At the start of 2015, I had the happy circumstance of seeing my flash fiction story “Death Comes for the Microbot” published at Flash Fiction Online. As a fiction writer, watching one of your pieces get published is similar to watching your child walk to school on their own for the first time: it makes one both proud and somewhat nervous. Independence! But what if they don’t look before crossing the street/get trashed by a cranky reader?
Flash Fiction Online’s editor Suzanne Vincent was wonderful to work with, and the happy end result was that my flash fiction piece trundled off into her very capable hands and found an excellent home. It also marked my first pro-level SFWA sale. The story received some favorable comments (even from people I’m not related to!) and a nice mention in Tangent from Cyd Athens.
I wanted to jot down a few words about how the piece came about. The story evolved out of a flash fiction class I took last year with the amazing Cat Rambo (if you haven’t read her stories, find one, immediately). In the class, we brainstormed a bunch of titles, getting our creative juices flowing. One of mine was “Death Comes for the Nanobot”; from there, I started thinking about the themes the title suggested. New tech; something small and fragile; a big force that none of us escapes; and the pain of getting older and feeling passed by.
From there, I wrote a first draft. A lot of aspects of the story changed by the time I was finished with the final rewrite (and flash fiction, just because it’s short, doesn’t mean it takes fewer rewrites): The nanobots became microbots when one of my writing group colleagues pointed out the insectoid robots were too large to be nanobots. But one constant was that the main characters remained genderless. Imparting gender, such as in languages where objects are feminine or masculine, can change the way readers think about and view those things, sometimes kludging gender-based biases into their interpretations. Death is universal, no matter if you are a man, woman or microbot.