Where Did That Come From? ("AffirmNation")


On February 5 my second story, “AffirmNation” was published in Issue 10 of Plasma Frequency! Please excuse the exclamation mark—I’m still giddy with excitement.

I thought it might be fun to share some of the story of the story. I like reading notes and bios attached to fiction. Daily Science Fiction is particularly good about including that kind of tidbit, and I’m hoping the idea works on this blog.

"AffirmNation" began when someone in my writing group mentioned a writing event over at LitReactor (a site that I didn’t know about at the time, but have since embraced). The challenge was to write a science-fiction story that explores a dystopian or utopian theme, features a technology that’s scientifically plausible and a non-human character. The word count had to fall between 1,500 and 4,000.


The prompt really kicked my imagination into gear, but I hesitated. I’d never written a science fiction story before. I enjoy SF, but in relationship to my other genre favorites, I’m relatively new to it. I do, however, have a long-standing love of dystopian fiction. That was the first hook and the first hurdle.

The actual step-by-step thought process is a little hazy by now, and I expect it wouldn’t be all that interesting to read about. I do remember that I started by thinking about work and class. Those issues interest me anyway, so it seemed a natural fit. I decided to think about how I might design a world designed to maximize the output of its workforce. I was intrigued by the idea of trying to create happy, contented workers. I figured that motivated people who feel valued and competent would work better. 

I thought about things that can pacify us, distract us, and lull us. I thought about what kinds of things might motivate people and how you might try to control them. 

That problem is what enabled me to work the technology into my story. I was relieved because I knew from the beginning that it would be the requirement that would give me the most difficulty. I’m a fan of technology, but I’m usually a passive consumer of it. Once I had the idea for the AFIRMOS system, I ran with it. I did all kinds of research and it was a blast. I pestered my husband with questions about computers, had him ask a friend about classic arcade machines, and begged him for help understanding diagrams and electricity. I learned a lot.

The technology melded with the non-human character requirement fairly easily. It made sense in terms of how I thought the system would work and it helped with the story itself. I needed to get a sense of an exchange in there to widen the world at least a little. 

After I nailed down those elements, I got to indulge in some world building. I quickly became addicted to it. Most of my stories up to that point had been set in what amounts to our world. Weird stuff happens, but setting hadn’t been a primary concern. I now see what the allure is. Building a new place is awesome. I kept stacking on more and more details. I eventually had to cut myself off. I’d almost let myself lose sight of the story.

I had my world, a set of questions, characters, and conflict. I wrote. 


I got on track enough to get a draft together. Then I mustered up the nerve to post it. That was a first for me. At that point I’d let my husband and writing group read my writing, but that was it. I was nervous, but got lucky. A lot of people in the workshop/event liked the story and gave me great feedback on the draft. I wrote two or three more drafts after that. I cut, expanded, cut again, clarified, and rethought some things.

I finally submitted it. It got rejected in a couple of places, but that’s how it goes. Then Plasma Frequency accepted it.

I was relatively patient during the wait for publication day, but when I saw Ron Sanders’ beautiful cover art (“Homecoming”) for the issue, I got antsy. Those last few days were torturous. I was on facebook and twitter sharing the “OMG it’s coming” news. I struggled to limit myself. I think I did okay.

The issue was released. I bought an instant gratification electronic issue (I'd go for the .pdf version, FYI). I tweeted and fbooked and all that. I may have danced a little. It was fun, if not particularly attractive.

Yesterday, the paper copies my husband ordered arrived. Look, I enjoy ebooks. I read them and my iPad is chockfull of them. But, seriously, there is no substitute for paper. Holding that magazine in my hands and seeing my story printed there was a big deal for me. It was another milestone.

I will not admit how many times I’ve picked it up to look at it. I’ll just say it’s been more than once and leave it at that.

But enough about me for a moment—

Issue Ten of Plasma Frequency Magazine 

My obvious bias aside, the issue is a good read. I found something good in all the stories, but my personal top three favorites are: “Undead Undead” by Davian Aw, “Career Day” by Anna Zumbro, and “Quantum Sin” by Gary Cuba.

It feels cool to be in that group.

Signing off.

I have a couple more ideas for SF stories rattling around in my head. I need one more AHA! Moment for them to come together, but when they do I know I’m going to dive in to those new worlds with relish.

That’s it for this post!

Safe Travels and thanks for reading the blog. I'd also like to extend a special thank you to anyone who read "AffirmNation."