Thursday, January 27, 2011
Dreams sometimes come true. Eventually. In1984, while I was in graduate school but spending late nights fiddling around with fiction, a title occurred to me. That title was “Bitter Steel.” At the time I’d written only a few stories and fragments of stories, none very memorable, but I decided—with the irrepressibility of naïve youth—that Bitter Steel would be the title of my first collection of heroic fantasy tales. I even remember that it was late at night while walking across the University of Arkansas campus that the thought came to me.
Fast forward to April of 1993. By that time I’d sold half a dozen stories and had some successful contest entries under my belt. Most of my success had been with heroic fantasy stories, but I was no longer as naïve as I’d been in 1984. I was a long ways from setting the writing world on fire. I’d discovered how tough it is to write publishable stories, and how hard it is to find time to write when you’re also trying to build an academic career. It began to occur to me that I might never have a short story collection published. I printed out all the fantasy stories I had and spiral bound them for myself under the title Bitter Steel.
In 2009, I pitched an idea for a collection of my heroic fantasy tales to Borgo Press, which had published my Talera trilogy. Borgo liked the idea, and in 2010 that collection was published. I could do nothing else but entitle it Bitter Steel.
I went back this week to compare the published Bitter Steel with the spiral bound home version from 1993. I was amazed to find that 9 of the 14 stories from that original collection made it into the published version, although all of them have undergone revision. Four others have also been published, and only one has never been seen by anyone but me. I’m kind of pleased with the life of these tales.
No matter how naïve it may seem, dreaming is important. There were quite a few years in the late 1990s and early 2000s when I thought about giving up on writing. I had novels written but not published, stories selling but only to small markets, a growing list of agents unimpressed with my submissions. People were telling me that the sort of stuff I liked to write was old fashioned and out of style. Progress never seemed better than three steps forward and two back, and sometimes the other way around. But I never could quite forget the dreams I had almost from the first moment I tried to write, dreams that I would find success, that I’d see my name in print. And not just once, but many times. In 1984, I dreamed of Bitter Steel. In 2010, I saw it come true. I’m glad I held on.