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Notes to "Tinker's Damn"

By Lewis Shiner

This was my first published story, unless you count the one that I had in a local teen magazine in Dallas when I was still in high school, which I do when I want to brag (or complain) about having 40+ years as a professional writer. I sold it in November of 1976, within a few days of having started a whole new career as a technical writer in the computer industry, a day job that has continued to keep me afloat right up to the present.

I'd been sending the story out for over two years, and it had already been rejected eight times when Charlie Ryan wrote me: "I like this story and wonder if you'd be willing to consider a few modifications so we can use it in Galileo? This is, I guess, a tentative acceptance letter."

By that point I had gained some actual knowledge about computers and I wrote a complete new version of the story, updating the technology and trying to answer Charlie's objections at the same time. Charlie, some months later, wrote back that he was "a little dismayed" with the rewrite. He felt the story had lost "subtlety." Eventually Charlie put together a compromise version on his own and it appeared in the late fall of 1977. I didn't get any contributor's copies or notification, the magazine didn't have newsstand distribution, and I only found out about it when Rob "Tiger Eye" Sullivan at my regular Friday night poker game asked me about it well after the fact. He brought his subscription copy in for me to look at the next week. It amazes me now that I had so little interest in seeing it. The fact that my second professional sale had fizzled (Mystery Monthly died with "Deep Without Pity" in inventory), and that I hadn't sold any further stories at this point, had probably left me feeling somewhat distant from my alleged writing career.

At any rate, I joined John Kessel, Connie Willis, and others in the ranks of those who debuted in Galileo. And I offer here the revised, preferred version of "Tinker's Damn," somewhat cleaned up for its appearance in my Edges of Things collection, but with its creaky mid-seventies tech left intact.


© 2009 by Lewis Shiner. First published in Fiction Liberation Front. Some rights reserved.

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