Death and the Maiden

[ Read this in Dutch ]

In which writing pays for reading…

Another sale! Hard on the heels of Prisoner of War, which sold two days earlier, I got the wonderful, happy-dance-worthy news that Friendly Fire would be bought by the Machine of Death editors.

The maiden, in this case, is Linda, and the death is predicted by the eponymous Machine of Death, a device that predicts, with unfailing accuracy and infuriating irony, the manner of one’s death from a drop of blood. The MoD editors published a marvellous anthology of stories around this queer-but-inspiring theme in 2010, and were so encouraged by its success* that they put out a call for submissions last year for a second volume.

The plot that sprang into my head fully formed seemed so obvious to me that I was afraid the first volume would have numerous similar stories. However, despite a story in there with the same title I’d already claimed in my mind, nothing in the first book came close. Ha! So I checked with the editors if they would mind having the same title in the second volume. They wouldn’t, so I went ahead and wrote it.

And they bought it! Though it is, and may forever be, the oddest sale of my career. The contract offer stated that they loved the story, but were afraid it didn’t fit in the second volume, but wanted to buy it anyway and decide what to do with it later. A month later, I had parted with the rights, they had parted with the money, and I was the proud owner of a Kindle e-reader plus assorted accessories.


* It really is a brilliant anthology. Technically, it’s all SF, but such varied, and thought-provoking, and exuberant SF, that even my wife—a notorious SF non-reader—loved it.