Year's Best SF 11

A story called Mason’s Rats appears in here. I wrote it ages ago, then went on to produce Mason’s Rats II & III. The first two were published in issues 2 & 4 respectively of Orion (’92 & ’94). All three stories were then released as a booklet by Graeme Hurry’s Kimota. When in 2000 I finally got into ‘big publishing’ I had the pleasure of meeting an author whose books I’d enjoyed for about a quarter of a century – Tanith Lee. We met, chatted, exchanged books, and some time later I also gave her a copy of the little Mason’s Rats booklet. She loved it, and asked if I minded her sending it to Gardner Dozois at Asimov’s. I didn’t refuse.

Interestingly I’d already sent a short story to Gardner called The Veteran, which he accepted and published in the Asimov’s of June 2004 (also went on to be published in Japanese publisher Hayakawa’s SF Magazine, May 2005 issue). He also accepted Mason’s Rats I. It’s a tight and very short little story, amusing (I think) – something to enjoy but certainly not something to write huge dissertations about.

Yet here’s the weird bit. When the first story first appeared I found a review on the Internet – of the political ramifications and deep significance of this or that – that ran to more words than the story itself. When the story appeared in Asimov’s, a reviewer called Dave Truesdale slammed it in an editorial on his site Tangent somehow infering from it that I was a left-wing PETA-supporting animal activist, and demanding to know who accepted it because ‘readers have a right to know’. Of course my reaction was bewildered hilarity. A little bit of a row developed on the message board there, and now it seems that whenever rats are mentioned on the Asimov’s message boards, that story is often refered to.

It was all very strange.

7 thoughts on “Year's Best SF 11

  1. That was exactly how I felt about the rant, Dan. I reckon his mother must have locked him in a cellar full of rats when he was a kid or something.

    You'll also find my stories in The Year's Best SF 8 & 10 and in Gardner Dozois's The Year's Best Science Fiction: Twenty-third Annual Collection.

  2. Hey Neal,

    As you know, I've been long lobbying for a Mason's Rats IV. Is there a better chance of that coming to pass now that the first one is actually in print in a Year's Best?

    Hopefully yours,

    Jonathan K. Stephens

  3. Ach, Jonathan, when I've finished the short story I'm on now, when I've polished off something more for Night Shade Books and when I've written Line War for Macmillan. When I get round to rewriting the four books of my unpublished fantasy and my one unpublished contemporary novel. When I've… When I've…

    I guess, at some point, I'll turn my attention to Mason's Rats — Maybe put together enough stories for a collection. Some time.

  4. That wasn't an outright NO!

    I can see my unrelenting pressure is finally bending you to my will!

    Next up: Begin my campaign for a new 'Colletor' story!



  5. Hi, Neal,
    People tend to give meaning to things they don't understand, even if it means inventing the meaning itself, a meaning that serves themselves.
    For example there are books and books written about the hidden and more obvious meanings of "Hundred years of solitude" by G. G. Marquez. People are building careers on trying to determine what he wanted to say. And Marquez himself responds: "but I only wanted to write a book about my family" :)))

    Best regards

  6. Well, Jonathan, lobbying an SF writer whose work you enjoy certainly works. People have said to me they like the 'Owner' stories in The Engineer and I've jsut done another of them.

    Irena, across the world there are writers reading reviews and articles about their work, scratching their heads and saying to themselves, "Cor, I didn't realise I was that clever!" Well, that's what the honest writers are saying.

  7. Neal,

    I do laugh sometimes when people read something and then go and infer all kinds of crap from it.

    Sometimes, just sometimes, a story is just a story.

    Neil Mullins

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