The book has not been reviewed very often, and not usually in a very comprehensive way like this new review of it by novelist Kelly Jennings who really seemed to "get" me in what I was trying to accomplish with it. Is the book the greatest thing ever? No, certainly not. Would I change some things about it if I could go back and do it over? Yeah, probably. But with a bit more than a year of hindsight on it, I still think it's pretty damned great and I am very proud of the range of writers and visions in it.
I must admit that my stomach nearly dropped out as I was reading the review and I realized that she was going to comment directly on my own story, "The Robbie."
Then I heaved a great sigh of relief when the reviewer seemed to understand and like the story I was telling or at least trying to tell. My nightmare, ever since I made the decision to include my own story in that book, is that a review would appear saying something like,
"While Things We Are Not is overall a very solid collection of daring short fiction, it is tragically marred by its editor's own entry, the abysmal 'The Robbie.' He should have kept this one to himself. Leave the writing to the writers, Mr. Editor."
So I gotta tell ya, it was a big damned relief to see a nice review of "The Robbie" (and especially so from someone who does not know me and has no vested interest in flattering me). But all this made me reflect upon my decision to publish the story in the first place. I do not ever run my own fiction in my magazine, M-Brane SF. It's a rule that I imposed on myself at the beginning of it because being the one controlling the content could make it too easy for me to turn the zine into a platform for promoting myself (or make it look that way, at least), which I definitely did not want to do (though I would like to follow Oprah's example and start putting pics of myself on every cover ;) ). So my little handful of published fiction credits have all been attained fair-and-square by submitting for approval from another editor and publisher (even my Aether Age entry needed to pass muster with my co-editor, and he would have told me if it was crap). Except for "The Robbie" which I accepted for my own antho and never showed a single other set of eyes before it was published. And that's what's a little weird about my thought process on it: why did I not at least pass it by a single "beta" reader or even just ask my friend Brandon (H. Bell, of Aether Age and Fantastique Unfettered) to look at it and warn me if I was about to print some real garbage before I did it? I did, in fact, show him my foreword to the book (which is admittedly a somewhat haranguing piece) and he wisely got me to turn down the volume on it a little bit. But I didn't show him or anyone else "The Robbie" even though I knew they'd see it eventually.
Why? Oddly, I think it is because I was somewhat embarrassed by the way I probably reveal a personal sex fantasy with it. It is very graphic in several places with its depiction of sex acts, and somehow to just hand a single copy of it to someone seems like more of an exposure than publishing it far and wide. I'm kind of an exhibitionist anyway (I think a lot of writers are, and probably certainly ones who write erotica) and am happy to share what turns me on...but it somehow seems more comfortable to do that in front of a distant audience than directly with one person.
"The Robbie" is one of two sex-oriented stories that I wrote in 2009, inspired by dreams and written rather frantically first thing in the morning. The other was an untitled werewolf story, that I gave the working title "Wolven" (yeah I know that's been used elsewhere). After some additions and revisions to both of them, I really felt that "The Robbie" was printable if only there were a market for it. ("Wolven," on the other hand, is so transgressive and sick-ass that it may never see the light of day even though I do like it; it's become the troll under the bridge of my unpublished fiction). Things We Are Not became the market for it, and now I think it was maybe not such a bad choice.
Things We Are Not is available at Amazon in paperback and for the Kindle.