My story "Fun(draising) with Meteoroids" is an absurdist science fiction story told in epistolary format: a series of letters and emails between a NASA representative and an average Joe. This story appeared in the anthology Dear Robot: An Anthology of Epistolary Science Fiction, edited by Kelly Ann Jacobson, which is available in paperback via Amazon. My Clarion classmate, and all-around awesome guy, Zach Lisabeth did quite a thoughtful analysis of the story on his blog.
The seed of this story was its absurd central conceit. The main character, Chad, receives a package containing a meteoroid (which he calls a “space rock”) along with a letter from NASA informing him that this particular meteoroid would have struck his house if NASA hadn’t plucked it out of the sky as part of their new-and-improved Near Earth Object program (which in real life watches the skies for catastrophic asteroids). But they aren’t just saving peoples’ houses as a civic duty; they want money.
Below, you will find a donation form and a return label. Please, if you would like to keep the meteoroid, send a check to the address below for any amount you are able. All donations will assist the Near Earth Object program in its continued efforts to monitor and remove dangerous objects before they impact Earth. If you are unable to make a donation, or prefer not to keep the meteoroid, simply affix the return label to the box and take it to any USPS drop-off location.
I came up with this concept while taking a class during my MFA about Russian Absurdist Literature, most likely around the time we read Omon Ra by Victor Pelevin, a Kafka-esque satire of the Soviet cosmonaut initiative. I had a premise, but not a story around it, and so I chewed on the idea for a few months before I actually tried to write anything.
In the summer of 2013, I had the opportunity to travel to Lithuania as part of the Summer Literary Seminars, an amazing program that’s half writing workshop, half cultural immersion. My group was only six people, and we workshopped three stories per person over the two weeks we were there. One of mine was the original draft of "Fun(draising) With Meteoroids," titled “Falling Star.”
It went over okay in workshop — the teacher, at least, thought the absurd concept was hilarious — but they picked it apart like a good workshop should do, and one woman even took rather serious offense to a bit of the character arc that I had taken for granted. Usually after a workshop I will carefully consider the critique notes, highlight what makes sense, scratch out what doesn’t, and then revise the story accordingly. But after this one, I just didn’t know how to deal with it. I left the story alone for about two years.
When I saw the submission call for Kelly Ann Jacobson’s Dear Robot anthology, the missing puzzle piece fell into place. The draft I had workshopped started with a letter, but the rest of the story followed a traditional first person narrator. What if I did the whole thing in epistolary style? What made this work, I think, is the dynamic that develops between the average Joe who’s pissed off that NASA claims he owes them his life, and the NASA representative who’s frustrated with the depths NASA has sunk to after having been turned into a for-profit private business.
Listen, I get it. To be honest, I fought against this campaign, and so far we haven’t received a single positive response. I knew it was a bad idea when the memo was titled “Fun(draising) with Meteoroids.” I was just impressed they got the term “meteoroid” right.
Kelly was nice enough to accept this new version for her epistolary science fiction anthology, and she created a good-looking book that I’m thrilled to have on my brag shelf. The other stories in the table of contents are innovative, insightful, and fantastically written.
If you’ve read this anthology, won’t you please leave it an Amazon review? I’d love to hear what you thought about these epistolary science fiction stories.