There is this cool webzine called Clarkesworld, and a few years ago I submitted a story to them but then withdrew it because of one name: Nick Mamatas. His rejections were legendary. I have no idea why I was so scared to hear the truth (although Nick’s rejections were legend, they were also truthful and often very helpful) but that’s me, a coward, and so withdraw I did.
A year or two later. I had a novelette and today I can’t remember what I called it but it was an SF homage to Michael Herr that involved genetically engineered female soldiers and a drug-addicted reporter on the front lines. Nick Mamatas had left Clarkesworld to work in the Bay Area and I had followed his blog on LiveJournal so I knew that he ran a critique service: two bucks a page and he would read your manuscript and give an honest assessment with suggestions for improvement. I paid the dough. Nick took the manuscript. A short time later I received my marked up version with plenty of red ink and it took some time for me to muster the courage to read it, but read it I did, and eventually I had to read it over and over to make sure I understood everything.
By the time I finished making changes and re-writing, the novelette grew into three novellas, which I sandwiched together as a fix up. Subterrene was born. DongWon Song at Orbit bought it on one condition: I break up the book and further expand each novella into a full novel. So began the creation of Germline…
Fast forward. Last year at WorldCon I gave Nick a copy of the book and of the audiobook (he was credited in the acknowledgements) and when I got home noticed that he had posted something about having to deal with some stinky crap he got at WorldCon. Was he talking about Germline? I thought the worst and shrugged, but man that got me down because I assumed that mine was the only “stinky crap” available at WorldCon and sooner or later I’d hear about how much he hated Germline. So what happened? Today I get in the car after work and grab my phone to see if there’s anything going on Twitter. I find this:
Yes, I got all man-teary. I don’t have many idols in this business but if you’ve read Move Underground or You Might Sleep or Under My Roof, or if you’ve ever known the fear of a Nick Mamatas Clarkeworld rejection, you know what this means. Sure. He didn’t say “I loved it, you are the best!” or “I will leave my wife for you.” HE SAID I MADE MILITARY SF RELEVANT AGAIN!!!! And besides, even if he’d said “meh” you know what they say: a handshake is as good as a hug.