Hydra author, Arlan Andrews Sr, author of Silicon Blood, was first published in 1969 and has been writing ever since. Wonder why? He has offered to tell you.
Writers & Writing
© 2017, Arlan Andrews, Sr.
Thinking about this week’s upcoming Author’s Fair in Lagrange, where I will be hustling books along with another 100 or so authors, makes me wonder about why we writers do what we do. Last week I was asked, “Is writing those sci-fi books for Hydra Publications your full-time paying job?” After choking on my adult refreshment, I allowed as to how skinny I would be if my income depended on writing, much less on just these few recent books. Unfortunately, my destiny has not allowed such a thing to occur yet.
His next question was, “Then why do you do it? Isn’t writing hard?” This is the inquiry all writers get. I usually reply, “No, writing is easy; selling it is the hard part.”
Do We Do It for Love?
The real answer is, of course, that all of us writers are egotists, and we derive ego-boosting gratification from seeing our names and photos in print – not to mention pounding our pet peeves or hawking the great idea du jour. (Some inksters will deny this vehemently, but they are the ones who make a living at it.) If you can earn any money — especially a decent income — while stroking your ego, why then so much the better.
Even in a local venue such as our Hydra Publications comments space like this one, we contributors have the opportunity to spout off on unlimited topics, from national politics to short stories to beach travels to family matters to manuscript editing to Amazon giveaways to proper punctuation to marketing to horse races (and actual racing) to weather commentary to local restaurants to local bars — and even the occasional self-promotion of our newest books.
What other vocation lets your mind run wild, and then gives you a place to exhibit it so that others may read it and laugh or weep or simply erase it into the nearest computer photon-dump? (In the case of printed versions, many creative uses can be found for unwanted paper…)
Do We Do It for Money?
When I attend writers’ conventions, the topics of advances for novels and percentages for agents and word rates for magazines typically take front stage when we get down to the serious business of writing as a business. The average income for all writers recently was around $4000 per year, far below minimum wage. Weighing in the millions made by Danielle Steele, Stephen King, Tom Clancy, Dean Koontz and even my old sci-fi friend, Timothy Zahn, or my former Albuquerque acquaintance, Tony Hillerman, that leaves most of the rest of us way, way down the ladder.
No, it is not just for the money, though the occasional paycheck for a story or article does limp in. But even when it does, I for one feel a slight tinge of Protestant-work-ethic guilt, since writing has never been work, never been a chore, never been a have-to thing with me. Quite the contrary – it is an obsession, a condition, an addiction, one that must be satisfied or else. Rather like mental nicotine, if you will. (Mental meth may be a more appropriate term, because practicing writers have been observed occasionally to neglect person hygiene and appearance, and to mumble meaningless drivel to themselves – all the while writing away on a computer, converting those mumbles and that drivel to text. All the while hoping it sells.)
Because We Have To
“How do you know if you’re a writer?” people ask. “Easy,” says I. “Writers write! If you don’t, you’re not. If you do, you are.”
Some of us poor souls began writing as soon as we could make letters with a crayon or a pencil – “publishing” our own comic books, little neighborhood newspapers, anything that we could create on paper and show to others. Then when that first portable typewriter came into my life at age 15 back in the previous Millennium, it was a miracle. I began to crank out poorly-written short stories. Eventually I sent some in to professional science fiction magazines. Never mind the years of rejection letters, the editorial comments good and bad. It was writing!
After a mere decade and a half or so, some of that output began to sell, which including column contributions, amounts to over five hundred times now, appearing in over a hundred venues worldwide. So the craft itself can be accomplished by practice. And today’s computers have so minimized the physical labor of writing that it is almost literally a breeze any more. (Of course now I can’t wait for direct mind-to-video technology, so that what I see in my mind can go directly to the DVD — with very discreet editing, of course.)
Because We Can
New writers are often pleasantly surprised to find that few accomplishments bring as much instant prestige as being published. Not many people at a party will ever care if you are a world-class engineer, a renowned doctor, a decorated soldier, a successful lawyer or a top-ranked salesman. But say you are a “writer” and there’s almost always some kind of response from nearly everyone, whether it is admiration, envy or astonishment. Everybody wants to be a writer; only a few ever even try because it’s supposed to be so hard a task.
But the dirty little secret is that writing is really not that difficult or that well-paying a skill.
It’s just that our work gets into print.
About Arlan Andrews Sr:
Hugo-nominated author Dr. Arlan Andrews, Sr., is the founder of SIGMA, the Science Fiction Think Tank, which works with the US government and non-profit organizations to provide the unique futurism of science fiction writers for those who need it most. See the SIGMA website at SigmaForum(dot)org for more details, and for a membership list of the outstanding authors who participate.
Arlan began his technical career working as a missile tracking telescope operator at White Sands Missile Range, where he also honed a lifelong interest in unusual phenomena by exploring the enchantment and mysteries of New Mexico while attending college. He worked for AT&T Bell Laboratories on the antiballistic missile program, spent time in China, was appointed as a Fellow in the White House Science Office, and co-founded both a Virtual Reality software company and a biotech equipment company.
All of these groundbreaking activities originated in his fascination with the future and the unknown. He expresses that wonderment by writing both fact and fiction, science and speculation.
During his career as engineer, entrepreneur and author, Arlan has published nearly 500 stories, articles, columns and other features in 100 venues worldwide, primarily in science fiction, the paranormal, futurism and the fringe areas of science and folklore. These have appeared in anthologies and in such publications as ANALOG, ASIMOV’S, SCIENCE FICTION AGE, SCIENCE FICTION REVIEW, PULPHOUSE, FATE, STRANGE, ATLANTIS RISING, NEW SCIENTIST, PURSUIT, ALT HISTORY.COM, IDEOMANCER, MENSA BULLETIN, INTEGRA, and a former column in UFO MAGAZINE. His ANALOG novella, “Flow”, was on the Hugo Award ballot in 2015, winning the Jovian Award for Best Novella that year. Many of Arlan’s stories and articles — plus new stories and several new novels — are now available in e-versions and paperback.
In addition to appearances at conventions and conferences, Arlan appeared on the History Channel cable presentation of “Ancient Aliens: Ancient Constructions”, in September 2011.
Recent publications available on Amazon.com include SILICON BLOOD (novel) and FUTURE FLASH (a short story collection), both in e-books and paperback versions.