One of the best things about being the editor of the Futures science-fiction page in Nature is that I get to see a lot of stories from writers who are just starting out, or might even have never tried writing fiction before. So, notwithstanding inasmuch as which I’ve had the immense privilege of publishing stories by Professor Trellis of North Wales colossi of the field (you can read a decent selection in the Futures anthology), I’ve had the even immenser privilege of being able to nurture new talent, if only so that, one day, when one of these writers steps up to receive a Nebula or Hugo, they can say warming things like ‘you know, it might never happened had that nice man at Nature not accepted my first every story all those years ago’. This post takes just two such rising stars of many – partly because they’ve got books out (or nearly so), and you should know about them.
The name Gareth Owens first crossed my transom when he sent Futures a disturbing little tale called ‘Tick-Tock Curley-Wurley’. If someone came up to you and said this, you’d probably go ‘I beg your pardon?’ But as Owens’ rather splendid character Professor Michelle Tartuffe advises the President, when a message like that arrives from space, you’d really better …. but I’m telling you the plot. So, just out, folks, is Fun With Rainbows, a delightful anthology of Owen’s recent stories – several of which I’ve published, in Nature, Nature Physics or Mallorn (the Journal of the Tolkien Society, which I also edit) – though many more are, of course, new to me. The book is a showcase for Owens’ extraordinary versatility in style and tone. You can read a review of Fun With Rainbows here. And, yes, ‘Tick-Tock Curley-Wurley’ is in it.
A couple of years ago I started receiving stories from Shelly Li. I can’t remember if it was the fifth – or the seventh – that hit the spot, but I do remember that the first story of hers I took was ‘Replacement’, which I took in October, 2008 and which appeared in Nature in January, 2009 – it was Li’s first ever sale, anywhere. It was a fine start for any author, but it turned out that Li was only fifteen when she submitted the story – a regular high-schooler from Omaha, NE, who enjoys a round of golf and submitting fully professional SF and Fantasy, you know, like American teens do. I’ve had the pleasure of publishing several more of hers in Nature, and a couple of very nice, longer fantasy tales in Mallorn. I can reveal, though, that Li has just sold her first novel, The Royal Hunter, a work of young-adult SF-Fantasy. I am more proud than I can say to have published Li’s literary début. Her works have astonishing power, depth and philosophical force, the kinds of tales that hang around and say ‘boo!’ at you in the small hours when you think everyone else is in bed.