Rick Gauger


My Earliest Fiction

Posted on | August 19, 2009 | No Comments

I’m not really a writer, I’m a reader. The idea that I could write fiction never entered my mind until one day in the mid-70s. I was wandering around the house annoyed because I was unemployed and because I hadn’t seen a ‘hard’ science fiction story in such a long time. ‘New Wave’ had pushed it out. Suddenly it popped into my head: if I can’t get what I want to read, maybe I could write something I liked instead! I sat down at my typewriter and wrote “Flying The Hotwire” in an afternoon. I had just read an article by Nobel laureate Hannes Alfven in which he suggests a propulsion system powered by the electrical flux between the planets.

Amateurishly, I wrote it in first-person mode. If you’re a would-be writer, don’t do this.

I wanted to see my little story in print in one of the famous old sci-fi magazines, the ones I grew up reading. How was I to know that the story was evil, a jinx that would help to kill three of them?! Woe!

I sent “Hotwire” first to Analog in 1978, where Ben Bova rejected it because he didn’t like my physics and couldn’t believe the hotwire concept. I did a little re-writing and re-submitted. Mr. Bova then liked the story, but he said he couldn’t buy it at the moment. I should try peddling it elsewhere and resubmit to him later.

So I sent it to Galaxy, the next rung down on the payment ladder. John Pierce liked the story and my illustrations. He bought it and paid me for it, but the magazine folded before the story could be published. I felt bad about this; Galaxy was one of the old classic sci-fi mags; my father subscribed to it throughout my later childhood; I grew up reading its stories and studying its illustrations, and here I am, one of the causes of its bankruptcy! But I didn’t send back the money. The guilt…!

I re-sent it to Analog in 1979, where now Stanley Schmidt edited. He rejected it because he couldn’t buy the hotwire concept. I re-submitted the story with a copy of Alfven’s article. Mr. Schmidt was persuaded, but not enough to buy the story.

So then it was off to Destinies with the manuscript, where James Baen, bless his heart, bought it immediately. The magazine collapsed before it could get printed. I have a letter to Ares about this story, so I must have sent it there too, in 1982. Two more dead magazines! This internet publication is the first time “Flying The Hotwire” has ever been visible to the public. I hope you, my dear readers, are entertained.

“Hotwire” and several of my first short stories are about the space frontier I hope will be opened up in the 21st century. These cowboy stories are narrated by Suarez, a freebooting employee of SPAMEX, the Mexican NASA. A shoestring budget forces SPAMEX to operate obsolete, oddball, surplus spacecraft. Suarez pilots them at the risk of his life.

[media-credit id=3 align=”alignleft” width=”160″]Close up of Astronaut Suarez Struggling[/media-credit]

Read “Flying the Hotwire” now!


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