It's been a busy week, what with a job interview to prep for and Angels Of The Silences to proofread (that one has to be finished today- luckily the brave and awesome chap that is Chris Teague of Pendragon Press knows no fear when it comes to cutting things a bit fine), but writing-wise things are on a bit of a pause.
I've put aside a half-finished novella and a new raft of changes to The Song Of The Sibyl to help put together a comedy series pitch for Radio Two, and after that found myself at a loose end. Whereupon the thought of new story collections came to mind. After all, there were a good few tales lying about loose, after thirteen years in the game. (Jesus, that pulls me up short every time I write it. Where the hell does the time go?)
So this meant (ulp) it was time to make an inventory of the uncollected stuff.
You have to picture: there are three computers in chez Bestwick- my laptop, the trusty and nifty little Netbook I'm writing this blog post on and my old desktop. If they were members of the cast of Dad's Army (pause while American readers google that one) the Netbook would be Private Walker (the spiv and wideboy who always got results), the laptop would be Corporal Jones (determined and thinking he was the bee's knees but prone to malfunctiong- that's what you get with Windows pigging Vista) and the desktop would be Private Godfrey (the doddery old one who looked like a strong breeze would knock him over.) The main reason it's still around is that it can still handle floppy disks and there might still be some useful stuff on some of them. Oh, and because that's where a lot of the old material is.
And so, the trawl began. Exporting stories, novelettes, novellas, nearly all unpublished, onto the pen-drive. Quality control was not a factor, just getting them all into one place.
That Protestant Work Ethic thing is securely embedded in the Bestwick brain, if noting else. When I started writing properly, in 1997, I aimed for a story a week. There are 26 stories listed from that year on the inventory. That doesn't include the completed novel, the two unfinished ones and the 20,000 word novella from that year, plus half a dozen lost stories (mercifully, in the case of several that spring to mind) and the ones that need retyping.
Most of the ones from that year and 1998 were published somewhere, but many of those that followed are yet to see print; back at the end of the '90s (I refuse to write 'the turn of the century', except that I just did) the small press scene imploded, losing a lot of markets. My brain seized up at the prospect of actually trying to work out how to post stuff outside the UK and the internet left me decidedly confused. And shortly thereafter there was a several years-long phase of hating nearly everything I wrote. The reasons for that are long and complicated and for another time, but a lot of stories were written and then thrown aside, convinced they were rubbish. There are thirty-odd unpublished stories from 2001 alone, and nearly as many from 2000. Those were two of the years I had the least confidence as a writer, and kept churning out tales in an effort to feel proud of one of them (thanks to Chris and Barbara Roden at Ash-Tree Press/All Hallows Magazine, who were one of the few markets I placed stories with at the time- that boost to the confidence was very welcome)
2002 saw twenty-odd so-far uncollected stories written, but after that short-story production slacked off. Longer projects beckoned, forays into script-writing, a number of novels that are damn well going to stay in their bottom drawer.
But anyway- the final count?
Over a hundred and ninety.
I'm not saying this to brag (well, OK, maybe a bit.) But it did come as a bit of a shock. And that's not counting another dozen to twenty that only exist in hard copy form and need typing up or scanning. Plus some only written in longhand that still haven't been typed up. Oh, and a couple of short novels that might be worth trying to place...
Obviously, there are a lot of stories here that don't merit publication; they're in the bottom drawer for a bloody good reason, and there they shall stay. But even so... there should be enough material for four or five other collections there. It's quite a sobering thought to see that much stuff accumulated.
One reason for writing: a kind of insurance policy against oblivion. A light that glows in the long darkness after your own's gone out (Christ, that's pretentious. But it's also true, so I'll let it stand.) There's a substantial amount of insurance there.
But bloody hell, 190+ stories? After thirteen years?
God, I feel old.
And so now back to Angels Of The Silences. And prepping for the job interview. And the meeting later today. I used to have a life...