’m none of these things and who you are and what you do as a writer often depends on whether it’s before lunch or after lunch and I have a new short story Out There for the first time in a while. Two years, in fact, since my last short story was published (“Sundae” on the wonderful YA podcast Cast of Wonders). And three years, I believe, since my last entirely new short story was published (“The Shotokan Masters,” which I released myself as an Amazon single for Kindle).
Today “Small Wars” is up on Tor.com and you can read it right now for free, which is always rad. It’s set in the world of my Sin du Jour books, taking place between the first two and also recounting via flashback how the Stocking & Receiving Department (often referred to in reviews as the “procurement” team) came together. I dig this story for a lot of reasons, the first being I’ve always loved movies and books about elite quasi-military teams tasked with dangerous missions, like Richards Brooks’ The Professionals (one of my all-time favorites) and Walter Hill’s Extreme Prejudice. The procurement team is my nod to that sub-genre, and one of that sub-genre’s staples and my favorite bits in all the movies is the “getting the team together scene/montage.” I finally got to do that in this story, so that’s an achievement unlocked.
“Small Wars” is also based in-part on, or at least inspired, by my essay “The Big and the Small: Confessions of an Irregular American,” which is still my most popular essay and one of my most personal. I wanted the story to be about something, and not strictly an adventure, although it is that and there’s nothing wrong with strictly adventure. In a review Publishers Weekly described “Small Wars” as “slyly poignant” so I suppose I succeeded. You can read it and see if you agree.
I also love, love, phantasmagorically fucking LOVE the artwork Goñi Montes created for the story’s cover. That’s another amazing thing about working for Tor.com, their cover art and illustrations, overseen by the luminous Irene Gallo, are next-level. This one is vying for my favorite cover of all time, and I’ve both seen and had some great covers done for my stuff. Goñi absolutely just nailed capturing the team here (from top to bottom the characters are: Moon, Cindy, Ritter, Hara, and Ryland). It’s my first time seeing any of the characters from these stories illustrated, and it will be an almost impossible act to follow.
Finally, Tor.com is one if not the biggest venue for SFF stories that currently exists, and I’ve been a genuine fan of what they’re doing with their authors, stories, and art for a long time. It’s a serious badge to finally have a story there.
So, yeah. There is nothing not cool about this. Click the link. Read the story. Maybe go buy some of the Sin du Jour books if you like it.
My thanks to Irene, Goñi, Lee Harris, and the rest of the Tor.com crew.