by michael werneburg
I have to date written three novels that are in various states of disrepair. One fantasy (from high school), one science-fiction (from my late twenties to late thirties), and one that crosses the line between them (written in university). I have no idea why I thought that a novel-length form was the way to start, but it wasn't until I'd already drafted all three that I started to write short stories. These are the ones I've found and dusted off. The first three are my favorites.
A novice enters a bike race with the intent of exploiting a flaw in the course design. Too bad his competitors are armed and dangerous.
The alien ambassador has refused all attempts at communication. As the ambassador is about to be introduced to the world when a team of frustrated scientists come to a stunning realization.
A materials specialist on a deserted world created by unknown aliens discovers that something has begun to change after tens of thousands of years. Is humanity's recent presence the trigger? What is the purpose of the artificial planet known as Readyworld.
During a routine toxic waste cleanup on an alien world, a team loses track of the delinquent prince assigned to captain the squad.
Tourists from an alien world visit a planet known to be sterile—until a young hire makes a rookie mistake.
I fell in love with writing in high school. Not because of the 'writing' we did in class, but because I had the inspiration of certain mid-'80s sci-fi authors who helped me see that it was okay to be dissatisfied with the work of so many big-name authors of that time. Authors like Mick Farren and William Gibson and Ursula K le Guin and Anne McCaffrey managed to combine ideas with real-life situations and characters and impulses a way I found a lot more engaging. They were breaking the genre out of the mold of super-heroics with perfect knowledge, and leaving behind bloodless stories that Explored an Idea. In particular, I felt that Farren's work seemed like the kind of thing I wanted to attempt: losers thrust into extroardinary circumstances doing what must be done, with enough world-building to tie the story together. I find that my short stories wind up being more speculative but that might be a result of the format; you only really have room for one thought.
I stopped writing altogether when my son was born. I was the incident manager at an investment bank (a fourteen-hour-a-day job) and with a new-born baby and weekly Japanese studies writing became impossible. Then the Great Financial Crisis came and I had to move to find work and began years of studying and volunteering and so one. In 2020, nearing fifty, I started again.