My newest short story, “Achilles Piquant & the Elsinore Vacillation,” is in this month’s (November 2016) Galaxy’s Edge Magazine, edited by Mike Resnick (my dad). It’s available free online this month, and will be available in ebook and print editions of the November issue for the foreseeable future.
After publisher Shahid Mahmud got the old man to agree to edit the mag, Pop asked me to submit a story for the second issue…. But as you may have noticed from the cover here, I am making my debut in issue #23. Oops.
I meant to submit a story 21 issues ago. Truly! But, as so often happens, time ran away from me…
Also, despite having written about 70 short stories, I am not a natural short fiction writer. With only a couple of exceptions (and this story is one of them), I have written all of my short stories for themed anthologies where an editor gave me a deadline (and not meeting it would mean not being in the book) and, more to the point (for me), story parameters.
Sometimes the parameters are simple, such as “write a fantasy story of 3K-6K words about a horse or equine creature” (Horse Fantastic, for which I wrote “No Room For the Unicorn,” now available in my Highway To Heaven collection). Sometimes they’re very specific, such as “write a science fiction or fantasy story about Sherlock Holmes” (Sherlock Holmes in Orbit, for which I wrote “The Adventure of the Missing Coffin,” now available in Maybe You’ve Heard of Me?). And sometimes they’re complex (I wrote “Your Name Here,” a satire about population control, for How To Save the World, a 2013 edition of Fiction River Magazine, for which editor John Helfers established detailed parameters about the sort of science fictional challenges he wanted to see tackled).
I can do that kind of thing. I’ve done it 5 or 6 dozen times, after all. But my natural “lean,” as both a writer and also a reader, is much more toward novels than toward short fiction. And so I tend to stall when the only parameter is “write a science fiction short story one of these days for this bi-monthly magazine.” Hence the passage of many issues of the mag before I submitted a story (and during which time I wrote short stories for several themed anthologies).
Anyhow… around the time I was trying to think of a short story for Galaxy’s Edge, I read a passage in Christopher Hitchens’ memoir, Hitch-22, in which he described a dinner party game of inventing Robert Ludlum-style titles for Shakespeare plays. My sort of game! I love Shakespeare, and I love spy novels (and have enjoyed Ludlum novels like The Bourne Identity, The Rhinemann Exchange, and The Matarese Circle). I also love word games, and I even enjoy brainstorming titles (some writers hate it).
Salman Rushdie, author of The Satanic Verses and Midnight’s Children, was one of the diners playing this game with Hitchens, and he suggested The Elsinore Vacillation for Hamlet. I thought this was a delightful title, especially since Hamlet’s vacillation drives me crazy (it is not among my favorite Shakespeare plays). So I decided to use that title (crediting Mr. Rushdie, of course) and write a Hamlet parody.
I’ve also lately become a big fan of Agatha Christie, whose writing I only tried for the first time a few years ago, and I have been gradually working my way through all her books—I’m about halfway there. So my Shakespearean tale cross-pollinated with a cozy murder mystery, set aboard a starship, in which an indecisive and ambitious Lieutenant Hamlet secures the assistance of an investigative android, Achilles Piquant, to investigate the sudden death of the ship’s captain.
I had fun writing it, and I hope people have fun reading it.