Wake up, Polly Parrot.


Whatever Happened To The Class Of '93?
by Brian Plante

Did you ever pull out your old high school yearbook, ten or twenty years after graduation, and wonder whatever happened to all those other kids you used to hang out with? Maybe you went to a class reunion to relive the old times and catch up on how everyone else turned out. Perhaps this column will be a bit self-indulgent, but join me now on a little nostalgia trip.

My first fiction sale appeared in print a decade ago this year. At the time, I had been writing fiction for a couple of years, and it was by no means certain that I would stick with writing for very much longer if I hadn't made a sale soon. Like most beginning writers, I was collecting a large number of rejection slips and starting to wonder if I was really cut out to be a writer at all, until my 16th story found a home.

That sale was to a short-lived semi-pro magazine named Manifest Destiny. A year later I made my second sale to that same publication. It would be another couple of years before I would make a sale to a pro market, but those first couple of sales were enough vindication for me to stick it out a bit longer and keep writing.

Manifest Destiny is long forgotten now except, perhaps, by those other few writers who sold work to those first two issues. There was no third issue, and Manifest Destiny promptly folded after that. If the cards had been dealt a bit differently, I may have stopped writing around that time. Then again, if I had caught a few more breaks earlier in my career, who knows how things might have turned out differently for me?

I can only speak with authority and take responsibility for my own work, but whatever happened to the other fellow travelers who shared those yellowed pages with me in Manifest Destiny in 1993 and 1994? Let's take a look. It's our ten-year class reunion.

Of course, I still have the old issues of Manifest Destiny, along with every other magazine and book my work has appeared in, on my "ego shelf." Yes, there they all are, my classmates, listed on the two tables of contents. Some of the names are very familiar to me. Then there's a bunch of names I've only seen in these two magazines. Well, at any high school class reunion, it's inevitable that one compares notes and mentally judges whether he did better than his fellow students, so let's go over those names and see if I'm doing well or if I've been a major underachiever.

My first impulse in researching an article like this is to surf on over to the terrific Internet Speculative Fiction Database to find out what else each of those other authors has written. Unfortunately, the ISFDB has fallen victim to its own success of late. The site received so many queries to its database that the ISP that hosts it has all but shut them down. Unless the ISFDB folks can get some funding for a more robust host, the database can no longer be searched. Damn. [Update 3/15/03 -- the ISFDB has found a new home at Texas A & M University and can now be searched again -- Go Aggies!]

My next choice for a research tool is the index put out by the folks at Locus magazine. It is not nearly as complete as the ISFDB was, but it's the best tool that's available now. I looked up each of those other budding authors in the Locus index for the period 1984-1998 to see how I fared against each. Here's what I found:

For my own bibliography, the Locus index lists nineteen sales, including five to pro markets. Not too bad, I suppose, and I know the index is missing a few stories.

Dana Cunningham is the first to arrive at our little reunion, with six sales listed from 1991 to 1997, all to semi-pro markets. OK, maybe I did just a little better than Dana.

David Sakmyster comes in with three semi-pro sales. I'm still the winner of the group so far. Great, I won't have to sneak out of the high school gymnasium in shame.

E. J. Cherhavy-Shumak has three semi-pro sales. I'm looking good.

Just then, Charles M. Saplak pulls up to the curb in front of the gym in a Porsche Boxter, and on his arm was the girl I had a crush on back when I was a freshman. Damn. Charles has 57 sales, including nine to pro markets. He's the real thing -- captain of the football team, still has all his own hair, and the trophy wife. I remember back then, thinking this guy was only a year ahead of me (his first sale was in 1992), and how well he was already doing, while I was still just getting started in writing. I read and liked many of his stories. While the cheerleaders were all chasing after Chuck, I was a lonely nerd-boy, hanging out with the other rejects under the stadium bleachers. But I'd look between the benches at young master Charles on the playing field and think, that's where I should be. Ten years later, his bibliography puts me back in my place.

Gene KoKayKo had 15 sales, one of them to a pro market. Not too far off from my own track record, really. Unfortunately, the index lists 1999 as the year Gene died. Yeah, that's another sad activity of the high school class reunion -- the remembering of the dead. Rest in peace, Gene.

J. W. Donnelly pulls up next, in a long stretch limousine that puts both Charles M. Saplak and me to shame. Or does it? Wait a minute, JW, is that a Hertz rent-a-car sticker I see on that limo? Sure, sure, the index shows JW has about a hundred sales 1984-1998, but as I scan the list, they all look like semi-pro markets to me. Well, maybe one pro sale. Could someone really sell that many stories and not have broken through to the pros? It just seems so odd. And I'll bet that chauffer is really your cousin, doing you a favor for the night, isn't it? [OK, I cheated here and looked ahead to the later years on the index and I see that JW has sold to Analog and Weird Tales, but it was looking a bit dicey for a lot of years there.]

Gregory Fitz Gerald has eight semi-pro sales for the period. His year-of-birth is listed as 1923. Yeow, Gregory, who knew you were that old?

Louis Gresh seems to have had only the one sale to Manifest Destiny that brings us together. Was this the highlight of your brief writing career, Louis? You're the no-show that makes us all wonder on the way home, "Whatever happened to Louis?"

Steven C. Lofton has eleven stories, all semi pro.

Donna M. Recktenwalt has seven semi-pro sales.

Timons Esaias is the last to arrive at our little soirée. His track record is not too shabby, with seventeen sales, including pro sales to Asimov's and Interzone. He's a familiar name.

So how did I stack up against my former classmates? A few names had more overall sales than I, but none of the bunch had more pro sales. Of course, I didn't check for novels, and the Locus index is far from complete, especially for many of those obscure publications that only writers like myself seem to know about. But at the end of the day, I went home from the reunion and was able to hold my chin up and say to my wife, "You know, I didn't turn out all that badly compared to the rest of the old crowd."

"That's nice," my wife says, and locks her gaze on my collar. "Is that . . . lipstick?"

Copyright © 2003 Brian Plante Count=5526

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