MABFAN NEWSLETTER # 42 (October 2004)

Michael A. Burstein's "Friends Across the Net" Newsletter

As always, hello to everyone. I don't have a new story coming out this month to announce, although I will have one in the January/February 2005 issue of ANALOG, as you will see below. However, I wanted to get a newsletter out in October for one simple reason. I have a personal announcement to make, and I finally decided it was time. If you care about the personal part of my writing life, you'll want to read the last part of this newsletter; if you're just in it for the stories, feel free to skip it.


Give me one for prescience, at least.

In my last newsletter, all the way back in April, I expressed gratitude for having "Paying It Forward" appear on the Hugo ballot and I noted that "I look forward to losing to Neil Gaiman in September."

Well, as most of the science fiction world knows by now, Neil's story "A Study in Emerald" did in fact win the Hugo for Best Short Story. I must admit I was hopeful for a win, as I've heard a lot of praise for "Paying It Forward," but it was not to be.

However, the voting statistics are pleasing. "Paying It Forward" earned 45 nominations, more than any other short story, and came in second on the balloting. Neil and I had some nice conversations about the Hugos and stories, and Nomi and I got to spend a few hours with him in the bar the night after the ceremony.

Finally, I should note that "Paying It Forward" still has a chance to win something; it will be on the Preliminary Ballot for next year's Nebula Award, so it might very well end up on the final ballot. If so, it might win. Naturally, I'll keep you all posted.


At the moment, I have two stories in press:


One of the nice things about being a science fiction writer is that occasionally someone contacts you because they want to interview you for an article.

A few months ago, Jeff Berkwits, a Hugo nominee for Best Fan Writer, contacted me for an article he was writing on Judaism and science fiction. It happens to be a topic that is near and dear to my heart, so we spent over an hour on the phone as he interviewed me on the topic. The article, "Stars of David," can be found this month on the San Diego Jewish Journal's website at I'm quoted a few times in both the article and one of the sidebars. It's a very well done piece, and it explores the topic nicely.


Time for the announcement.

Next year, 2005, will mark a milestone in my life. It will have been ten years since I started publishing science fiction professionally. ("TeleAbsence" appeared in the July 1995 ANALOG.) In the past ten years, I have published thirty-two stories (including collaborations), been nominated for six Hugos, two Nebulas, and a Sturgeon, and won the Campbell Award. But I have never managed to publish a novel. In 2001, I finished a novel, but to date, that novel remains unrevised and unpublished.

The problem is that for me, longer projects take much more of an effort, and the daily grind of teaching (my other career) made it difficult for me to find the focus I needed to work on such projects. So although I've been able to write quite a few shorter works, the longer ones have up until now eluded me.

If you've read this far, you can probably already see where this is going.

Nomi and I discussed it, and we decided that now was the time. This past summer, I made the decision to leave my day job for the year and devote myself to full-time writing. The goal is to write another novel, hopefully one that some publisher will deem acceptable. During this year I'll still work on any other projects that might come my way. And it's entirely possible that some shorter work might take precedence -- for example, I devoted most of September to working on a story I had pitched to an editor because if he's going to use it, he'll need it soon. But the goal is to use the year to write a new novel, rewrite the old one, and see if I can line up other paying freelance work.

The schedule is a simple one. My work day now consists of either completing at least five pages of writing, or devoting about four solid hours to revision. Sometimes I get my pages done in an hour, but more often than not it takes a solid morning of work to meet the quota. That leaves me free in the afternoon to do household errands and chores, while Nomi finds the time to read over my pages and edit my work. It means that for the first time in my life since I left school, I'm not earning a steady paycheck, and we have to be very careful in our budgeting because of it.

So it's a scary step, a risky step -- but a necessary one. Many writers are fond of Joseph Campbell's work on the power of myth and his lesson to follow one's bliss. Well, that's what I've decided to do, and we'll see where it leads.

I should note that I'm not completely out of the teaching game. I've signed on with Chyten Educational Services to tutor part-time in Physics and Mathematics and to help prepare students for the SAT II exams in the same subjects. So if you're local and you know a student who might benefit from my tutoring, get in touch with Chyten ( Having this part-time job helps reduce the stress of writing without a net, and after the year is over, I plan to increase my hours with them so I'll be back in the full-time workforce.

But for the rest of the academic year...please wish me luck. And thanks for sticking with me on this journey.


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-- Michael A. Burstein