3 of 5 stars.
This enjoyable short story appearing in the anthology Writers of the Future Volume 31; that showcases new and emerging writers of fantasy and science fiction is included due to the authors’roles as judges for the contest. It is accompanied by an illustration by artist contest winner Daniel Tyka whose work also adorned the short story “Switch” in the same anthology.
The protagonist in the tale is Mitchell Coren, award winning novelist and one-hit wonder. He has answered the pressure of expectation by refusing to write a word of science fiction again after snagging the biggest two prizes out there with his debut work. He has accepted his fear, and hopes that he will be lumped in with the likes of J.D. Salinger for turning away from the celebrity.
Ten years after his trophies have started to gather dust, Coren is called upon by Jeremy Cardiff, an aspiring musician, a huge Coren fan, and an employee of Alternitech–a company that opens gateways to alternative universes to discover useful discrepancies. Cardiff has unearthed and read a second novel by Coren that only exists in the alternate world. By legal precedent, Coren of this world holds no rights to royalties or publishing on this side of the curtain. However, in a plea to Cardiff, Coren is able to acquire both copies of the novel that Cardiff scavenged by appealing to Cardiff’s sense as an artist and fan. Coren, not wanting to face the pressure and scrutiny of the public, sets the manuscripts on fire. And then douses them again in time to save the one copy.
This tale quickly examines the role of the artist to one’s work and even to one’s inevitable junk-door of notes and ideas for future projects. It also shows the downside of oppressive expectation and the uplift from the belief in what one can accomplish.
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